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Posts tagged ‘Review’

To be lost in a forest

Okay so it’s been a while since I promised I’d post about Bloc Party’s recent concert in Auckland, but I’m hoping it’s a case of better late than never. This was the second time in less than a year that I’d had the privilege of seeing these boys from London take to the stage (the first being at Zurich Open Air last August) and they absolutely delivered second-time around as good as if it was the first. The Powerstation provided a venue of perfect proportions (not too big, not too small, great acoustics) and the crowd was suitably excited. After all, it had been six years since Bloc Party had toured these distant shores.

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What has it got in its pocketses?

We were lucky to have won tickets to the first public screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. We were seated quite close to the front, but the free popcorn and coke were a nice bonus. Because really, who wants to pay for popcorn? Free popcorn really does taste better.

Meanwhile, some excellent spot prizes were given away*, after which we settled in. But for what were we settling in? Many people at this screening (at 12:01 am, 12 December) were very excited, and appeared determined to love the film. We were a little more ambivalent — were three films necessary for the very slim Hobbit? is the fuss over the frame rate warranted? what about its troubled start in life? could Peter Jackson and his team create the same magic again?

So, a few days on, having had some time to ruminate, here are some thoughts on An Unexpected Journey. As a warning, there will be elements below that may constitute spoilers. If you don’t like spoilers, perhaps it would be wise to stop reading here.

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Who watches the watchmen?

Cover of "Watchmen"

Cover of Watchmen

I recently read Alan Moore’s Watchmen for the first time. Initially, I was not impressed — the story didn’t immediately grab me; the artwork felt strangely muted; the fear of nuclear apocalypse antiquated. The quotes from various reviewers (“Watchmen is peerless”; “A brilliant piece of fiction”; “A work of ruthless psychological realism”) seemed overstated.

Time magazine included it in its list of “100 best English-language Novels since 1923”. I thought this curious. After all, Watchmen was initially released as 12 separate issues. Is it really any kind of novel at all? Deeper consideration had me thinking of Victorian novelists (Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and many others) whose work was published in serialised form* so my skepticism was overcome, at least on that front. What finally convinced me, however, is that the more analysis I have applied to Watchmen, the deeper I think about it, the more rewarding I found it. For me, only great books can have this effect.

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The Weeknd, live.

As I walked along the waterfront this evening, I came across this quite random chalking. “The Weeknd” looked great in yellow chalk, along the side of whatever wharf shed this was. It reminded me of Pitch, and though we’ve already mentioned how great Jessie Ware, SBTRKT and Gui Boratto were, we’ve neglected the Weeknd.

I first came across The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) when I heard a song on an NPR broadcast (Public Radio is a good thing!). The song, House of Balloons, included a sample from the Siouxsie and the Banshees song Happy House. The guitar was slowed right down, but I recognised it right away – a remnant from my mis-spent youth, appropriated from the mis-spent youth of the generation before me. I have, since then, become completely hooked.

I was lucky enough to download his three mixtapes before the release of the album Trilogy, which includes remastered versions of the tapes*. If you weren’t, it’s probably worth getting. Because it’s a m a z i n g.

Our friend and her sister are also huge fans, and at Pitch, we were all stupendously excited to see how the music we loved converted into a live experience.

We were not disappointed. It was not a flawless performance, and at times, the live sound struggled to capture the layered richness of his recordings, whilst the vocal performance was at times a little pitchy. But Tesfaye has awesome stage presence, and he had the enthusiastic Dutch crowd thrashing about in front of the stage in ecstatic rhythm.


Photos by CIA & PJD, Pitch Festival, Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam, July 2012.

* Mixtapes seems like an awful misnomer in the age of digital music.


I heard someone describe the Olympics as a “regular but misdirected orgy of nationalism and navel gazing”*. This seems, in equal measure, absolutely true and untrue. I agree that some of the flag waving, some of the bias, some of the support is unsavoury. On the other hand, I loved to hear how a friend of mine was made to feel physically ill at the defeat of his beloved Icelandic Handball team – whom he hoped could get gold this time – to Hungary. Not that I wanted Iceland to lose, mind, or that I enjoyed his pain, but rather that he was so invested! It was exciting!

