Monday, July 30, 2007


"Free" Museums

Going to the museums in London can be very expensive:

Rail fare (group saving) - £35
Late Breakfast at "Cafe Primo" - £30
Ice Station museum exhibit - £20
Tat from the museum shop - £10
Tea at "Pizza and Pasta" - £50

for a total of £145 - nearly £50 a head! Maybe we can take packed lunches next time...

(I've rounded up the numbers a bit but that covers miscellania like bottles of water and the occasional cookie)


Cooking the antarctic way

These recipes, copied from the museum's Antarctic exhibition, help show how simple cooking can be but yet subtly different when you are stuck at the South pole for months on end.

Niçoise salad



Rice pudding


Vampire Squids!

This model represents the Vampire Squid (Vampyroteuthis Infernalis literally means vampire squid from hell), a creature that lives in tropical/sub-tropical oceans from 700-3,500m down. The real thing has light organs on its body, eyes and tentacles.


According to Wikipedia and The Cephalopod Page, this is supposed to be one of the weirdest creatures around:


Sea Pigs!

Here's a photo of a model of Scotoplanes Globosa, or Sea Pig.

The real thing is about 7cm long and plows along like a worm engulfing the deepsea mud, digesting organics and bacteria as it goes.

From this Deep Sea Photography site :

"The sea pig, a deep-sea sea cucumber, roams the abyssal plains in great herds. In places they make up to 90 percent of the benthic biomass, and so can be regarded as one of the most abundant large organisms on planet Earth!"


Natural History Museum

The museum building is marvellous to look at in its own right. Everywhere there is some detail that catches your eye - the animals on the roof, the gargoyles, little motifs between the windows, the variety in the style of the pillars, and that's just the outside.

This picture is made up of 4 photos to try and catch the detail.

And looking at the next two - the pillars are different to either side, as are the plants behind each statue.

At lower levels, small motifs of sealife and insects decorate the windows.

Whilst inside monkeys climb what look like vertebrae in the arches...

...and the columns continue to be different - even the flowers above the pillars are varied.

Incredible piece of work - a pity that new glass and steel buildings leave all this novelty and creativity out.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


We can be Heroes... just for one day

Totally out of character, I have planned ahead and watched an American TV series. For years now (since Babylon 5, I think) I have given them a miss - 24, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, and so on. For some reason Heroes, now on the BBC, called out to me to give it a chance so I put my 1-hour coin in tbe machine and sat back.
I must admit to being impressed, despite the presence of Cheerleaders which make things feel too American. Sometimes a programme can feel country-neutral, even if it is filmed in America, because cars and big buildings are everywhere in the world. Cheerleaders are not.
I loved the Hiro Nakamura character but then he is the geek SF nut.
In fact the other characters are well fleshed out considering the time available in the two episodes on tonight.
I'm actually intrigued to see how the complicated plot rolls out next week.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Something Blue and Russell Howard

Sounds like a comedy stand-up with lots of swearing, doesn't it? Actually "Something Blue" was the first half of the show - five women performing a series of funny and/or sad theatrical pieces - followed by Russell Howard, the young blond off "Mock the week" in traditional comedian role.

Around The Fringes put on two independent turns who were warming up for their Edinburgh runs. Or Edingburgh as reported by the venue's website. {Sigh}.

Jammy Voo Theatre isn't something I would normally go out of my way to see - usually I would bump into this sort of comic cabaret at a festival or here at 21 South Street because it was on with something else.
The content, though - a mix of clowning, puppetry, absurd characters, physical theatre and songs to explore love - was very good and well put together.
There was a lot aimed at laughs but some of it is quite sad and thoughtful. For example, one piece was of a woman grown old with long white hair to the floor walking across the stage; by kneeling down with her back to us, her hair became the sea and two puppets told of her younger life being courted by her boyfriend on the beach who was soon lost to a watery death; and so she mourned his passing for the rest of her life.
Which contrasted with a wife at the breakfast table making herself more like the pictures in the glossy magazines to try and (fail to) get more attention from her husband. Being at the breakfast table, the only items to hand were marmite and chocolate spread for a fake tan, ketchup for lipstick and toothpaste for eyeliner.
Being a cast of women, they wisely used a disguise to represent male characters although I think a wolf's head was putting us a rather worse light than we needed.
If you are in Edinburgh then I recommend you check them out.

Russell Howard looks like a blond member of a boy band and not someone you expect to be standing behind a mike relating amusing anecdotes and observations. But we had seen him regularly on "Mock The Week" so Sue decided that we should see him live.
His act was good with some funny content but I found it so full of positive energy and life that it sometimes felt I was being preached at. Maybe I'm just too unhealthily cynical for such outpourings of youthful enthusiasm.

He was worried the photo from Sue's speed camera would have him looking a bit Hitleresque with his right arm raised but he seems to have got away with it.



Flood! Flood!

I'd always thought that I was safe, living as I did uphill from any rivers - even the might Thames - but I was misguided. Woodley is no safer that anywhere else - look, a 40m long puddle in Kingfisher Drive!

The council even put some portable barricades up to prevent cars disappearing into the ... what, 8" water?

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Isn't astronomy great?

