See One, Nineteen in Birmingham this weekend

My friend and fellow Archers writer Tim Stimpson has a play on this Friday and Saturday, at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham.

I saw One, Nineteen when it was premiered in London. It’s fast moving, funny and thought-provoking. It got great reviews, including four stars in Time Out.

Since then it’s been performed in Suffolk and Salford, and finally comes to Tim’s home city of Birmingham.

And given the news from the other side of the world, the subject matter is, to say the least, prescient. To quote from the press release:

“…Freak storms bring devastating floods to the English coast, but before the rescue effort arrives, the media are already in town spinning their story.
A play about the power of the news, the strength of the government, the question of climate change, and of course, and the search for Sam, Jack and little Chloe…”

See you there, I hope.

More details and to buy tickets

Flyer and production company details

Amazing YouTube mash-ups by Kutiman

I’ve been knocked out by an amazing YouTube mash-up project by Kutiman. It’s called Thru You.

He’s trawled YouTube for completely unconnected clips and then cut and mixed them to make entirely new tracks.

I can’t conceive of the hours it must have taken just to find the clips, let alone all the editing and mixing.  And the music he’s made really works on its own merits, not just as a novelty.

Once you’ve listened, click on the credits to list all the source material, then follow through to some of the clips to get a feel for what the job must have entailed.

Singles reviewed as if they were Archers characters

The Lipster has reviewed this week’s singles (well, some of them) as if they were Archers characters.

Morrisey’s new single is described “as all rather spineless, but in a pleasant enough way”, which equates it to “wet” Nic Hanson.

And Thunderheist’s Sweet 16 is compared to sexy Annabelle Schrivener.  “…Rather like Krystal Carrington with her high-falutin’ head for business and bod for sin, Annabelle also has a fearfully dirty way of intoning sentences about protection orders on local bird’s nests. She is, to use modern parlance, well fierce…”

It won’t mean much to non-Archers listeners, but The Lipster clearly knows her (I suspect it’s a her) music and her Archers, which makes her a top bean in my book.

(Do books have beans?)

Stephen Fry’s “L” competition – and the little voice

When I started following Stephen Fry on Twitter (and was stupidly chuffed that he followed me back), I was one of just a thousand(ish) who did so.

Unsurprisingly, this figure has grown hugely.  As I write, he’s being followed by over 63,000 Twitterers, and to mark passing the 50,000 mark, he set a competition for his fawning accolytes (one of whom I cheerfully admit to being).

You had to write a tweet (a Twitter message) which contained exactly 50 “L”s – L being the Roman numeral for 50.  Quite a challenge, given that tweets have a rigid 140-character limit.  Even more so, when spaces count as characters.

And you had to mark the message with a hashtag: #L  so that it could be identified as a competition entry.  So that’s two characters gone already, I thought (fatal mistake, as you will see).

What I wrote

A quick look at the entries as they enthusiastically rolled in showed a lot like this:

gavski82: #L illegal llamas loll, a ball?hells bell!all call a folly.a hill will roll,willy nilly.bill fell ill, all still.a pull will lilt,will fall.

Doesn’t make a lot of sense, really.  Nor did most of the others.

I thought the only way to stand a chance of gaining Mr Fry’s approbation was for it to be about something, and ideally to have a bit of rhythm to it, like a poem.

So after a bit of scratching about, this is what I submitted:

Ill,dull lull. Poll-all well,lol! All hail jolly poll!All roll pell-mell,all ululate,all lalala!Hail BHO!Hail Michelle!Tell world,allswell#L

BHO, I hoped, was recognisable as Barrack Hussein Obama, whose inauguration had just taken place.  And I used as much punctuation and spaces as I could spare to indicate the rhythm of the piece (piece?  tut, pretentious, moi?), which should read like this:

Ill, dull lull.
Poll – all well, lol!
All hail jolly poll!
All roll pell-mell, all ululate, all lalala!
Hail BHO! Hail Michelle!
Tell world, all swell

I was quite pleased with it.  At least it wasn’t total nonsense.

But I messed up the hashtag.  I didn’t leave a space before it, so the hashtag engine didn’t pick it up, which means it wasn’t considered for the competition.

Boo, hoo, so what?

Why am I telling you this?  It’s because of the little voice.

I thought, to protect my idea of doing an Obama tribute, I’d leave it until close to the deadline to post my tweet.

