Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Clockwork Orange...

Last Friday night Stuart and I went to see ultraviolent thriller A Clockwork Orange at the Park Theatre in London's down-at-heel Finsbury Park.

Synopsis: Very violent, homoerotic, visceral and balletic. What's not to like?

This stage adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel is set in a near future English society featuring a subculture of extreme youth violence, the teenage protagonist, anti-hero Alex, narrates his violent exploits and his experiences with state authorities intent on reforming him using an extreme form of aversion therapy.

Alex is played by Jonno Davies and he is a tall, ginger-haired, musclebound hunk. The other eight male members of the cast are similarly buff playing numerous parts from Alex's gang members to police to housewives. For this is an all-male production with everyone sporting skin-tight black jeans, tight white t-shirts, skimpy underwear, black eyeliner and malevolent grins. There is homoeroticism aplenty (they are frequently t-shirtless) and there is much homosexual violence to boot. 'Boot' being the operative word.

Female director Alexandra Spencer-Jones has created a wonderful non-stop 90-minutes of fighting, dancing, and thuggery to a soundtrack of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and The Eurhythmics who like Alex (love to listen to) (Ludwig van) Beethoven.

Recommended - if you like aesthetic violence, hot men and are not easily shocked.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Moving In...

After almost 11 years together we have taken that first big step. Living together.  Crumbs. I hope he doesn't leave the top off the toothpaste.
 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Twelfth Night...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Simon Godwin's bat-shit crazy production of Twelfth Night at the Olivier Theatre on London's glitzy South Bank.

Bat-shit crazy? Yup. Sports cars, motor-scooters, club music, swimming pools, fountains, neon lights, 1960s cool vibe, a drag queen rendition of Hamlet's To Be Or Not To Be speech, songs (lots and lots of songs) and 4th wall breaking that would put Les Dawson to shame. At one point, I swore I saw a kitchen sink exit pursued by a bear. "It's not too gimmicky is it? The tandem."

So was it any good? You betcha! We loved it. A laugh-a-minute riot. From the gender role switching inherent to the play itself to the gender reversal of Malvolio becoming Malvolia this was as confident and sure-footed as a drag queen in a 6-inch red stiletto.

As for the plot, it's the one with the shipwreck, near identical brother and sister get split up, she becomes a Duke's 'man' servant, falls in love with him, then gets asked to woe the Duke's true love but the true love then falls in love with the sister thinking she's a man. Then the Duke falls in love with his 'man' servant. And then the brother turns up. You get the picture... It's Shakespeare. It's mistaken identity, unrequited love and music being the food of love.

In addition, the cast was stellar. Tamara Lawrance's pivotal role as Viola was amazing. We had seen her in numerous all-female Shakespearean productions recently but in this she was a cut above what had gone before. Doon Mackichan's Feste/Fool was hysterical (She sings! She dances! She acts! She tells jokes!). Tamsin Greig's Malvolia was a revelation too. We knew the gal could sing and play it goofy but her Malvolia was a down right riot. She got a show-stopping standing ovation with her yellow cross garters and spinning wheel bra. Oliver Chris ignited even the usually dull character of Orsino with the stage being poorer whenever he was absent.

But for me the standout performance of the night went to Daniel Rigby's Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Pompous, fey, chicken-livered and proud this particular peacock in a pink-checked lounge suit was the perfect foil to Tim McMullan's Sir Toby Belch. From Aguecheek's sublime delivery, to his silly walks, and his ginger man-bun it was a portrayal of scene-stealing perfection.

Highly Recommended. Over the top, modern and very silly. The perfect antidote to these uncertain times

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Design Museum (the iconic and the ironic)...

Last Sunday Bryn, Andrew, Stuart and I went to the new Design Museum in London's well-healed Holland Park.

Nice things on display and the Love and Fear exhibition is good too but... what a badly laid out building! Cramped where is should be spacious and acres of wasted space. Long queues of people on staircases waiting to see some things and empty rooms where no one seemed to be interested in going. All rather ironic considering one of the exhibits people were queuing to see was about 'bad' design and managing crowds in popular venues.

Nice place though, some great iconic designs and well worth a visit if you have not been. Pick a less crowded day than a Sunday though!





Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Gay Homophobe...

A little out of date but as its Valentine's Day here's a site that tells you the number of days since the last prominent homophobe was caught in a gay sex scandal. Self-hating hypocrites exposed!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Robots...

Last Friday I went to the new Robots exhibition at the Science Museum in London's well-heeled South Kensington.

It was well laid out, informative but most of all great fun. The exhibit pricked lots of distant memories of robots from kids' TV shows from my youth, robots from films old and new and life-sized replicas of shiny, silvery androids. There were displays about artificial intelligence, visual processing and human-robot interaction. There were many real robots to interact with and some so creepy we were deep in the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley is the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it. And some of the robots on display would put Westworld or Stepford Wives to shame on the creepiness front.

If you get a chance to go. Do! It runs until Sept 2017.

Highlight #1: The rarely seen Silver Swan picking up silver fish.
Highlight #2: Everything else

After wandering around the Robots exhibition, I then spend another 4 hours seeing all the other exhibitions at the Science Museum. Blimey, they have a lot of good stuff there!








Friday, February 10, 2017

The Glass Menagerie...

Last night Stuart and I went to see The Glass Menagerie at The Duke of York's theatre in London's glitzy West End.

Synopsis: From the moment Kate O’Flynn appears from down the back of the sofa you know we are on for something special. Great production. Great play. And the gay undertones are there for all to see.

A domineering mother. A daughter lost in a world of her own. A son desperate to leave. Former Southern Belle Amanda Wingfield, played magnificently by Tony Award-winning Broadway star Cherry Jones, enlists the help of shoemaker but aspiring poet son Tom (Michael Esper) to find a husband for her fragile daughter Laura (Kate O’Flynn). But will the long-awaited ‘gentleman caller’ Jim O'Connor (Brian J. Smith) fulfil or shatter the family’s delicate dreams?

Olivier and Tony Award-winning director John Tiffany (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two, Let the Right One In, Black Watch) has a hit on his hands with this revival of his visionary staging of Tennessee Williams’ heart-rending masterpiece about a family struggling to survive on hopes and dreams.

The Glass Menagerie is a five-character memory play by Tennessee Williams that premiered in 1944 and catapulted Williams from obscurity to fame. The play has strong autobiographical elements, featuring characters based on Williams himself, his histrionic mother, and his mentally fragile sister Rose. In writing the play, Williams drew on an earlier short story, as well as a screenplay he had written under the title of The Gentleman Caller.

Little known fact #1:  One of Amand'a ex-suitors is known as "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Little known fact #2:  Poet Tom's nickname is Shakespeare so they call Laura "Shakespeare's Sister"

Recommended (although not quite as good as his later work Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.)

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Monday, February 06, 2017

Yorokonde Morau Yorokobi...

Lovely night on Saturday night with the boys. Thank you Toby and Miguel for the perfect hospitality, fantastic food, the great company and all the brilliant advice on Japan.

The Japanese wood-cut print reads: "Yorokonde morau yorokobi" - "If you spread happiness you'll find happiness yourself" (loosely translated).




Friday, February 03, 2017

The Daily Hate...

The Daily Mail - The Daily Hate - is a force for evil. It uses its power to spread bile and make the people of our nation hate each other. It prints crap from the Tax Payers Alliance that paves the way of awful government policy that will fuck the lot of us.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Going Underground...

The Royal Mail's little underground line is due a new lease of life. Once it's open to visitors it will do a loop from Mount Pleasant and back for a ride of around 15 to 20 minutes. Let's hope it comes off.

The Register wrote an article about it...

For the last 13 years, a tiny train tunnel running through the centre of London has remained empty and unused, maintained by just four engineers. But these engineers don’t work for Transport for London or Network Rail – they work for the Royal Mail.

The small gauge tunnel, running for 10.46km (6.5 miles) from Paddington to Whitechapel, 70 feet (21 meters) beneath the ground is the London Post Office Railway, more commonly known as the Mail Rail. From 1927 to 2003, 50 driverless, electric trains shifted 30,000 items each day, running up to every five minutes during peak times, serving eight stations and major sorting office beneath the snarl of urban traffic overhead.

