Absolute Best of Absolute Beginners – not quite true but quite good

Here’s my review of Absolute Best of Absolute Beginners.  A decent bunch of Scottish stanp-up acts battling against a venue that’s more like a hot lab than a theatre, but they shine through and earn an easy three stars from me.  First published on The Skinny’s website. Lots more Edinburgh Fringe reviews available there.

These guys are really up against it. In a Fringe dominated by international acts and TV celebrities, it can be difficult for local talent to shine through. Add to this a venue that’s all flourescent lights, that familiar sweaty warmth of Fringe stages and an indundation from the heavens just before the show went up. But from the midst of adversity, Absolute Beginners brings a decent show that has audiences laughing and cringing with just about the right intensity to send you back out into the rain with a smile on your face.

Don’t be fooled by the name either: some of these locals have experience under their belts, and you can tell. You won’t find a bad act here, but look out for Matt Winning for instant laughs and Eddie Cassidy for a hilarious take on that most Scottish of comic subjects: drugs. There’s a total of eight comedians in rotation of five per night. The quality is mixed, but on the whole it’s worth the effort. A good show to see if you want to catch a glimpse into the home-grown scene.

Edinburgh Festival Time – The Comely Banking Crisis Reviews

Summer reviewing in Edinburgh

Not noticing that it’s festival season in Edinburgh is like not noticing a punch to the face, but if you haven’t, well, consider yourself told.  The Comely Banking Crisis will be doing the odd review for The Skinny here and there, posted up here.  But before I go and inundate myself with plans, any suggestions for things to see for the rest of the fest would be much appreciated.  I’ll be posting my reviews here, but you can also find them plus many more on The Skinny’s website.

Here’s a review of Sarah Campbell’s show 27 Up.  Honestly, it’s a great show.  Four stars!

27 Up may be a free show but you can’t help but feel genuinely privileged to be in the room with Sarah Campbell as she takes the audience through one charming autobiographical anecdote after another.  What begins as deceptively simple banter with the audience ends upcareering through everything from family to 1980s politics to sexuality, and not without a significant amount of uproarious laughter on the audience’s part.

The concept, based on the Up television series, is a reflection on Campbell’s life at regular intervals, this show being the first in her 27 years.  Needless to say, a second instalment is planned for 2037.  This future perspective is central to the show: expect to be asked to communicate with the future audience (which may just include you, considering the show closes with each audience member receiving a free ticket for the sequel).  Campbell’s sharp, conversational style and story-telling bring an atmosphere of intimacy and camaraderie to the venue.  At 30 minutes, the show is a little short, but has abundant freshness and charm. You won’t get many more chances to see Sarah for free.  Don’t let this one pass.


It’s official. Archaeologists have discovered a second henge in the proximity of Stonehenge in the Wiltshire countryside.  Evidently made of timber, this second henge mirrors the classic in formation, consisting of a circular ditch which surrounds a circle of pits which archaeologist Vince Gaffney of the University of Birmingham believes supported the bases of timber posts.

Very exciting stuff.


A book a day…

Hi folks – I know, I know – it’s been an outrageously long time since my last post.  What can you do when you’re busy at work and then, oh then, such a gorgeous spell of divine, sunny weather?  What better than to take a couple of days off work and ponder how far we’ve come since the horror of winter?  Better than blogging!

But I was compelled to return to the blog by the inspiration of a friend of mine over at Somnopolis, a blog by a true globe-trotter on all things couch-related barring psychotherapy (although that’s open to debate).  He and his wife have just moved to Australia, and while he’s sitting around waiting for his bridging visa, unable to work legally, his wife has come up with an excellent plan to foil that natural loss of morals which, as everybody knows, accompanies male idleness.

She has challenged him to use his state-given spare time to read a book every day, a review of which will be posted on his new blog a book a day till I can stay.  He has assured us that this is but a side project and that Somnopolis is inviolate and enduring.

