April 30, 2009
A Pork Ellipse Now
No, I don't have the time or energy; you'll have to construct your own sound charade for the title. I'm really just passing through momentarily with some fleeting observations:
- Dance audiences are considerably better-looking, on the whole, than piano concert audiences. Not that I am so shallow as to notice.
- Oh dear, fluff season is starting once again. Even the spring has its downsides.
- No, it's not The End of the World.
There was something else, but I've forgotten what. That's what I get for blogging while sober.
April 18, 2009
City Jitters 11
After returning from the Isle of Wight, the remainder of the Easter weekend was pretty relaxed, with a bit of socialising and a bit of movie catching up.
At the cinema, Let the Right One In was a satisfyingly unfamiliar take on the well-worn tropes of vampirism, chilly, humane and occasionally quite nasty, well worth seeing though done no favours by the blanket hype that has accompanied its theatrical release here. Do not wait for the slated Hollywood remake, which cannot possibly be anything other than a dismal travesty.
At home, meanwhile, I finally got around to watching Frank Darabont's Stephen King adaptation The Mist, a near-perfect small town horror that builds to a fabulously bleak finish; and Wanted, a trashy, fast-paced comics adaptation that manages to be bad in more ways than you could ever imagine.
And, of course, it was Doctor Who time, David Tennant and Russell T Davies working out their notice in the first of four specials. This was entertaining but flimsy, involving a random bus trip to the desert, red berets, fly people, space-warping stingrays and a Lara Croft impersonator. Roll on the Moffat reign, even if he's saddled with a bloody teenager as the Doctor.
The main cultural event of the week, though, was Jan Fabre's Orgy of Tolerance at the QEH on Wednesday. The last time I saw Fabre was nearly two decades ago, also at the QEH, for the long and incredibly tedious Sweet Temptations. It was about 3 hours with no interval, I think -- although it's possible it just seemed that long -- and the steady clatter of people walking out began within the first 20 minutes and continued throughout. I stuck it out, but pretty much vowed never to see him again. Not that I've had the chance, as his company hasn't visited London since.
Well, a lot has happened in the intervening years and I have a lot more patience for this kind of wilfully avant garde performance nowadays, so when I saw that Fabre was finally showing here again I decided to give it another go. I'm very glad I did.
Very much in the physical theatre tradition of Pina Bausch et al, but with even less actual "dance", this was a loud, rambling, shouty, obscene, crass and often extremely funny assemblage of performances built around the ostensible unshockability of our laissez-faire consumerist society. There were songs, jokes, guns, bigotry, nudity and mind-numbing quantities of mimed masturbation -- honestly, you have never in your life seen so much wanking onstage. Some of the set-pieces worked better than others, and almost all of them -- clearly intentionally -- went on too long, but all in all it hung together surprisingly well, even managing to be a bit shocking in places.
Fuck all of you who just came to see us naked!
Today was sunny and lovely and I did a bit of wandering with a camera; some pics will be along in just a few minutes. Tomorrow looks set to be fine too. I love the spring.
April 13, 2009
The trip to the Isle was, on the whole, jolly good. Weather was iffy but at least never produced the predicted heavy rain. I do seem to be getting a bit wimpy about the cycling -- I skipped one cold and, as it turned out, extremely wet ride, and would gladly see Gurnard's Solent View Road blasted to rubble and bulldozed into the sea -- but on the whole these trips are still fun. I'll probably be back at the end of May to revisit the long ride to Freshwater (pictured on these pages at least twice before) as well as, in a freak departure from tradition, to have a go at -- of all things -- sea kayaking. Probably; I'm not making any promises on this score.
Nevertheless, despite the local loveliness, there was something a bit depressing about the Isle this time around, perhaps due to now being just the outer limit of the season. Wight is basically a rural backwater, hugely dependent on the seasonal influx of standoffish wealth. I found this most oppressively obvious in Cowes itself, although that's probably just sampling bias. In any case, the town is a benighted outpost, which might well be borderline-unsustainable were it not for the transient population of yuppie sailors whose barely-recession-dented riches trickle down to the locals in only the most minimal and grudging of ways.
