Friday, August 21, 2009

Flying The Flag

A couple of months ago, a lamp-post appeared outside our house. But one with nothing on the top.

I asked the guy working on it - he came from Thames Water, and was putting in a smart water-meter to monitor the new water main on our street. the meter is in the plastic bollard next to the pole.

The meter is supposed to signal back to Thames Water HQ any leaks or problems - but we have poor mobile phone signal in my street.

So they put up a tall antenna, using a normal lamp-post stem.

It looked sort of unfinished, so I put a flower-pot on the top sith a hook in it, and now we're flying a flag (it's the Cornish flag).

We'd like to fly different flags - any suggestions or offers?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Raise The Roof Singers, Horniman Museum

Raise The Roof practices at the Horniman Museum in South London. This is from their public concert, which we stumbled on, on Sunday (5 April 2009).

From the balcony, I couldn't see the choir well, but I had a good view of the energetic leader and conductor, Melanie Harrold, and couldn't resist taking a video.  

The video isn't here or on Youtube any more. Melanie got in touch to say that a film of her conducting an invisible choir didn't really get the event across properly. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Comics: Ex Machina, Fables and Promethea....

I've been reading some comics lately. I have missed so many, and Lambeth Libraries has such a good selection - at Brixton, Streatham and West Norwood at the very least.

So, what's good?

Ex Machina, written by Brian K Vaughn, and drawn by Tony Harris, is very nice.

Like Paul Chadwick did with Concrete, Vaughn leaves the details of where Mitchell Hundred's powers come from a mystery. The main story is the politics, but the super-stuff is central to what happens.

"How would it be if you had that power?" it asks. The answer is, if this particular man could talk to machines, he'd be a rather average superhero, and then a much more interesting mayor of New York - one who says "Up and away" to lifts, and "Jam" to guns.

There is more than a nod to Paul Chadwick - Vaughn names Hundred's friend Bradbury after a science fiction writer, just as Chadwick's Concrete has a friend called Vonnegut. The drawings lose by comparison with Chadwick's style - Harris is determined to be real, making Hundred's outfit lame, and basing everyone on photos (the models get credits in volume 1). I'm three volumes into this, and want more.

Fables is a winning concept: Fairy tale beings live in exile in the Mundane world - mostly, as tends to be the way, in New York.

The good here is the way Bill Willingham plays with the characters. Prince Charming is (as we should have realised) a serial charmer, divorced from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, but still working his charm. Beauty and the Beast live happily ever after - except he is only human when she loves him, and tends to revert when she's cross. That's not convenient after hundreds of years, when you are living in hiding...

There are at least 11 volumes of this saga apparently (and I only just heard of it!). The two I've read are pretty good.

Finally, Promethea is Alan Moore's take on myth. The other two series are comics for entertainment's sake. This one has ambitions and Moore's mighty writing mojo pulls it off.

Promethea is a story - she's from the realm of story, the Immateria. In our world, she is embodied by writers and artists. Literally embodied. Student Sophie Bangs "becomes" Promethea by writing a poem.

When people say comics are mythic, they are saying what they wish was true. In fact they are normally debased, broken myths. This one is the real thing. Moore plays the metaphors brilliantly, nodding to all the misguided pretension about images and ideas in comics, but doing the only thing that should be done: telling a story.

On one level, Promethea is as fatuously simple as Billy Batson shouting Shazam to invoke Captain Marvel, or Diana Prince turning into Wonder Woman. But in Moore's hands it's way better, with multiple threads of woven with the complexity of his Watchmen, and a contrast between reality and the unreal that owes something to Joss Whedon's Buffy. Characters dance in and out, from fairy tales and comics - to take one example, "celebrity omnipath" the Painted Doll is a better, scarier Joker.

And, magically, by taking this story so very seriously, Moore turns it into something far, far more. In volume two a goddess has sex with a magician. For a whole chapter (a whole issue of the original comic series). Before our very eyes. For me, that is a high point in comics - and fairly unusual in any sort of literature. What follows reminds me of the psychedelic comics Marvel tried to do for the whole of the 1970s (Steve Gerber and Jim Starlin, from memory), only done right.

Watchmen is a great comic from more than 20 years ago. It may also be a worthwhile movie (but Alan Moore doesn't want his name on it). Now's a good moment to see what else Alan Moore has done since. We're amphibious creatures, living in the worlds of mind and body, he says. In Promethea (up to ten years old), we're swimming in the deep end.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I won't be at MWC

I'm starting full time on eWeek Europe, there's a soft launch happening, and it's half term. Have a lovely time, everyone who is in Barcelona for MWC09. I just cancelled my hostel booking.

A water rail in Brockwell Park

How rural was this? I needed to read Lark Rise to Candleford. Why? Well the series is delicious, and I love to drool over the hats and late Victorian ladies. But there is actually more to Candleford. The book is a living breathing social history. Every so often a spark of the real thing livens up the TV series, but the mother lode is essential reading - or so I've been told many times.

Lambeth Libraries has a copy, and it's in the Carnegie Library. Like so many of Lambeth's libraries, this is a beautiful Grade II building, built with late 19th century charity, generosity and style. It has a calm light atmosphere and a reading garden out the back.

On my way home through Brockwell Park, our local bird watcher is transfixed, peering with her binoculars at the lower frozen pond. "It's a water rail," she says. "You won't see one in London again." She shows me a picture on her camera and I wait.

Soon enough, a dainty little bird (like a moorhen but more sophisticated looking) emerges and shily potters about, pecking seeds from the ice.

Back home after that, to enjoy the rural rememberances in the book.