Archive for August, 2006

Oslo, Quick Thoughts

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

I’m back in one piece from Oslo, we didn’t do much tourist stuff, just a short cruise and a trip to the Munch Museum, I mostly spent the rest of time in in bars or sleeping, sometimes both.

I wasn’t particularly blown away by the buildings there but the landscape (and seascape) surrounding it is beautiful. It’s an expensive city, but it has it’s cheaper spots if you’ve got someone who knows where to go. Everyone speaks English so my lack of language skills was no problem. I don’t have much else to say about it, the weekend is rapidly descending into the haze that is my memory, I haven’t looked at the pictures yet hopefully I’ll put up a few in a while. I’d love to go back for a bit longer, do some more tourist stuff, maybe tour around the countryside a bit more and also have more time to get over the journey there.

I’m stunned that there’s no direct flights from Edinburgh to Oslo, or anywhere even vaguely near there. We flew with Ryanair — the surly airline — and had to go from Glasgow Prestwick to Torp which is around an hour and a half outside Oslo, the transport links between all the places were excellent but all in all it took nine hours door to door for something that would take about three with a direct flight. Still it’s less than half the price, even factoring the train and bus tickets, than the next cheapest option and that involves flying via Heathrow which is all kinds of stupid since it’s in completely the wrong direction.

Busy Week

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

It’s Thursday, I’m knackered and I’m only half way through my stupidly busy week. In the last post I said:

… maybe I’m just being particularly fickle this year as I’ve not really liked all that much I’ve seen.

Or maybe not, this week has marked a notable turn around in shows.

First, Regina Spektor at the Liquid Room on Monday. She was great, as always, I’m notably naff at describing music gigs so I’m not going to really try. Worth seeing.

Tuesday was supposed to be my quiet night but a ticket for Russell Brand — a show I really wanted to see — fell into my lap. Russell’s not quite how I expected him to be in the flesh but he puts on a brilliant show, it’s probably the funniest hour I’ve seen at this years festival. I’d say it’s well worth catching but it looks like he’s cancelled the rest of the run due to laryngitis. He did sound a bit rough when I saw him.

The streak of good shows continued in style with the Dresden Dolls at the Spiegel Tent who were fantastic, even better than the last time I saw them I think. Go see them if you get the chance, blame me if it you hate it (but that’s unlikely).

So tonight Muse get to try and round off the week with a bang, and them I’m off to Oslo to visit elvis_chimney for the weekend. Hopefully I’ll manage to make it back in one piece — and not too poor — for the start of next week.

Bill Bailey

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Saw Bill Bailey on Friday night, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed. It was funny in places, but at other points seem very rambling and unfocused, which is odd because that’s what he normally does and it’s usually hilarious. The reviews on are somewhat mixed, so perhaps the show works on some nights, on Friday he started late and finished early so maybe something else was going on that knocked him off his stride. It’s a shame, he was much better when I saw him a few years back.

Or maybe I’m just being particularly fickle this year as I’ve not really liked all that much I’ve seen. Maybe next year I’ll stay away from the big tickets and go and see people a few more smaller acts.

Them …

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

I resolved this year to see at least one thing in the Film Festival, so I went to see a (very) late showing of Them last night. I get the feeling they were hoping this might be the next Blair Witch, I’m not convinced — but then I didn’t like Blair Witch either.

I have to admit that midnight, after several beers, is probably not the best time for me to be seeing a movie and I was on the verge of dozing off several times — this may be part of the reason I didn’t really get into the film. The beginning is good but hasn’t got a lot to do with the rest of the movie, I’d have rather they’d have spent that time introducing the main characters. As it is you see next-to-nothing of the two leads before everything rapidly goes to hell in a handcart, this just leads to me not really caring what happens to them and I think that’s where the film lost me. From there it didn’t really do anything or go anywhere that I haven’t seen before. It does get bonus points for realism, everyone’s actions are sensible, the settings are plausible (although I’m not so convinced about the forest of plastic sheeting in one part) and whatever is messing with them never feels supernatural. This is all probably because the film is (loosely) based on real life events, you’re reminded of this at the very end of the film which I suspect is aiming to be ‘chilling’. I thing the end is designed to give you an uneasy feeling when you leave the cinema, my thought was simply “that’s a cute ending”, I was more unnerved by having to walk home in the rain.