I was writing scripts for The Archers at the time, which takes total concentration.

As I sat at my desk at 9.30 on the Saturday morning of the (noon) deadline, I read my “note to self” to post the tweet at 11.30.  A tiny fleeting thought passed through my mind: “shall I set an alarm?”  No, I thought. It’ll be fine.  I need to get on with writing this script.

Next thing I knew, it was ten to midday. Sudden panic. I grabbed my draft, carefully typed it into Twitter, and sent it.

When I came to the end of a scene about twenty minutes later, I went hunting for my entry in the hashtags.

It wasn’t there.

And then I realised that the #L wasn’t two characters.  It was three, because it needed a space to separate it out from the other text.  A space that I has used in search of my precious rhythm, but could have sacrificed.

God, I was annoyed.  With myself, which is the worst sort of annoyance there is, of course. I’d worked quite hard in my limited free time to come up with this offering, and I might just as well have not bothered, as I told myself, my wife, my nearest son, my Twitter buddies, and would have told the milkman if he’d been around.

Listen, you idiot (me, I mean)

So to make myself feel a tiny bit better, I tried to think what I might learn from this.  And, not for the first time, it was a lesson about that little voice.

My subconscious knew what the right thing to do was, and it told me.  If I’d posted the tweet a bit earlier, my error might well have dawned on me in time to put it right.

But the subconscious is so easily shouted down by the noisy, busy forefront of the mind.

I’ve told the little voice “no, it’ll be fine” before.  And I’ve almost always regretted it later.

So when you get that little whisper, remember me banging about the house at 12.30 on a Saturday lunchtime, ridiculously annoyed about a little word game.

And PAY ATTENTION TO IT!

(And I’ll try to, as well)

Four Word Film Review

Thanks to Katie Parry (not the one who kissed a girl and liked it – that’s Katie Perry)  I’ve just been introduced to Four Word Film Review.

No need to explain what it is – that is encapsulated perfectly in the (four word – neat) title.

There’s a website which contains (as I write) 28,726 films and 283,727 reviews, which I guess is a tribute to a brilliantly simple, accessible and fun idea. And indicates that I’ve come to it rather late.

The top-voted “review” for Casablanca is the clever “Nazis bogart Rick’s joint” (only clever if you’re familiar with the verb “to bogart”, of course.  If not, Urban Dictionary will enlighten you). I actually prefer the less popular, but inspired “Yellow Lorre, dead Lorre”.

And for The Matrix?  “Finding Neo”.  Nice that it references another film, I think.

You don’t have to send your reviews to the site, of course, although I hope you will.  You can play it as a game with friends, guessing the film from the review.

I haven’t tried this with the family yet, but I suspect it could lead to a lot of screams of “it’s obvious” from the setter, viewing their clue from the vantage point of the answer, while everyone else tears their hair out, trying to match it up to the hundreds or thousands of films they know.  A good one for car journeys, maybe.

Here’s a few of mine to kick you off:

  1. Dude, wears mascara?
  2. Takings in the balance
  3. Sent he mental, Johnny
  4. Women over the edge
  5. In the white Gere

Answers:

  1. Tootsie
  2. The Italian Job
  3. The Shining
  4. Thelma and Louise
  5. An Officer and a Gentleman

I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Rage wants amateur actors

Rage, which teams amateur performers with professional directors, is about to cast its next production – Our Country’s Good.

They’re looking for people 16+ (older than school leaving age) for an  open workshop audition 11am – 5pm on  Saturday 31 Jan in Birmingham.

The play will be rehearsed at a central location, three evenings a week.

The show will be performed 14 – 16 May at a  Birmingham theatre (they haven’t said which one yet).

They’re also intersted in hearing from people who want to work behind the scenes.

Full details

MP’s expenses – they vote tomorrow

Today’s the last day to write to your MP insisting that s/he votes against the moves by the government to keep MPs’ expenses secret.

How they can justify this is completely beyond me.  There was a suggestion that MPs’ security might be compromised, but that has been dealt with – their home addresses cannot now be revealed.  Another claim that the record-keeping would be too onerous can be seen as facile by anyone who’s self employed and therefore has to keep all their receipts so they can put them through their books.

President Obama has just promised to make his administration the most open and transparent ever.  Our government seems set on the opposite course, in a move that can only make the average person despise polititians even more than they already do.

If you agree, tell your own MP.

