Quote Of The Day

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

Monday, March 02, 2015

Barbara Dickson...

Last Saturday night Stuart, Darren and I went to see Scottish songbird Barbara Dickson at the Union Chapel in London's glitzy Islington.

Originally a folk singer back in the 1960s Ms Dickson's pop career started in earnest in the early 1970s and continues through to the present day.

She has worked with the best, had a number one hit with I Know Him So Well and starred in numerous stage shows and television shows.

On the night we were treated to many songs from her back catalogue including Another Suitcase in Another Hall, Answer Me, Wise as a Serpent, Easy Terms, The Ark, Mary Skeffington, In The Bleak Midwinter/Here Comes The Sun, The January Man, Winter Song and of course the wonderful Caravans.

Great singer. Great voice. Great show.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Nether...

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

I have to say we were rather disappointed.

The Nether = a future version of the internet where it is almost photo realistic and you can go online to indulge your wildest fantasies as avatars. In this case the fantasies seem to be all about child abuse and murder.

I'm not quite sure why the author suggests that given no law enforcement or repercussions offline then people's base instincts will make them want to molest and murder children online. Or indeed whether it is better for society if a child molester is kept online committing virtual crimes rather than allowed to roam the real world committing real ones. Surely it's sickness that needs therapy.

Anyway... technically the play was great - think The Matrix. And the acting was fine too. Even the plot supplied a couple of nice twists but the subject matter was a misstep I feel. There is an interesting discussion to be had about how we live our lives online and the digital personalities we create through social media but this play was rather like a paedophilic version of Godwin's Law. By resorting to child molestation the message was lost in the medium.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Take that Queenie!...

My friend is a republican so puts all stamps on letters he sends me upside down. "Take that Queenie!". 
Maybe to join in the fun I should send my replies to him with no stamp on at all. Arf, arf!

Monday, February 23, 2015

When They Call, I Come...

Dragged into work at 8am yesterday. Disaster recovery mode. 11 hours later got home. Pah! I want my Sunday back!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Man and Superman...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Bernard Shaw's epic masterpiece Man and Superman at the Lyttelton Theatre in London glitzy South Bank.

The play is as good as any Shakespearean play working as a comedy of manners, a comment on sexual politics, and a vehicle for Shaw's cosmic philosophy. It is very funny throughout being subversive, heretical and hilarious.

This National Theatre production sees Ralph Fiennes take on the role of John Tanner a well-educated political firebrand who thinks a lot, talks even more and during the course of the play is beguiled, bewitched and betrothed to his sparring partner the plucky Ann Whitefield.

Ann loves John and wants to marry him. To avoid this fate, John goes on the run to Spain. What he doesn't foresee, is that Ann will pile half of rural England into cars and follow. At one point, in a dream, he finds himself in Hell (an Act often omitted). He can't escape her there either. So this is love....  Man and Superman is a marathon play. Three and a half hours exploring courtship and marriage and the different states of manhood. From suitor to suit; from loafer to breadwinner; from getting wood to collecting it: marriage is the end of joy and free expression for a man and a victory for women.

Man and Superman has the feel of a sexist romp in Simon Godwin's playful production, and delights because it isn't. There is a strong feminist streak, albeit bedded in the idea of the maternal. Elegantly stated arguments inform the continuing vexations between the sexes. Fiennes beautifully articulates John's ideas as he scuttles with a loser's stoop across the chessboard of life, a King vainly dodging checkmate. He has some long speeches that must add to ninety minutes, but is ably supported by a wonderful cast including Tim McMullan as an oozingly charismatic brigand leader and, later, Satan. Mentions too for Indira Varma's confident Ann, Elliot Barnes-Worrall as a chirpy Straker, and Nicholas Le Prevost as Roebuck Ramsden. Oh and let's not forget handsome Nick Hendrix Hector Malone, Jr.

George Bernard Shaw wrote Man and Superman in 1903. Stuart and I, lured by Fiennes, did not know the story and were daunted by the length of the production, but after a bit of a dry exposition were pinned to our seats with smiles on our faces. It's not a play for people who prefer action. Every plot twist facilitates perorations on the same theme from different perspectives: women are driven by the need to procreate and populate the earth and men, powerful because they aren't, lose that power because they cannot resist women. Women therefore hold the power. What's so interesting is that, despite massive changes, Shaw's views on love and the flawed and ungiving institution of marriage remain current.