His first read was Mira Grant’s Feed, “a self-contained political thriller that just so happens to feature zombies”.  He seems to really like this one.  I wonder if he’s putting off the troublesome tomes!  Can you think of any particularly onerous titles that we could challenge him to read in a day?  I’m all for a petition!  You’ve got to admit it’s an admirable project, so keep an eye on it.

Staying with things blog related, another friend of mine, a bona fide sports journalist no less, has started up his own American sports blog for European audiences called 3rd and Goal.  If like me you think this is a cryptic title, it isn’t: it’s probably just a sign that you should read the blog!

In other news, I’m happy today because the Irish passport office has apparently ‘printed’ my passport, so the online tracking tells me, despite a long-running industrial dispute and a backlog of 64,000 applications.  So my own globe-trotting  looks set to continue.  And now a letter to my bank manager…

Preparations for a Stag Weekend

Food and Drink,Main Posts — Tags: , , , — comelybankingcrisis @ 3:40 pm

As you can likely gather from the title of this post, I’m going on a stag weekend, this weekend.  And this male bonding vomit-fest is to take place in none other than the capital of capitals of stags, Newcastle upon Tyne.  I’ve been on a stag weekend before and as a result I’ll be making certain preparations, some of which were hard-learned indeed.  So I thought that considering I have some wisdom to empart, I may as well do this on a public forum so that others can gain some inights and (hopefully) add to our collective treasure chest of recovery tinctures, hard liquor avoidance ideas, and didactic anecdotes.  You don’t have to do these things but this is what I’m doing.  In no particular order:

1.  Keep it a TOTAL SECRET that you are BLOGGING about said stag!  I don’t usually believe in unwritten rules.  If a rule is useful enough to be a rule it should be out in the open – ‘Written’ as Omar Sharif would say to Peter O’Toole.  But this may be an exception; it may be reasonable to suppose that blogging on a public forum about the goings on at a stag do is the ULTIMATE BETRAYAL of the stag and hence the contravention of an unwritten rule.  Keep your blog as secret as your hidden camera!

2. Don’t bother chatting to the ladies.  Stag parties are attractive to the wrong kind of girl.  For Ms Right, terrible turn-off!

3. Bring pajama bottoms with pockets.  This is a somewhat girlie pointer but I’ll be bringing a pair of pajama bottoms with me, with pockets which will have strong pain killers ready and waiting within.  This effeminate strategy is a small price to pay for the subsequent satisfaction of scoffing at those of the party who have difficulty holding down their greasy breakfast.  You get to seem macho in the long-run, or just have a clear head (the latter being my priority).

4. Following on from the last point, bring pain killers and leave a bottle of nice water by your bed.  Obvious stuff but it doesn’t hurt to repeat wisdom.

5. When you pack spare clothing, this is your second outfit.  Now choose your spare outfit.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of things that can disrupt the normal lifecycle of a wardrobe in this environment.

6. Don’t share a room with the most fun person.  This might seem like a great idea at first, but when you wake up in the morning the sound of their voice will make you want to vomit.

7. Double your budget.  If you can’t do this, don’t go!

8. Make an agreement with your partner that you won’t be texting or phoning each other.   Really, there’s no need.  They don’t want to know, you don’t want to tell them, and you’re just making yourself a target for mockery.

9. Don’t hang around needlessly on the last day.  Being there will make you want to vomit.  Being at home will be paradise.

10. Bring a brick wall, against which you may choose to beat your head.  This may make it easier.

Undercurrents at Expo 2010, Shanghai

There’s something paradoxical about the annual World Expo.  Nations strive to set up (normally) exciting and futuristic pavillions, the host nation focuses on the favourable future for themselves and everyone else concerned: technology, design, art, environment – meeting national identity.  This year’s Expo is in Shanghai and features such exciting treats as Germany’s Balancity and Maldives’ Tomorrow (which focuses on environment, making me cry a little – bless them!)  China is getting a Pavillion for pretty much every province and major city, which is reasonable I suppose since they’re hosting the thing.  Among these is the confidence inducing New Tibet, Better Life.  Estonia’s Save City looks interesting and suffocatingly topical – yes, that is ‘Save’ as in save money!  And I’m sure you’ve already seen the Iran and North Korea pavillions, humorously juxtaposed.