Now, it’s set to become London’s latest tourist attraction, as The Postal Museum and Mail Rail in 2017 to reopen the section that runs underneath Mount Pleasant in Farringdon. Eventually, there’ll be a new museum, café, gift shop and all the trappings, but on the day of El Reg’s visit, it’s all hard hats and high-vis vests.

Full story: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/12/06/geeks_guide_mail_rail/

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Previously On Doctor Who...

From 6 years ago - but still good. Clips from every Doctor Who story from 1963-2011.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Philip Glass at 80: Total Immersion Weekend...

Paul Woodward, Stuart and I spent a glorious weekend at the Barbican where a series of events were staged to celebrate Philip Glass's 80th birthday.  It was a Total Immersion weekend of concerts, premieres, talks and films. We were totally blown away.

Highlights for me were a selection of his Piano Etudes and his Glassworks both performed at the Milton Court Concert Hall, his Knee Play 3 from Einstein on the Beach with the BBC Singers and Concerto for Two Pianos performed by the barking mad Katia and Marielle Labèque sisters. Glorious.

After Saturday's night amazing rendition of Itaipu - Glass's four-movement symphonic cantata written in 1989 - we were shaking with glee and delight as tears streamed down our cheeks.

Yeah. You could say we liked it.

Later that night Paul wrote this (and I couldn't have put it better myself)...

I have to share this with you...
Don't know if you are into, or even like, the music of Philip Glass
But just been to a 'total immersion' day of his music to celebrate his 80th birthday - thanks to a beautiful old mate Jonathan and his partner Stuart... (bless you for thinking of me last minute!)
FUCK ME!
It's been EXTRAORDINARY
from 12:30 to 22:20
And the last piece just ripped me to shreds with its power.
Some things are just TOO BIG
I guess that's the theory of the 'sublime' isn't it? A state of AWE in the face of something so monumental and totemic that it confounds us, shakes us to the core, and reminds us of our place in the grand scheme of things...
The mountains of north Scotland
The death of my father
The theatre of Robert Wilson
The music of Philip Glass
The enormity of the craft of teaching
The broken heart
The birth of a child in all its muck and glory
Falling in love and having sex with that person
Snowstorm (anywhere)
And, inevitably, death
Something's are just TOO BIG AND FUCKING BEAUTIFUL
and it struck me watching a massive orchestra - how the enterprise and artistry is THE solution to all the SHIT THINGS happening in the world right now
If you say the violins aren't welcome.. how the whole would suffer...
If you said the percussion section were criminals and drug dealers and they should not have a place.. how barren it would be
If you said the harpists were perverts and deviants... then the heavenly and delicate sounds would deprive the WHOLE ORGASMIC SOUND of so much magic
An orchestra playing music that is SO BIG it's like a physical workout
There is my perfect metaphor for a society I want and need and would lay my life down for ..
Thank you Philip Glass... and happy 80th birthday 😀


Friday, January 27, 2017

Lambchop...

Last night Simon and I ventured out into the cold night air to sit and listen to the gentle, melodic fingerings of Lambchop as they performed in the round at The Roundhouse in London's glitzy Camden.

The current season at The Roundhouse is an all-seated affair, which is actually much better than their usual standing-behind-the-tall-bloke-with-the-chatty-mate we usually are treated to.

I didn’t really know much about Lambchop before going to see them and to be honest I'm not sure if I'm any the wiser afterwards. They didn't talk much.

They seem to come from Nashville, Tennessee. They don't like Trump ("What's 15 inches long and hangs in front of an arsehole" "Donald Trump's tie"). And their music is decidedly - how can I put this? - understated. Which makes for a very relaxing evening. Perhaps too relaxing for some people judging by the man two down from me who was snoring for the last half hour of the hour and three-quarter hour set.

I liked it though. Apparently, they were doing stuff from their more recent albums. Pleasant enough. Perhaps a little too reliant on the Vocoder though c.f. George Michael's cover of True Faith so it was hard to hear the lyrics. Especially as they didn't play particularly loudly either. At one point a bloke near us shouted out, "Turn it up!"

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Football Has Adopted a Gay Anthem...

