The camera always lies

A while ago my colleague John got a Lotus Exige as a courtesy car, which was a bit better than the Corsa which he was also offered. Shortly before he took me for a ride in it, I took a photo. It wasn’t a bad photo, but John didn’t like a few things about it. Here’s what he did to it in Paintshop Pro. You will never believe a picture after you’ve looked at the before and after.

What happened to the last three weeks?

The last three weeks have passed far too quickly. I can hardly believe we’re nearing the end of October already!

What can have kept me so busy that I’ve barely been able to blog recently? Here’s a round-up of the cultural highlights…

Live Music
The Hidden Cameras (Union Chapel, London) 4th October
It was great to see Joel Gibb performing some of my current favourites, including ‘Death of a Tune’ and the catchy ‘She’s Gone’. It was also good to hear some songs I hadn’t heard before. The down side with a live performance is that it can shed new light on familiar songs. I realised that yet another song from ‘AWOO’ is capable of a sexual interpretation (which sort of ruined it for me, for once). Also, as Jane pointed out, The Hidden Cameras are all about Joel Gibb. Apart from him, only the cheeky drummer really stood out. I also enjoyed Glasgow-based My First Novel, the second supporting act at this gig.

Ed Harcourt (The Glee Club, Birmingham) 17th October
What a great performer! He kept providing his own percussion, bass, etc. by recording it on a loop (onstage), then playing and singing over it. He made a joke of this, as well as telling a few other jokes and generally being a joker. He played a lot of encores for us, taking requests – especially if people said ‘please’, even coming up with a medley at the end, to get as many songs in as possible!

Lachrimae Consort (St Martin-in-the-Bull Ring, Birmingham) 6th October
Elizabethan chamber music, introducing me to a few instruments I hadn’t heard of before.

Munchbreak (The Rainbow, Birmingham) 6th October
Old favourites with a strong new vocalist.

Taize Service (St Martin-in-the-Bull Ring, Birmingham) 14th October
Candle-lit worship. All the pews has been removed, and everyone sat on the floor. The Church was pretty packed for a Saturday night at 9.30pm!

Theatre
‘Treasured’ by The Other Way Works (MAC, Birmingham) 19th and 22nd October
Audience members were dressed by two performers in an individual experience in the Foyle gallery. Each audience member gets to see one of three amazing pieces of contemporary jewellery commissioned by The Other Way Works. That’s why I did it twice – I wanted to see more!

The outer part of the Foyle gallery was transformed into a 1920s parlour – or a magical antiques shop/tea room. Anyway, it was a great place to sit and unwind before (and after) the dressing experience in the inner room. Incidentally, I also enjoyed reading Anthony Trollope by Hugh Walpole (London: Macmillan, 1928), a copy of which could be found in the antechamber.

‘The Space Between Us’ by Breathe (MAC/Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham) 7th October
An audio tour/performance in which the audience member walks around the park, encountering the performers along the way. For me, this was a magical experience. It transformed the familiar environment of the park, and it seemed to fit with my mood (not to mention the weather – appropriately glorious for the occasion).

I particularly valued the chance to observe my own happiness. It was like falling in love without any of the nerves or other emotional distractions. One could simply enjoy the experience, and I did – especially the wonderfully whimsical music and the chance to ride a tandem bicycle!

‘A Moon for the Misbegotten’ (Old Vic, London) 18th October
Kevin Spacey plays a good drunken bastard. All is not as it seems, however. There is an enormous gap between what each of the characters says and what they really mean!

Talks and Readings
Alissa Walser (Orange Studio/Birmingham Book Festival)
I had never heard of this German short-story writer before this event, but she was excellent. We heard three stories from her collections Dies ist nicht meine ganze Geschichte (Rowohlt, 1996) and Die kleinere Haelfte der Welt (Rowohlt, 2000). She writes very honestly, with an attention to words, details, and bodily sensations. She also writes well about sex.

Richard Dawkins, ‘The God Delusion’ (Library Theatre/Birmingham Book Festival)
Already reviewed (below). I am now reading The Blind Watchmaker (2nd edn. New York: Norton, 1996) – at last – and getting a lot more out of it.

Bill Dodd, ‘The Power of Language’ (Inaugural Lecture, University of Birmingham)
Bringing together humour, politics, linguistics, and Kafka in an entertaining, informative and thought-provoking way. I won’t attempt to summarise it here, but do ask me about it some time!

Art Exhibitions
‘Jangzadeh: Victim of War’ (Barber Institute, Birmingham)
A series of paintings by an Iranian artist, inspired by the German engravings held in the Barber’s permanent collection. Text and sketches are layered over disturbing paintings that represent the artist’s experiences as a soldier in the Iran/Iraq War.

Marijke van Warmerdam ‘First Drop’ (Ikon Gallery, Birmingham)
Liquids suspended in motion, captured in stills and on video.

Patrick Killoran ‘Observation Deck’ (Ikon Gallery, Birmingham)
Lie on your back as you are pushed out an open window. Wave to passers-by in Oozell’s Square below, or admire the architectural details of the building itself. Look at the sky. Had enough? Time to come back inside and watch the next person via the webcam in the resource room.

Cinema
Marie Antoinette (Dir. Sofia Coppola, USA, 2006)
Great blend of authentic setting and props with modern styling, characters, and music!