28 September 2008

Careful with that sax Eugene*

Friday night served up another great night of music from Space Ritual at the 100 Club in Central London. I have seen them play there a few times now and each show is a little different so I'll start by describing what was different this time.

The band were arranged unusually in a fairly flat formation with, from left to right, Chris Mekon, Sam Ollis, Mick Slattery, Nik Turner, Terry Ollis, Jerry Richards and Thomas Crimble; almost a mirror image of their usual line-up. Eugene (from tribute band Hoaxwind) guested on sax for a couple of numbers jamming with Nik.

The lighting was from the front which meant that I could take a lot of clear pictures of the band but I did rather miss some the effects that I got with the back lighting at previous gigs. Finally, and this was probably caused by the revised formation and the fact that I was right at the front (as always) but I could hear little of the bass or keyboards.

While the little differences added interest to the gig it was the things that were the same that really mattered, i.e. fantastic music played by skilled musicians who were clearly enjoying themselves.

I again failed to note the set list but Space Ritual seem to have moved on from the album (and period) that gave them their name. The set did end with Brainstorm and Masters of the Universe but these were the exception rather than the rule and, instead, we were treated to several tracks from their recent Otherworld album, including Bubbles, Sonic Savages, Time Crime, Walking Backwards and the masterful title track, er, Otherworld.

Also most welcome were the Hawkwind tracks from the late 70s, particularly Reefer Madness and Steppenwolf, which always take me back to the time when I first started getting into Hawkwind seriously after seeing these songs performed by Bob Calvert.

To round of an excellent evening I was able to say hello to Chris Mekon before the gig (I still do not understand why setting up the electronics takes so long, don't you just switch them on?!) and to several members of Hoaxwind afterwards. These later conversations will continue next month when Hoaxwind, who live in my area, play a gig in a local pub.

There is also more Hawkwind music to come in December when Hawkwind themselves do a short tour (assuming they carry on after the sudden death of Jason Stuart) and I also hope that it is not too long before there is another Space Ritual gig in my diary too.

* Of course you knew that this is a Pink Floyd song but it was also recorded by Nik Turner for the 1995 compilation Saucerful of Pink: A Tribute to Pink Floyd.

26 September 2008

Ski champ!

I am not very good at real skiing but on the Wii Fit I now hold the family record for the advanced ski slalom :-)

I also hold the record on table tilt (beginner and advanced), jogging and some yoga poses.

Obviously I am not going to tell you about all the activities where I do not feature in the top 10, but there are a few of them :-(

One of the nice features of the Wii is the avatar that you build of yourself, called a Mii, which Wii Fit uses to the full, i.e. it looks like you doing the exercise and the people that you see around you are people that you recognise.

Each member of the family and frequent visitors have their own Mii, as do God and Satan. Wii Fit keeps reminding me that God has not done any training recently!

25 September 2008

Avocado, broadbeans and peas

I tend to eat and drink in London in the same places with the same friends.

For example, one of my regular nights out starts in The Clachan in Kingly Street (next to Liberty) then moves on to Aperitivo around the corner in Beak Street.

But last night I was in a different part of town with a different friend and so I had to find something different to do.

She was coming into Charring Cross and expressed the desire for something posh (chocolate Martinis ideally) so we went to The National Cafe on Trafalgar Square, part of the National Gallery complex.

It was a speculative choice but it proved to be an inspired one. The building has been updated since this drawing but has the same sophisticate feel and it has a menu to match.

I do not do salads but could not resist starting with their Summer Salad as it held the promise of avocado, broadbeans and peas; it was delicious. I tend to avoid goat's cheese too (it's a little dated now) but I wanted two light courses so followed the salad with warm goats' cheese, tomato and red onion tart. Another good choice. It was proving to be a night for making good choices.

The National Cafe is now firmly on my places-to-go list, I just need to acquire some more sophisticated friends to go with :-)

24 September 2008

Glass Box

10 CDs of Philip Glass music has to a good thing, so please say "hello" to Glass Box: A Nonesuch Retrospective.

Like many collections that are limited to one label, Glass Box misses some major works, such as Akhnaten (a personal favourite of mine), but it does cover most of his long and illustrious career so it is a very good thing.