Football has adopted a gay anthem. But you knew that, right?

The famous "One Nil to The Arsenal" chant has had a giddy life starting from German organist Pachelbel, on to gay disco outfit Village People, then to the sublime Pet Shop Boys, and finally settling upon the mighty Arsenal terraces.

What gives?

The first leg of the 1994 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc Des Princes was rife with the tensions of early ‘90s provincial fandom. “The Boulogne Boys [PSG’s right-wing hooligan supporters] were looking for Arsenal fans to attack in the build-up to the game,” recalls London-based Arsenal supporter Kevin Whitcher, who was in attendance that night. “It was chaos.”

At halftime, Arsenal led 1-0 on an Ian Wright header. The stadium DJ played the Pet Shop Boys’ version of “Go West,” which had risen to No. 2 on the charts the previous year, and the PSG fans, led by the Boulogne Boys, started chanting “Allez, Paris Saint-Germain” along with the chorus. The Arsenal fans cheekily improvised their own version of the chant, one that reflected the scoreline—“One-nillll, to the Arsenal.”

PSG leveled the game in the second half and it ended in a draw, but the song stuck. “It was an easy chant to catch onto and spread like wildfire among the traveling support,” says Whitcher. “It caught on at the return leg at Highbury [1-0 to Arsenal] and the final in Copenhagen [also 1-0 to Arsenal], so it was helped by the results in those matches.” Today it is still one of Arsenal supporters’ best known cheers, while supporters groups across the world sing their own chants to the tune of “Go West,” and variations on the melody even played official roles at two World Cups. It’s safe to say that earworm of a melody is one of the most iconic anthems in all of sport. But to understand how all this came to pass, we have to go back 300 years.

And Deadspin have written a rather nice article about it here called: The 300-Year Journey From Classical Standard To Gay Disco Anthem To The Most Iconic Anthem In Soccer



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Saatchi Gallery...

On Saturday afternoon Joanna, Charlotte and I went to the Saatchi Gallery on the Kings Road in London's glitzy Chelsea to have a nose around.

The gallery is huge, free and definitely worth a look.

Here are some of the pieces we saw...








Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Arsenal 2 - 1 Burnley...

Dylan and I had a fantastic day at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday watching Arsenal take on Burnley. It was a fractious game and we were lucky be 1-0 up after 90 minutes having gone down to 10 men. When the ref gave a ridiculous seven minutes of extra time the place went wild. Then Burnley were awarded a penalty! It looked like it was going to be a draw and then miraculously we got awarded a penalty in the 97th minute! The place went wilder!






Friday, January 20, 2017

Raising Martha...

Last night Stuart and went to see jet-black comedy Raising Martha at the Park Theatre in London's distinctly unglitzy Finsbury Park.

Synopsis: If Joe Orton was still alive and writing plays, this would be one of his less notable ones. Lots of gross-out jokes but a little dated all the same.

Despite numerous plot twists, anthropomorphic amphibians, and one bloody scene of human vivisection, Raising Martha is a surprisingly tame and predictable new farce from radio comedy writer David Spicer.

The titular Martha here is the long dead matriarch of a family of frog farmers, whose bones are stolen by militant animal rights activists for the purposes of blackmail. Though the plot touches on themes of extremism, civil liberty, and the human talent for cruelty, Spicer rarely digs deeper than the first available punchline. For all that, his dialogue has a pleasing verbosity, regularly punctured with asides, and peppered with slow burning jokes, which pay off in the play’s closing moments.

Director Michael Fentiman gives the show a busy, physical edge, ramping up the slapstick sight gags but also adding occasional, awkward movements that feel arbitrary. As bickering, bumbling activists Marc and Jago, Tom Bennett and Joel Fry show an admirable willingness to throw themselves around in their underpants to get a laugh. By contrast, Jeff Rawle’s stolid country copper Clout oozes opportunistic unpleasantness, circling the crime scene like a vulture as he delivers his unreliable narration.

Rebecca Brower’s multi-level set features transparent screens that provide a glimpse into a greenhouse packed with marijuana plants. Meanwhile, a section of the Park Theatre’s mezzanine has been converted into an open grave, which characters fall into or pop out of with great regularity. Beneath moody violet strip lights, the space gains a tense, expectant atmosphere that the production never quite capitalises on.