To contact mine, I used the Write to Them website – very quick and easy to use, and it suggests the sort of thing you might say, with links for further information.

Update – later the same day

Looks like the campaign had an effect.  There is decency (all right, shame) in politics, after all.

Human League, ABC, Heaven 17 – review

Last night with a thousand other midlifers to see three bands from my youth at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. I usually avoid this sort of musical necrophilia, but I thought it would be a nice pre-Christmas treat for Mrs D, who can still play an Ultravox album without irony.

One of the inevitables with this sort of “back from the dead” tour is seeing how well the performers have weathered over the the years.  Pretty good in most instances, although there was the odd middle aged spread being held in by the apparently compulsory grey suits.

Heaven 17 were fun.  Someone’s son on drums, I suspect (certainly not an original member).  Glenn Gregory (vocals, trilby, waistcoat) was obviously utterly delighted to be performing.  Great female vocals too. Temptation predictably brought the house down and I could have done with that being twice as long.

I have a soft spot for ABC, having seen them in a very intimate pre-tour warm up gig in the early 80s.  I was particularly looking forward to seeing the drummer, who had quite an individual style.  Disappointingly the sticksman they have now was much more conventional in his technique.

They did have quite a charistmatic female percussionist/vocalist though, which made up for it a bit.

It was all very professional, but in the old days Martin Fry really committed to those nonsense lyrics he writes.  After so long, and with a new album (they did a couple of tracks, which were fine, but didn’t get the crowd going) there’s a feeling that he’d rather be doing the new stuff.

Human League

And then the main attraction.  And no doubt about the stature of Human League in this package.  Ambitious staging (two level, giant LED screen across the full width of the stage).

Shock to see the once hair-curtained Phil Oakey now with a male pattern baldness No 1. Still looking good, though and with that insistent baritone voice in good shape.

Of the two female  singers, Susan Ann Sulley (the blonde one) is great value.  Looking magnificent, toned and blingy, and with great stagecraft (actually better than Oakey, who is a better singer than he is a frontman).

The set was one electropop classic after another.  There was much wearing of keyboards. Giant love hearts rolled around the stage to Love Action.  Fascination, Don’t You Want Me… you know the canon, and they (Joanne Catherall apart) delivered it with conviction.

Returning quickly for a remarkably fresh-sounding Being Boiled, they spoiled it for me by finishing with Electric Dreams. Hey guys, that’s not a Human League song, it’s pure fromage.

The audience didn’t care, though.  They went back home happy, aching slightly, not caring (until the cold morning) about work and wondering where the last 25 years have gone.

Playing to an empty room

Yesterday we celebrated my wife’s birthday in our home town of Birmingham (UK).

It was a three-part event.  Sixty of our family and friends had a private viewing of the classic movie High Society in the small screen of the lovely Art Deco Electric Cinema, then a Chinese meal at Barbecue Village – who looked after us brilliantly.

And then we moved on to cocktails and dancing at Sence – a brand new bar/club on the premises of what used to be 52 Degrees North.  Again the staff there were lovely, helpful and thoughtful but they were rather let down by the young DJ.

I was concerned when we arrived at about 10pm. As Sence has only just opened, they are still building up their reputation, so it was far from crowded.  The (big) dance floor was empty and the DJ was playing banging commercial dance, very loud, over the punchy sound system. Classic error: trying to create a happening atmosphere, when actually it makes stepping onto the dance floor very forbidding.

We’d given them a steer as to the sort of stuff that our lot would like and he made a desultory attempt at playing that (but he clearly didn’t have any/much 70s stuff, for example). A few danced, but he very quickly went back into his comfort zone and cleared the floor again.

Technically, he was fine.  Good mixing, consistent levels and so on. But DJing is about atmosphere, mood and energy – assessing the mood in the room and moving it gently in the direction you want, which eventually is a dance floor full of people having a good time.

But you can’t do that in one jump.  If he had:

  • stepped onto the dance floor a couple of times to feel how isolated a dancer would be there under that relentless beat,
  • used his eyes to assess the people who were there (older, in black tie),
  • thought about why most of us were staying behind the glass in the VIP area, rather than venturing out onto the dancefloor,

he might have played some more mid-tempo, possibly some older tunes, and gently enticed more and more of us – and the other customers – into having a dance.  Once he’d got us in the right mood, we’d have danced happily to the vocal 4/4 and a lot more besides.

We’d have had a better time – and so would he.