Last night I saw The Pet Shop Boys at the O2 Arena, courtesy of Philips, who have an excellent centrally-located box. Not only was it my first time at the O2 (other than in its criminally expensive former guise as the Millennium Dome), but actually my first arena gig. This has been largely through choice, since I prefer live music in smaller venues for the more intimate atmosphere and proximity to the musicians. Even seeing major artists like Iron Maiden, I’ve been lucky enough to catch them in venues like the Brixton Academy rather than the arenas in which they tend to perform. The sheer scale is impressive, it must be said, particularly looking down on the sea of people filling the bowl beneath the box. However as a musical experience I found there was something detached and slightly soulless about it — at times it felt more akin to watching a DVD recording of a live performance than seeing it live oneself.
My main issue, however, concerned the O2’s clearly moronic policy on cameras. They have chosen to ban “professional cameras” which seems reasonable at first, except that they blanketly class anything larger than a compact camera to be “professional”. My entry-level dSLR clearly is not and, in fact, I imagine most professionals would be insulted by the suggestion. Yet because of this policy my camera was confiscated on entry and returned afterwards, so I have no photos other than of the outside. It wasn’t a safety issue due to its size, since I wasn’t in the crowd but up in a box. And there is no blanket ban on cameras either. So apparently taking pictures is okay, but any danger of taking good pictures must be quashed even if there is nothing commercial about it. Chatting to the polite but unhelpful security employees at the venue, they could not justify it either. This asinine approach is probably enough for me to blacklist the venue altogether.
Next post I’ll cover last week’s trips up to Cambridge, once I have some photos to illustrate it. Meanwhile, other bits and pieces:
A beautiful, brilliant black-and-white advert for the Finnish Ilta Sanomat that imagines an alternate 1930s where the web and newspaper coexist.
Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service) covers Avril Lavigne’s Complicated. I recommend it largely for his swift dissection of the song afterwards, “I really don’t understand what’s so complicated about the whole situation… it’s just this guy, and he doesn’t like her very much.”
It’s now old news but Hulu, the on demand online streaming TV service, is due to launch in the UK in September with around 3,000 hours of US content.
Penny Arcade have been trying out some new styles for a future story, the robotic noir Automata being my personal favourite. They also offer a compelling argument for buying Prototype.
Hey sports fans! The Legal Softball League may not sound like the most thrilling of sporting clashes but its blend of relaxed atmosphere, large parks and alcohol make for a excellent Monday evening. And suffice to say that rivalry between law firms tends to elicit a more than minor competitive streak. Trainee/Sheriff Pete invited me to snap away at this week’s game and, never one to turn down new photographic opportunities, I happily headed along. In return he was able to illustrate his match report and, based on reactions from the team, it looks like I may do this on a more regular basis, joining in if they need an extra man. Though the team was sadly unsuccessful against Manches, a few shots from this week can be found below.
Next time you’re renovating, I came across an interesting example of why not paying attention to your architect’s plans can be awesome. Admittedly you may need around $1.26 million. And an architect who happens to be a creative genius. But the principle stands.
And while playing Rock Band 2 with my sister this evening we unlocked Kansas’ Carry On Wayward Son, which reminded me I’d come across a cover of it very recently but couldn’t remember for the life of me where. Eventually, with some surprise, I worked it out. Just wish they’d let them finish the song instead of talking over it. Note to anyone at the studio who likes money: a Worthless Peons album will sell.
For an entirely unplanned weekend, it ended up becoming rather alliteratively full as our title suggests, with two films, two meals out, four friends and a spot of casual world domination. Rav decided that we needed to see Terminator Salvation, a prospect to which I was not wholly averse, while being vocal in my confusion as to why exactly we need another Terminator film. The third, to refresh people’s memories, was a largely neutered teen-friendly product with the sole saving grace of its unexpected ending in which, despite the protagonists’ best efforts, Judgement Day occurs anyway. This time around we rejoin John Connor in the middle of his near-future war against the machines in what would prove to be an even more unnecessary film than the third. It has virtually no plot to speak of, nor does it advance the overarching mythos or universe. What it does do is throw up a series of amusingly careless gaffes — the apparently recoil-free shotgun which a teenager can fire one-handed with perfect accuracy or the inexplicably redundant glassy touch-screen text-based user-interface in the machines’ HQ. Overall the action is competent and the film is perfectly watchable. I’m just not sure what the point was.