Recommended? If you like your comedy to be both broad and black this might be this how for you.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Galileo!...

Galileo! (Galileo!) Galileo! (Galileo!) Galileo fit to go. Fit to go, go, go, go, go, go, gooooo!

After a long and much-delayed 17-year gestation, Europe's answer to America's GPS system has been switched on. And it gives 10 times the accuracy.

The Galileo network will offer a free service with an accuracy of one metre, and can pinpoint locations down to a few centimetres for paying customers. The service has 18 satellites in orbit, with 30 projected by 2020 at the latest.

"Geo-localisation is at the heart of the ongoing digital revolution with new services that transform our daily lives," said Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission.

"Galileo will increase geo-location precision ten-fold and enable the next generation of location-based technologies; such as autonomous cars, connected devices, or smart city services. Today I call on European entrepreneurs and say: imagine what you can do with Galileo – don't wait, innovate."

Galileo's high level of accuracy comes from the four precise atomic clocks each satellite holds, which will only lose one second in three million years. When a device hears from four of the satellites, it can work out its location down to a few centimetres.

We've traced the call... he's 3 centimetres behind you!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Grave of Thrones...

I finished catching up on the first six series of Game Grave of Thrones last night. Gosh there was a lot of death, a lot of weddings (of various colours), and sword fights i.e. sex and stabbings. My favourites are the White Walkers, that evil queen and that gal with dragons. Can't really bring myself to care about all those idiots in the North though. Roll on series seven!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's Turtles All The Way Down....

35 years ago, I was lucky enough to be taught theoretical physics (for a while at least) by Professor Stephen Hawking. He had recently been elected Lucasian Professor of Mathematics when I went up to Cambridge and had started with tutoring both under-graduates as well as post-graduates. My own interests were cosmology, quantum gravity and general relativity and he was, and still is, the go-to guy in these fields. He soon gave up with us under-grads though as his health was deteriorating and he wanted to write a book. Therefore, I was one of the lucky ones in that brief window of time between him having enough energy to teach and him needing full-time nursing care in 1982. Six years later he had finished his book and A Brief History of Time was to go on to sell 12 million copies.

Therefore, it was with some excitement I ventured out last night to see him. It was his 75th birthday last week was due to give a lecture. Also his book has now become an app called Stephen Hawking's Pocket Universe so he was keen to flog that too.

Sadly he was not there in person though as he is ill at the moment so this place was taken by Martin Rees my old Master at Trinity College. Such a shame but Stephen had pre-recorded his talk for us and some answers to pre-submitted questions.

Short answer: robots *will* take over the world, information is never lost, everyone on earth will die eventually, there is no God and the Universe will expand into virtual nothingness.

And, what's this about turtles?

Bertrand Russell once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the centre of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.
At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise."
The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?"
"You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady.
"But it's turtles all the way down!"

Monday, January 16, 2017

Essex...

Stu and I met up with Kerry and Fay for lunch on Sunday in Chalkwell. We had a lovely time but the weather was shit.
 
 
 

Friday, January 13, 2017

La La Land...



Stop whatever you are doing right now and go and see La La Land. Right now! It's brilliant. I wept full-on man tears five times. Tears of utter joy. It is fantastic.
You will be dancing out of the cinema and singing the astonishing songs. I have just downloaded the soundtrack and listening to it on repeat. I particularly love Another Day in the Sun and Someone in the Crowd. It has gotta be made into a West End musical!

La La Land is a love letter to LA and people wanting to make it big - but rather than roasting you in a wannabe's naked ambition it lets you swim in cool blue waters of people with potential and passion.

It's not perfect but if Singin' in the Rain is a 10 this is a 9.

The film aside, I had planned to go and see it at The Screen on the Green but it was closed. Shutters down. So missed their early showing. Shame on them. So went to see it at the Vue instead.

After seeing the film I popped into SotG just to say that I had been standing outside in the cold and the guy apologised profusely, offered me a full refund and two free tickets valid for a year at any Everyman cinema. Nice guy.