In conclusion: It could all be edited down (and may well be, as the National has a habit of crazed pruning at the preview stage) but the tone overall is so lively, and the story such fun, and the endings of the two halves so funny, that all is forgiven. There's also a fabulous, working, vintage Jaguar in one scene. It's currently sold out, but it's always worth calling for returns.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

La Traviata...

Last Friday Paul, Stuart and I went to see La Traviarta at the London Coliseum.

Peter Konwitschny's production at the ENO was well sung, well-acted and funny.
Giuseppe Verdi’s tragic masterpiece of The Fallen Woman runs for 1hr 50mins without an interval and starred Elizabeth Zharoff as Violetta, Ben Johnson as Alfredo and Anthony Michaels-Moore as Germont. 

Violetta ending was by conspicuous by its consumption. Nobody leaves until the thin lady sings.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Justin Vivian Bond...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the wonderful, the brilliant, the sublime, the fabulous Justin Vivian Bond at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's glitzy South Bank.

Dressed in a flowing black dress with flowing blonde locks La Bond flowed silkily onto the stage to deliver a two hour, uninterrupted master class in throaty cabaret chanson. Although when I say uninterrupted he interrupted himself quite a bit with anecdotes, witticisms and stories of love, sex and longing that had us in tears of laughter.

"We love you Lana Turner... get up."

The show was funny, moving and musical - often all at the same time. We were treated to many self-penned gems and numerous covers from the likes of Tracy Chapman, Peggy Lee and Mama Cass.

High point for me was JVB's 16 glorious minutes of Kate Bush's Nocturn and Aerial. We were speechless.

Crowd-pleaser In the End sent us home all feeling that much happier that someone like Just Vivian Bond lives in this world.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Fred the Weatherman...

Breaking News: Fred the Weatherman faces jail term following child abuse conviction.
Consequently, I forecast a 95% chance of some deeply unpleasant showers.


This Valentine's Day I somehow knew I'd be inundated. Sorry. In, undated.

Secret Admirer...

For the past twenty years, I've received a Valentine's card from the same secret admirer. So, I was pretty upset when I didn't get one this year.

First my granny dies, now this?

Friday, February 13, 2015

It Was Evil - Victor Gregg first hand account of the Dresden Bombing...

Still makes me choke up. Victor Gregg and his first hand account of the Dresden BombingPowerful stuff. And let's face it if the Daily Mail is criticising the BBC over showing it then it must be worth a look, right?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Premier League TV Rights...

Sky and BT Sport have paid a record £5.136bn for live Premier League TV rights for three seasons from 2016-17. This is 70% up from the current deal of £3.018bn which itself was 70% up from the previous deal before that of £1.773bn.

Sky will now show 126 live games per season (up from 116) and BT Sport will show 42 live games per season (up from 38). So that's 168 live games (up from 154).

I wonder if any of it will make it's way to ticket price reductions?

Monday, February 09, 2015

Only Connect Marathon...

On Sunday Darren, Vince, Stuart and I embarked upon an Only Connect quiz (@OnlyConnectQuiz) marathon. We attempted to watch all of Only Connect (@OnlyConnect) series 10 thus far.

And our @OnlyConnectQuiz drinking game: Victoria Coren Mitchell (@VictoriaCoren) flirting with contestants (1 sip), mention poker or David (2 sips), VCM self-deprecation (chug).

We only got through 12 episodes before collapsing in a heap.

All hail quizzing Queen Victoria!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Monday, February 02, 2015

Arsenal vs. LGBT History Month...

We thrashed a woeful Aston Villa 5-0 on Sunday. So that is three wins out of three in the Premier League. Three clean sheets. Aggregate score: 10-0. Seven different scorers. Who says we are a one man team? 

And adding to that Arsenal launched its LGBT History Month at the match today with a new banner for the Gay Gooners unfurled in a pre-match on pitch event and Arsenal For Everyone flags being waved as the teams came out and rainbow banners and LGBT History banners lighting up the Emirates Stadium throughout the game. Proud day for me.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Hard Problem...