All forward looking, friendly stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree, but I’ve always had a feeling that the Expo has never really moved beyond the Victorian era.  It was founded then, of course, apparently Prince Albert’s idea.  The idea that you exhibit new technologies and sciencific and aesthetic advances, if it originates in that era, is not the issue.  The issue is that nations set up their own pavillions, displaying a watered down version of their national identity and often couching it in these technological and aesthetic advancements.

One gets the feeling that in this respect the Expo has never lost that ambition, that competitive sense that the world is caught up in an unstoppable process that will eventually lead to excessive imperialism that will cave in on itself and finally cause two world wars!  Well, the world isn’t quite like that any more.  At least industrial powers have figured out that it’s not advantageous to pound each other to mutual poverty and thereby waive superpower status and generally end up embarassed.

The world expo is very much 21st cenutry in China, but is still 19th century when it comes to coolness.  We’re used to receiving our aesthetic, technological pleasures from large multinationals these days, so the nation-state focus naturally bamboozles one a little.  Not so much Apple as Eritrea.  So, traditions and things from Spain pavillion?  No: futuristic things.  What?

Actually, to be more specific, a giant robotic baby from the dark pit of your worst nightmare.  Imagine this thing crawling along, upside-down with its head facing the wrong way, on your ceiling!

I’ve never seen a baby with an eviler look on its face!  Think I’m being harsh? Okay then, go ahead and instead imagine it in a cot, gurgling away, in  your house, crying in the middle of the night!  Fancy that?!

Don’t get me wrong, I’d absolutely love to go.  Some of these pavilions look truly amazing.  But listen: I’d also like to watch Isambard Kingdom Brunel building a bridge, or have dinner with Queen Victoria.  Maybe the darker side of my personality would even like to see Franz Ferdinand assasinated, just to be there, you know?  But I’d rather do this without all the nationalism, thanks very much.

The Electoral Matrix

Honestly, I must move on from politics soon and get on with matters more aesthetic and sublime – we’ve all got the Guardian, Times, BBC News, etc covering this election anyway.

But I want to make one vaguely aesthetic or cultural point about this election’s media coverage, and to make this point I shall marshall two pieces of evidence:

1) The BBC’s coverage of the election in general; and

2) Derek Jackson from Land is Power, the so-called Landless Peasant party, who has already become a facebook hit since holding a Black Land is Power Salute behind Gordon Brown during the PM’s entire Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath election victory speech.

As my friend Gareth observed during our election extravaganza last night, don’t you think there’s something seriously Matrix-esque about both features?

We spent all night watching Beeb presenters walking through virtual Commons, virtual Number 10s, floating over electronic UKs.  And then we have Derek, resolutely sporting his “peasant” look with a pair of indoor shades and a carefully sculpted goatee.  Is he supposed to be some sort of activist Agent Smith?  Look at him there!

Cameron’s Common People

Main Posts — Tags: , , , , — comelybankingcrisis @ 2:57 pm

This election, even if it is the cruel advent of a new Tory age (let’s see), has at least brought us a lot of entertaining media, spin and spin-off.  The potential Tory take-over has also caused many commentators to remember, and remind us, why they variously distrust, hate, or despise the Conservatives.  It’s been a useful month for jogging one’s happy memories.

Here’s something useful and entertaining that came out of it:

(I wonder how many blogs it has featured on already!)

Thanks Icy Penguin for bringing this to my attention.

The gloriously cheeky WePad, and how I know about it

Main Posts — Tags: , , , , , , , , — comelybankingcrisis @ 9:40 am

We’ve had a morning TV revolution at home.  Rather than inflict the tragically boring BBC Breakfast or the pure tabloidish hell of GMTV upon ourselves, we’ve elected to watch Euronews over our toast and coffee every day.  You might find this boring, too Euro-ish, meandering and yet somehow also repetitive (on a short loop) for you to be bothered with watching.  But look, if you do we’re just going to have to differ on that.  My life is better with Euronews in it, and I know it.  You get the news in loads of different countries with little bias other than Eurocentricity (and why not? It’s Euronews after all), and you get an interlude with art gallery listings across Europe, and a pretty funky weather section that tells you the temperature in Azerbaijan.  AND I know that Baku is the capital of that country – I might have found this out otherwise but I like to be reminded – every day, in the morning!