It’s a good solid film, it’s probably worth seeing at a reasonable time while not half pissed. I wasn’t blown away by it but I might have been on a different day. To be fair most of the audience I was with seemed to really enjoy it, they even burst into applause at the end, so maybe it’s just me being fickle perhaps it’ll be a big autumn hit if it gets a wide release.

Too Much Whisky?

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

Can you have too much whisky? Probably yes, and we certainly had a good attempt at the Whisky Fringe on Saturday.

The idea is that various whisky producers/bottlers/resellers set up stall in the Mansfield Traquair Centre — well worth a visit just to see the building — and give away samples in an attempt to convince people it’s worth shelling out for a bottle. When you arrive you get a welcome pack with a glass, a list of the exhibitors, a pen and an order form in case you want to make a purchase. I’d imagine that a good chunk of people there have no intention of buying anything, and the majority are only going to buy something if it really takes their fancy but I guess the organisers think it’s worth it since they keep doing it every year.

Having said that this year seemed quieter, both in the number of stalls there and in the amount of punters. There’s always big multi-brand distillers showing off whatever brand they’re pushing at the time but normally there are a few stalls for smaller distilleries. The smaller stalls seemed in very short supply this year which is a shame as they’re always more interesting and it meant there was very little on offer that I hadn’t tasted before. In the end there was plenty of good whisky there, but nothing that grabbed me enough to make me want to buy it. I’ve a couple of good bottles in the cupboard already and they’ll do me for the moment.

I think I won some sort of dubious moral victory by managing to remain out drinking longer than anyone else after it all wound up, although my memory of the time gets progressively more foggy as the night wears on. Hmmm, that’s probably why they slip a drinkaware leaflet into the welcome pack at the start of the day.

Fringe Opening Weekend

Saturday, August 12th, 2006

I had a much longer post about these shows, but it was a mixture of rambling and wanky pseudo-review. After a week of tinkering I ditched it and you get this instead.

What I Heard About Iraq. Excellent, a great idea well executed. Worth seeing regardless of your views on the war.

Chanbara. Don’t let the flyers fool you into thinking they use real swords, or even that the swords are the main part of the show. See it for the drumming or don’t bother (and arrive early, or you’ll risk getting terrible seats.)

Brendon Burns: Sober Not Clean. A good show, due to a mixture of a great audience, decent material and the fact he’s a naturally talented and funny guy. Not for everyone though, see it if you don’t have your outrage meter dialed all the way up.

Jim Henson’s Puppet Improv – Adults Only. This review explains the setup, it’s improvised so you can never predict what you’ll get but they’re undoubtedly a great bunch of performers. It’s a good show but to be honest £17.50 is too much to pay for just an hour, I’m sure they’ll sell out anyway. See it, particularly if you want to hear a Muppet swear, but be prepared to be annoyed when they go on tour with a two hour version for the same price.

Off for whisky. More later.


Thursday, August 10th, 2006

More festival stuff is coming but I couldn’t resist sharing this example of how odd your brain/body connection can be (from The Brown Stuff):

1. While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor
and make clockwise circles.

2. Now, while doing this, draw the number “6” in the air with your right hand.

Your foot will change direction.

Aha, I thought, that’s just a con to make people look stupid. But then I tried it and it works. So I tried it several times, and it still works. Try it yourself, see if you can outfox your foot …

Found via NHS Blog Doctor

Fringe Previews

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Normally the cheap preview shows run up to the official opening of the Fringe on Sunday but most shows seem to have slipped in a full price show on the Saturday this year, before the normal 2-for-1 opening deals. Sly. I did manage to get to a handful of previews on Friday, details, thoughts and recommendations either way are after the jump.

Fringe First Steps

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

Took my first steps into this years madness on Wednesday night. I’ll get to the show in a second but I forget ever year just how mental town gets, it’s barely started and there’s already people everywhere. It makes me glad that I can stay pretty much out of it down in Leith and I only need to go into town when I want to. Anyroads, brief thoughts on Phil Kay and some other rambling after the jump.

When the postman questions your sanity …

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

“Are you going to Mongolia?” asks the postman, handing me a card to sign.

Under other circumstances that might be an odd question but he’s holding a silver special delivery envelope, it’s roughly passport shaped and I expect it has “Embassy of Mongolia” as a return address. My answer, the rest of the conversation and some explanation is after the jump.