Last night Stuart and I went to see Tom Stoppard's new play The Hard Problem at the Dorfman's Theatre on London's South Bank.

The play follows the story of psychology student Hilary (Olivia Vinall) as she wins a job at a neuroscience institute funded by a vicious hedge-fund billionaire, Krohl (Anthony Calf).

Hilary is helped along the way admirably (and often confrontationally) by her often stripped and very ripped ex-tutor lover Spike (Damien Molony). Spike is a rational Darwinian fundamentalist (think of a hot Richard Dawkins) who has little truck with Hilary's praying and faith in a higher power.

Stoppard loves throwing his characters into good old fashioned arguments and here they trade banterful blows, intellectual insults, and wily witticisms about 'the hard problem' -  can we distinguish between brain activity and awareness. How do sensations acquire characteristics, such as colours and tastes. Empiricism vs rationalists. What is consciousness? Is there a God? Oh, all the easy stuff.

She is an altruistic fan of altruism. She is good. He's a brilliant brutalist - an egotist who belives that the ego is king. The selfish genius.

Krohl in turn is brutal to his City associates – it is law-of-the-jungle stuff. Yet as one of his underlings (Parth Thakerar) observes, ruthless markets do occasionally behave irrationally. So much for the empiricism of survival genes.

The staging is spare, modern: decorated by an overhang of neon lights that burst into pretty, multi-coloured activity between scenes. This represents the whirring of the brain. Set changes are accompanied by rich, ornate piano music.

It is a good play, maybe not up there with Stoppard's greats. The well sign-posted plot twist was a tad too easy to guess and the resolution tries to not only have it's cake and eat it but to buy the whole cake shop too.

Great acting though and a fitting end as Nicolas Hytner's final production at the NT.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Business Trip...

Just back from a four day business trip to the Middle East. Lots of meetings and I gave a presentation. Joke went down like lead balloon. Tough crowd

I put "we must all learn to laugh at ourselves" into Google Translate but the Arabic that came out met with a hushed silence in the presentation room. Later I was told that the words I had written on the screen roughly said "so, you all think you are funny?". Oops. Think I won them over in the end though.

On the final day of the trip I attended a full day of meetings, back to the hotel to pack, headed for Dammam airport, flew to Bahrain, then connecting (turbulent, no-sleep) flight to Heathrow and then straight into the office. A 15 hour commute back into the office!

#norestforthewicked #redeye

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Everything is Shiiiit!...

From the makers of Cards Against Humanity come some rude cards. So Bryn, Stuart and I hopped all over London the other Saturday being childish, immature and silly with them... but blimey Charlie how we laughed.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Ruling Class...

Last night Stuart and I went to see the hunky James McAvoy starring in Peter Barnes' satirical play The Ruling Class at the Trafalgar Studios in London's glitzy West End.

The (black) humour of the play hinges on one of two things; (1) whether you find the idea of a paranoid schizophrenic psychopath British nobleman inheriting a peerage funny, or (2) whether you find a talented actor playing a paranoid schizophrenic psychopath British nobleman inheriting a peerage funny. We are in 'laugh at' vs 'laugh with' territory again.

For me the answer to (1) was "not really."
The answer to (2) was (as the actor in question is James McAvoy) "largely, yes."

So here it was - a rather broad, rather blunt attack on those who rule us (clue: they all talk in posh accents, went to Eton, own country estates, and hate the poor.)

When the play worked it was fine - the action was zany and madcap with Mr McAvoy sparkling as mad Jack. He got to show us his unicycling skills, his ripped bod, his demon smile and his underwear.

When it didn't work (especially in the 2nd half) it rather reminded me of a 'trendy vicar' routine I used to do when I was a member of the Cambridge University Light Entertainment Society (CULES) back in 1982 - cringingly old hat.

3 stars (mainly for Mr McAvoy's spirited performance and evil grin)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cereal Killer Cafe...

As part of our hipster cafe tour last week Bryn, Darren and I went to Cereal Killer Cafe at 139 Brick Lane, London, E1 6SB.  We plumped for cereal cocktails - Unicorn Poop, Don't Have A Cinnaman and cocoa puffs. Scrummy.