So today, my friend Icey Penguin and I were watching same, this time over our Friday boiled eggs (yes, every Friday), and we were delighted to see that a German company with a mere 200 staff called Neofonie have challenged the mighty Apple, not with another random laptop or PC that’s trying to be like a Mac by having some coloured cover or religious-cult-vibey marketing campaign, but with the WePad

The WePad has been making headlines for a few weeks now and yes, it is very like an iPad, looks like one, functions like one, is a similar size, and is clearly aiming at the same market.  The prices look broadly similar, too.  You can check out more detailed specs and comparison over on CrunchGear.

As you’ve probably noticed, the WePad beats the iPad with the inclusion of USB ports, so, like a lot of gizmos that rival Apple products from mp3 players to phones, it promises the freedom and utility of the Apple product without as many restrictions.  It also boasts a webcam and a bigger screen than an iPad.  Will it dazzle us with the level of aesthetically pleasing, possibly unnecessary fun-stuff we’ve become accustomed to from Apple products?  Well I don’t know anyone who has an iPad, let alone a WePad, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Art and Claymation pave the Road to Hell in Aberdeen

Sorry I missed you: Wallace and Gromit

Intentions, intentions, what is it they say about them?  The Comely Banking Crisis drifted north along the granite-paved road to Aberdeen for a weekend in the glimmering Silver City, taking a turn (just the one is required) about Union Street, and the same for Belmont Street.

I really won’t have a bad word said about the place.  (Well, one or two maybe, but that’s it.)  There’s plenty there to entertain, and to prove it, here are two notable things I didn’t do:

1. Frances Walker – Place Observed in Solitude,  Aberdeen Art Gallery

You’ve got to hand it to Aberdeen Art Gallery.  Even if you’re just running in for an urgent usage of their toilet or a last minute panick-bought birthday card, you can’t help but notice that this a beautiful space, well managed, with a magnificent collection.  I really like the way their contemporary collection is the main focus of the building and the first thing that greets you as you enter, despite a decent collection of older works.

The gallery is worth a visit just to look at Francis Bacon’s disturbing but brilliant portrait of some pope or other (a study after Velázquez’s Portrait of “Innocent” X – see what I did there?) or the sublime horror of Ken Currie’s Gallowgate Lard.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s well worth the day-trip to Aberdeen from Edinburgh or Glasgow just to see these two paintings.

The temporary exhibitions here also tend to be outstanding.  I was recently blown away by Ron Mueck’s giant or tiny but otherwise freakishly accurate human figures lounging around in their underwear or pajamas.  The current special exhibition is a celebration of Frances Walker’s 80th birthday and is apparently the first showing of works from all the periods of her career.  So going by this background, the Walker exhibition promised a lot.  I never made it.

2. Wallace and Gromit ‘Animated Adventures’, Satrosphere Science Centre

OK, it looks as though this one is aimed at the kids, mainly, but a couple of points should defy any reason-toting adults who may wish to claim this is anything less than great.  You get to see real hand-made sets from Curse of the Wear-Rabbit – no mean promise.  And Satrosphere also promises to provide an interactive experience which allows visitors to create and animate their own characters and a special exhibit on the process of stop motion animation.  It’s sponsored by Shell, but – hey – this is Aberdeen!  I never made it.

Excuses? I had to go to a wedding and a birthday dinner, so really, duty called and won the day over art.  But I’m not afraid to admit that I spent some time poncing about in the new-ish Peckham’s on Union Street with a notebook and a coffee and, much worse still, sauntering around a certain new shopping centre near the train station.  I wasn’t even waiting for my train while doing the latter, so shame is in the air.  Oh, mañana!

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