Following that, a good curry and a great bottle of Malbec at Indian Moment in Clapham and then back to Rav’s for drinks and warmongering in a protracted mission-based session of Risk. I haven’t played for many years, but if ever a game were designed for me, this is probably high on the list. I was pleased to see I still haven’t lost my ruthless touch. Equally important as martial strategising is the technique of naming any lone soldiers defending remote outposts of the empire. Invaders soon learned to fear the venerable one-man armies of Chuck Norris and Quentin Tarantino. The best defence is a good offence; the second best defence is a good name. Waking late on Sunday we had an early afternoon brunch (I am reliable informed by Maurita that it’s still brunch until 4pm, at which point it becomes brinner) at Aquum.
Film #2 was Synecdoche, New York from Charlie Kaufman, his first outing as a director as well as writer. Frankly trying to form an opinion on it after a single viewing is almost an exercise in futility. Rav encapsulated it rather well in his first comment, “the decade was nearly over without a Twelve Monkeys.” The difference is that while logic and time are fluid concepts, given free rein Kaufman has produced something overambitious and rather self-indulgent which doesn’t necessarily hang together. There is much to enjoy and appreciate within smaller scenes or sections of the film but it will certainly take repeat viewings to decide whether it is less or more than the sum of its parts. It could be art, it could be bad storytelling without another director to make sense of his script. Time will tell.
Dell will be sending out an engineer to replace the screen on my laptop. In the meantime hooking it up to a monitor has let me extract the remaining photos. I’m hoping to go through them swiftly but with nearly 900 from the trip (excluding those already deleted) I’m not even going to try estimating. Instead this post will give you a few final photos before the full gallery is prepared (and in the meantime check out the set on Facebook). Jeff cooked a great meal one evening and since Jenna has been exploring food photography recently, I decided to try out the new 50mm lens on gastronomic imagery. Some of the results are below, along with scenery from the trip.
One of the other issues with the Mammoth Cave tour related to the tour guide himself. On being asked the age of the caves he explained it was around 8000 years old, before following this up with a response on their formation that geologists believe it took around 2 million years to form. Anyone else notice a minor discrepency there? It didn’t bother me since he was pretty open about his obvious bias, although one could feel the entire room “start to squirm” as Jenna put it. Perhaps more worrying is that he backed up his own view by explaining he used to teach geology in school for many years. That’s Kentucky, I guess.
Although it is traditional to bring chocolate back for the office, there’s no way I was going to buy Hershes or American chocolate in general for that matter. This left a void which I decided to fill with taffy. For those unfamiliar, taffy is a generic name for chewy sweets like Starburst or Chewits that are stretched to make it “fluffier” before being rolled and cut into pieces. The store in Gatlinburg actually handmade it on-site, allowing visitors to view the process (and giving out free samples which always helps make my mind up).
And in other news it appears Telltale games have now picked up the Monkey Island franchise. For the most well-known adventure game title to fall into the hands of the most successful current developer in the genre could not be more fitting. The first episode lands July 7. I suspect I’ll be insult swordfighting all week to celebrate. General comments on E3 news once it’s new, but suffice to say the return to its previous over-the-top glory is certainly warranted.
As you may have picked up from othersources, a screen failure in my month-old laptop prevented updates in the second half of the trip. Hopefully getting it repaired won’t be too stressful. Having returned I only have access to around half my photos at the moment, so a full gallery may take a little time. I have put a fairly comprehensive set of smaller images up on Facebook.
So what happened once we reached Tennessee? Aside from hanging out in our 3-floor, 5-bedroom cabin the mountains, we went on several hikes, explored the nearby town of Gatlinburg, and embarked on a couple of longer road trips to Nashville and Kentucky. Nashville included a bizarre recreation of the Parthenon and the country music spectacle of the Grand Ole Opry which featured some fantastic performances and was quite an experience. Kentucky was primarily for the Mammoth Cave (although an obligatory stop at the original KFC was a given). While the huge caves are a beautiful sight, the way the place is run makes it difficult to recommend. A strict no-bag policy will confound photographers who wish to carry multiple lenses, and the whole tour felt rather rushed, being generally picture unfriendly. Alternative tours such as an introduction to caving might be better options.
A couple of nights in, we decided to dust off the outdoor hot tub and spent several hours soaking, drinking beer and chatting. Jenna’s unforgivably early departure clearly required retaliatory action. Knowing that the simplest punishments tend to be the most effective, she inherited the nickname, radio callsign, and every conceivable conversational reference to “Quitter” for the remainder of the trip. She finally escaped the title only after staying up with me until 3am on our last night together, as we shared photos and watched several hours of British comedy.