But the best part of the retrospective is that Philip Glass is doing some promotional work in the UK. So far I have heard him interviewed on Stuart Maconie's Freakzone (BBC Radio 6) and on The Today Programme (Radio 4), and I believe that he has also been on Radio 3. The BBC must like him as much as I do!

23 September 2008

Getting out more

Without the daily commute these days it is even nicer to get out of the house for a brisk walk around the local area and it is not very long before you are in amongst the grasses, flowers, bushes and trees that make a very convincing impression of the countryside. There are horses and cows too.

There are some pleasant main paths in the area, notably the tow path along the Thames and the Ham Avenues that stretch out from Ham House towards Ham Common and Petersham, but I prefer to take the quieter wilder paths.

Here the bustling tow path is just the other side of the line of trees but the only bustling you are likely to get in this field is from the horse, and he was too busy paying attention to the grass.

After forty minutes or so I return home refreshed, invigorated, often a little muddier and with a few more photographs for my local archive that help to give my walk purpose.

21 September 2008

Catching up with the JLA

Most of the comics that I read are from Marvel simply because I have limited time for reading and so I stick with my favourites. But I used to read many DC comics too and am still interested in their main characters.

These days I get to read some Batman and Superman and I keep an eye of the rest of the DC universe through blogs like Shelly's Comic Book Shelf.

Thanks to Shelly I was able to follow the saga of the reformed Justice League of America and knew that I was missing something good. It helps that the author, Brad Meltzer, is a best selling novelist.

Now I have the chance to enjoy these stories myself as the first story arc, The Tornado's Path, originally published in JLA issues 1 to 7 is available as a trade paperback, which I am about to take with me to bed.

17 September 2008

Creationism biologist quits job

The headline might be 'Creationism' biologist quits job but, for me, the main point is what was said by The Royal Society in their press release.

The Royal Society reiterated that its position was that creationism had no scientific basis and should not be part of the science curriculum.
"However, if a young person raises creationism in a science class, teachers should be in a position to explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism is not, in any way, scientific."
A recent tv programme by Richard Dawkins found a number of science teachers who were reluctant to argue the case for evolution when confronted by pupils with contradictory beliefs. They should now have the courage to teach sience.

16 September 2008

Warren House, Kingston Hill

Warren House is located on the Coombe Estate, which has been one of the wealthiest and most exclusive area in the Royal Borough of Kingston since the reign of Queen Victoria.

Now Warren House is "one of the finest meeting venues in Britain, dedicated to conferences and training, as well as weddings and private dining."

I cannot comment on the facilities but a tour of the house and gardens proved to be an excellent way to spend a sunny afternoon.

The house is very much of its time, and if you have been to conferences at country houses you will know exactly what I mean, but the garden is a delight providing a range of different settings of sights, sounds and smells.

Water is a common theme and I can recall at least four significant water features, including oriental style ponds and an Italian style fountain.

A lot of attention is paid to the planting too, as this little courtyard garden by the old stable block shows. It's the plants against the backdrop of the period brickwork that makes Warren House well worth a visit.

14 September 2008

Dorich House

Dorich House was open today as part of the Kingston Heritage Open Day so I went and had a look around.

The main attraction to me was the house itself but I was pleasantly surprised by the collection of sculptures by Dora Gordine who designed and lived in the house with her husband, Richard Hare (the name of the house comes from their two first names).

Most of the sculptures are busts and almost all the rest are full figures, often of eastern women in yoga like positions, but the one that really caught my eye was this one in the style of soviet proletarian culture.

13 September 2008

Slavery in the USA

Sometimes a simple fact brings a compelling insight to a complex matter. Thanks to Wirearchy · The War On Drugs (Oops, Blacks) In The USA I now know that:
There are more black men in US prisons today than there were slaves in 1840, and they are being used for the same purpose; working for private corporations at 16 to 20 cents an hour.

There is something terribly wrong about the USA and facts like this help to show this.

11 September 2008

Leaving Stephenson House

Stephenson House is situated on the corner of Hampstead Road and Drummon Street, just north of the Euston Tower, has been Logica's head office for many years, and for the last two years it has been my office too.