I love this BBC report about a 10 billion trillion trillion carat diamond, at least twice as wide as the Moon, called "Lucy". I find the idea quite amazing that suns like ours will, eventually, die and leave behind a massive chunk of compressed carbon. Unfortunately this is only the heart of the dwarf star so there would be 100s of kilometers of detritus around the diamond anyway so you wouldn't be able to see it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


GuilFest 07 - Squeeze

After the Theatre Tent, Samantha and I watched a token small band - it was a music festival. :-)
"Moon Unit" were apparently ‘retro-futurism with a contemporary touch’, whatever that is. The problem with small bands in general is that you don't know the songs and usually they are a small band because they don't have anything that makes them stand out. They do help you pass the time, though, until you can move onto something else ... like Magerita slush puppies. Yum.

Soon after it was time for the headlining band, Squeeze. Everybody knows at least a few of their songs so you can sing along but I don't really like their singing style or song contents (post Cool for Cats).

So, in summary, GuilFest for me was 6 comedians, 2 bands, two plays, and a lovely curry for lunch. And it didn't rain. was £40 for the ticket worth it? Overall, yes. £3.50 for beers? Definitely not.



GuilFest 07 - Theatre Tent

The theatre tent was a well organised affair - several rows of straw bails for the punters, a stage in the middle and a large backstage area to the rear. Samantha and I sat down towards the end of the local Prankster's Theatre Company's rendition of Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (a shortened version thereof) so we could wait for the much more interesting-sounding "Stage Combat Demo and Workshop" from True Edge.

The first half was a series some set pieces to show of their skills followed by a second half of improvisation based on audience input. Their acting abilities were varied - Captain Jack Sparrow wasn't too bad; Romeo and Juliet were passable - but then we weren't there to see that. The swordfights were quite fast although they didn't have the advantage of camera angles to add more excitement. Reminds me of the Dr Who Confidential TV programme where you see the-making-of which never looks anywhere near as scary as the finished product.

More enjoyable was the improvised work where two stunt fighters (the middle pair in the photo below) would take on a string of suggestions from the audience and play them out as one continuous fight. I was surprised how vicious the very young people sitting so sweetly amongst us could be!



GuilFest 07 - Another successful GuilFest (Number 4 for me)

Today was a lovely day out - the weather stayed fine and the temperature didn't get too cold by 11pm.
Nobody nearly collapsed from sunstroke this year although somebody did get sunburnt - it's surprising how effective a constant breeze can be at dehydrating the skin. It's like the sun and the wind conspire - the former hides behind clouds from time to time so you don't notice it while the latter makes sure you have no moisture left to protect your skin.
My schedule was to live in the Comedy Tent for the afternoon and then pass the time somehow in the evening - the music line-up didn't really appeal (none of the acts from my childhood/teenage like Blondie or The Stranglers this year) but there are dozens of bands on spread amongst the many tents/stages.
The Comedy Tent this year was in a different position and open on one side - in the past it had been open on three sides which allowed for a nice through-draft to keep the air moving. This time, though, it felt pretty warm and the acts sweated more than was expected from facing a GuilFest audience.
I had a bit of a shock when I say the MC, John Mann - he looked just like Martin Davis (MC from previous GuilFests). Well, a Martin Davis that has REALLY let themselves go in a Keith Richards sort of way, anyway.
First act up was Stan Stanley with quite a short set. Seemed a bit nervous but managed OK - the afternoon audience at GuilFest is quite different from a normal gig. For starters there is no under-18 bar. There was supposedly a ban on swearing but the f**king Aussie later on couldn't get the concept.

Pete Firman is a magician that does comedy. In his act he managed to demonstrate a few simple tricks, such as the vanishing handkerchief. Most people believe this to be done with a false thumb but Pete went on to show that the trick is actually much more complicated than that - in fact it is all done with a handkerchief snatcher. A line from the handkerchief runs under the jacket and trousers (which Pete helpfully removed) to bands round the knees; a simple exercise of the legs extracts the handkerchief from view. Tada!

The advantage of being a magician - as I've reported from previous GuilFests - is that you get to invite lovely women from the audience to assist. In this case, helping the magician stab himself with needles a la Geek (circus geek, not techy geek).


Finishing off the first half was Roger Monkhouse, a very likable comedian, telling jokes about being a white middle-class parent of a teenage child -  easy overlap with a lot of the audience. His conversational style was that of a slightly baffled man, not necessarily unhappy with the world but learning how to get on with life's changes. Would definitely want to see his act again.
After a break we were back for more comedy, starting with Daniel Townes, a young and cocky Australian. Highlight was the story of his deportation from America after landing at LAX en route to Canada. Not sure why he was deported but his encounter with immigration was amusing, if a little unbelievable.

The music today was supplied by punk musician, Paul B Edwards. You might have heard his hit single "I Predict A Fry-Up" under the name of the Kaiser Chef.Paul B. Edwards:

Has more of an Internet presence than most comedians - I assume most don't have the time or inclination to run a website, or even a MySpace site.

MySpace URL 

Headlining was Junior Simpson, the only act I knew to be almost famous. He was quietly confident, relying on years of practice, and had a good range of comedy to rely on, pulling from repertoires aimed at general audiences as well as the brothers.
What I enjoy about black (and Asian) comedians is the insight they bring into their family lives and how similar and different they can be to mine.
For example, Junior related how in the past they would call the family to the TV whenever a black actor was to be seen, hopefully in time before the character was dragged off to the cells.
Or how he thought that being able to beat your child (punishing, not abusing) was something that was lacking from modern life. TV programmes with mothers being hit by their 4-year old children and asking what they could do just seemed bizarre to him. Being only a year apart in age, I can understand where he is coming from  :-)

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Friday, July 06, 2007


For those that thought the Scilly Isles were 28 miles south west of Lands End

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