Another aspect I love is that once every four years obscure sports (Women’s 10 metre air rifle, for example) get a chance for some major attention.

For these Olympics, it is the Velodrome that has really caught my attention. Cycling as a sport really eludes me. I’ve watched the Keirin, Sprints, Pursuits, Time trials; and the Omnium, which seems to gather these things together. It doesn’t make any sense at all as a spectator sport, and yet, enthralled I was. First, just have a look at the Velodrome itself:

It’s like some kind of alien spacecraft. It’s beautiful. They keep the inside something like 28°C, which is just the optimum Velodrome temperature I guess**.  Now, the only problem I have experienced with my Velodrome-based viewing was that Australia wasn’t winning very much. I’m not super-patriotic, really, but somehow when I am in Europe I feel more inclined to support my compatriots than I ever would at home.

So imagine how happy I was to find this gem:

It combines everything there is to like about the Olympics into three-and-a-bit minutes of awesome. The Chemical Brothers are always interesting, and frequently excellent. I didn’t know this was the Velodrome’s theme song, and I love that the Velodrome has*** a theme song. It completely makes me forget Australia’s lack of cycling success (don’t even mention the swimming).

The video was played before every Velodrome session, and was created by Crystal CG. In their own words:

“We’ve created sweeping contours and sleek surfaces as the backdrop for an intense, futuristic cycling ‘duel’ as two animated riders power round the track,” said Darren Groucutt, creative director at Crystal. “It truly brings the Velodrome to life.”

I completely agree. The pseudo-futuristic animation matches the slightly-weird Olympic font. It builds with the music, and generates a sense of excitement. The only downside is that I completely wish I had been in the Velodrome itself.

What I like best of all, however, is the combination of design, creativity, music, craft and other intellectual activity and its prominence on the set otherwise dominated by sporting excellence. This kind of multi-dimensional media experience can so often go horribly wrong, but this judicious application of cultural capital amongst the quadriceps and flying wheels really helps to make the London Games stand out for me from what might otherwise be a bland international event.


Picture borrowed from London 2012 website; sorry London 2012 website, I hope you don’t mind!

*This was on Q&A, which I watch most weeks through iTunes. The ABC might just be the best public broadcaster ever; if there was a gold medal of public broadcasting, I think it would get it.

**I have no source for this factoid, but I probably heard it from the BBC commentary.

***Fun PJD fact: my English teacher from high school would be ill if he knew I used italics to stress my point, but as this is a blog and not a piece of formal writing, I break the rules.

Photos taken with canon powershot s95

For my birthday last year I bought myself a new camera. I didn’t use my money. It was a present. A vicarious present. Now, you can never have too many cameras, and they can never be too good, probably. But let’s all admit that a massive, bulky, over-sized SLR is not a great travelling companion. So, today’s post is in tribute to my Canon Powershot s95*.

There is another element to this post though, which is unusual search terms resulting in visits to the blog. “M83” features the most, probably. I’ll fess up now that my statistical analysis consisted only of a quick scan, no regression analysis here. No proof of statistical significance. No care either. My favourite is “tyre sculpture den haag”. I hope they found what they were looking for.

The other day though someone went looking for “photos taken on canon powershot s95”. That’s pretty specific. I hope they liked what they found.

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SBTRKT – live @ pitch

I was amped to see SBTRKT Live and they totally delivered. The London combo of SBTRKT and Sampha creates this live act, and the crowd went wild in the amazing Gashouder venue in Westergasfabriek (more on the venue itself and its general all round awesomeness in a post later, because it deserves it).

Continuing to create some level of mystery wearing tribal masks (SBTRKT is said to reject having to have a clear identity in music, instead rather prefering to let the music speak for itself  – nice approach, don’t you think?)….

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