Now Logica is leaving Stephenson House preferring to locate staff outside of London (e.g. at St Albans, Reading and Leatherhead) and to maintain a minimal London presence for customer events etc.

When I first joined Logica, almost twenty years ago, when we had a number of offices in places like Newman Street (the original head office), Great Portland Street and Great Marlborough Street. But times change.

I work at home almost all the time now anyway so I do not expect the closure to have a big impact on me, apart from needing new business cards!

Yesterday was almost certainty my last visit there as I combined the administration task of submitting my expenses with collecting the few items I had in a cupboard in the office. I left with a bright yellow Logica bag containing a chunky mouse, a laptop power adaptor, yet another Nokia phone charger and a very purple thermal mug. At least the mug will be useful.

10 September 2008

My new t-shirt :-)

If you read comics then you have to go to specialist comics shops as a) it is the only place you can buy most of them and b) they are such cool places!

Three of these important to me at various times over the last thirty years or so, in chronological order they ate Dark They Were and Golden Eyed, Forbidden Planet and They Walk Among Us.

Forbidden Planet is now celebrating its 30th birthday and has produced a commemorative t-shirt of one of its original designs (used on bags etc.).

Mine arrived this morning.

9 September 2008

How Spider Woman became a Skrull

The "Secret Invasion" of Earth by the Skrulls continues apace across the Marvel Universe line of comics. The plot is complex (though it would probably help if I read the comics in the order that I was meant to!) and throws up lots of surprises. This really is a tale that is changing the Marvel Universe forever.

What the story also does well is retell earlier familiar episodes from another perspective so that we can see how long the Secret Invasion has been in the planning and execution. This helps to bed Secret Invasion into the Marvel Universe rather than just making it seem just like the next big fight after House of M and Civil War.

Shown here is the wonderful double-page spread by Jim Cheung from The New Avengers #42 in which we learn how and when Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) was replaced by a Skrull.

An epic story with great artwork, what more could anybody want?

7 September 2008

Getting Wii Fit

We have had our Wii for about a year now, i.e. once it became available without having to pay a huge premium, and it has proved to be a big success.

Obviously the boys use it to play games that mostly seems to consist of killing or destroying things, which they enjoy immensely as do their friends when they come.

The Wii also gets used fairly regularly to watch BBC programs on the iPlayer, using its in-built browser and wi-fi connection, and for looking as photographs using its SD card reader.

But the biggest hit is Wii Fit which we all use. The training programme includes yoga, muscle workouts, aerobic exercises and balance games.

I particularly like the ski jump, ski slalom, step routines and jogging!

Bizarrely, I have foud out that I am good at yoga because I can hold poses well, like "tree" shown here (it monitors where your centre of gravity is and so knows if you are wobbling or not).

And, best of all, it has calculated my fitness age as only 36!!

4 September 2008

USA foreign policy confuses me

The news that the USA gives $1bn to rebuild Georgia only serves to highlight their foreign policy inconsistencies, particularly when compared to, say, Palestine.

Russia is accused of land grabbing and is told to respect previous boundaries but Israel is allowed to hold on to lands captured in the 67 war and to continually grab more land by building townships in Palestinian areas.

Both Russia and Israel are accused (rightly) by most people for responding with disproportionate force to attack on their territory or people.

Palestine and Georgia have governments which are treated with some suspicion.

But there the comparison ends, the USA gives Georgia $1bn and cuts aid to Palestine. Go figure.

3 September 2008

Dorian Gray at Sadler's Wells

Dorian Gray is the latest production from the fertile mind of Matthew Bourne, who first came to prominence with his all male version of Swan Lake.

The story is loosely based on the Oscar Wilde classic but the story is not that important, it serves as a thread to connect the episodic dances and the images.

You could probably resequence the scenes and it would still work.

The dancing is almost continually frenetic, erotic and intense. This keeps the excitement level and the emotional involvement high and makes for a most rewarding evening.

1 September 2008

Good reasons for being vegetarian

I am a vegetarian for several reasons, some of which Nemi lists here :-)