There seem to be so many dead-end lives here, so many people marking out their days behind the counters of grim, dusty, customerless nicknack shops, trapped beyond an event horizon of hopelessness, born into a world drained of potential in the midst of conspicuous plenty; while boorish yachtie yahoos roam the streets outside, sloshing money into the gutters. Cowes is, at least in places, a pretty town, and the island is a beautiful place, but it's also heartbreakingly bleak. From the pinch-mouthed old man in the newsagent packed with semi-pornographic novelty pig ornaments -- I bought one for Quayside at �1.99, and oh how we laughed, oh how hollowly, at its profligate detail, the hours of work that must have gone into this triumph of tat -- to the (we imagined) ex-screw bouncer at the curry house, offloaded to this sinecure by the Prison Officers Association after one too many blows to the head with a torn-off bunk leg in some Parkhurst riot, the place seemed to be filled with the ground down and desperate, filled -- in some paradoxical way -- with emptiness.
All of which, of course, we observed wryly and then moved on to another ice cream, another ride, another evening of excessive drinking and talking bollocks late into the night about urban pursuits unknown to the locals, spending our money at supermarkets that will spirit most of it away, and basically having a jolly old time.
April 9, 2009
Kajagoogoo are the most important thing to happen in British music since The Beatles.
April 8, 2009
Departure Vector 3
Although Professor Dolphin has a reputation as a bit of a tough cookie she was pretty much sweetness and light in my viva yesterday. At just over half an hour it wasn't quite as swift as Saad's a couple of weeks back, but gratifyingly short and trouble-free all the same. Another little hurdle jumped. Now I just need some results.
Anyway, I'm off to the island once again, for a couple of days cycling, weather permitting, or just hanging out if things are too inclement. Early April was always going to be a gamble, although today's previously forecast heavy rain has shown up instead as bright sunshine, so who knows?
I'll be back in time for Doctor Who...
April 1, 2009
Another month, another failure to blog. I'm not sure what's happened to my creative urges -- or my destructive ones for that matter -- but they seem not to be finding an outlet here in the way they once did.
Shame, really, because all manner of pointless bollocks has been going down, including that nexus of doublethinking idiocy, known only by a letter and number, which is convening in this fair city even as we speak. Though I still cling to the promise of Prez B-to-the-O's phantasmagoria of "change" I can't help but glower down in something proximal to despair at his administration's -- and our own's -- inability to see and grasp the opportunities of global catastrophe. What kind of clueless, hidebound, industry-stooge penis conceives of hedge fund managers as the world's guides to economic salvation? Could Tim Geithner not find enough serial killers, child molesters and used chainsaw salesmen to do the fucking job?
Despite which, I have not spent the day hurling dustbins through Starbucks franchise windows or raiding the premises of any of the arsewit banks of which I am now a de facto, though powerless, shareholder. My time manning the barricades is over, I fear. Let younger, prettier and more idealistic firebrands torch cars and go mano-a-mano with the bovine gregariousness of a senile oligarchy, while I toil fruitlessly in the ever-shrinking universe of experimental science, not even managing to learn more and more about less and less. While I, in other words, nod off during departmental seminars or, at best, bandy facile words with my charming but unthinking, Chris Moyles-listening, Jeremy Clarkson-apologist, home counties hillbilly postdoc companion around the frustratingly dysfunctional SICM rig.
If you happen to be my "friend" on notorious attention-waste Facebook, you may already have received unwanted notification of my barely-deserved loss of PubMed virginity courtesy of someone else's brief communication in the new Nature Methods. Not as much a claim to fame as this often-fallow venue, but you have to start somewhere. Even if, on current form, you may well also end there.
Last week the substation exploded. Next week is my first year viva and the Isle of Wight. Call this a lull.