Sunday, 18 January 2015

Musical offerings

Live transmissions of plays, concerts and opera have come into vogue fairly recently.  The multiplex Cineworld cinema in Birmingham shows performances from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, yesterday The Merry Widow by Lehar.
I found this absorbing and entertaining, the piece suited a Saturday evening with the chance for a drink afterwards.
While it isn't the same as being in the main auditorium, you actually are part of an extended audience in the cinema.  Mostly retired to go by appearances, and regulars at these shows too, going by the myriad sandwich boxes which appeared in the interval (also a way to save money on the usually overpriced food at cinemas).
A few attempts at applause to join in with the New York Met audience, this is the one thing that doesn't quite work in the cinema, but you can sense the involvement all the same, not least at the couple of (very brief) points when the satellite transmission failed to a Mexican wave of sighs from the crowd!  
£15 isn't cheap for a cinema ticket, but next to $200 for the Met itself it is, as they say, a bargain.  £12.50 concessions.
Well worth it.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Film tip - Kontiki

Thor Heyerdahl and friends' balsa wood voyage across the Pacific to prove that early Polynesians were settlers from Peru and not Asia. Real human drama of individual charisma against institutions and individuals in confined and dangerous circumstances, struggling to cope and persuaded (just) by the charisma of their leader.  In the end, team work wins out as everyone pulls together to end the voyage successfully.
Fascinating, absorbing, action thriller and traditional drama in one.
Saw this at the MAC in Birmingham, their page here for details.

New Year

Rather lost any plot with this blog over the last half of last year, maybe with my father-in-law dying, sadly, after a long life and a traumatic few weeks ending that life, maybe with business of a newish job and lots of training work to do in a new term, which seems to result in doing less writing outside of work, but then maybe just inertia, getting stuck or disillusioned.
So here's a good standby, some photos: 


Fields near Cannon Hill Park.


Lights on the River Rhine.  


Local robin, singing through Winter.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Simmer down in diversity

Fascinating day in Handsworth Park, free festival of reggae music and a chance to enjoy one of Birmingham's generous landscape spaces.  Painted bandstand, sports field with some rather good cricket being played, but above all an absorbing and very rich mix of peoples, cultures and in a peaceful setting of an area of Birmingham that's had some bad press.
It's also been part of Birmingham's north-south divide: live south of the city centre, and you probably just don't go there.  Which bus do I have to get - after I've got to the centre? Where do I park? Yes, and will I be safe ...
I was, got there and back, and was richer for experiencing something beyond my usual comfort zones, with an international group which itself was a celebration of Birmingham's variety. The particular
heritage of the British Caribbean population, reggae music and Rastafarianism drew a range of visitors, followers, Summer day-outers, families, singles, couples and groups, young and old.  Laid-back but strong, intense but easy-going, fluid with a powerful beat.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Mostly Jazz Festival at Moseley Park July 2014

Lucky to be able to go to this, not everyone an afford these festivals.  Practically on the doorstep, or at least two short bus trips from home, and such an enjoyable time with the sun coming out for a while and lights beside the lake and the trees all around.
Lots of superb bands who together would cost rather more than the £40 day ticket although I know that's a lot for some people.
Ginger Baker and Jazz Confusion a real highlight, driving percussion and saxophone colour and bass to complete. 
"I need a p¥€s. I'll be back.". Exit left and back in a few minutes. 

Courtney Pine, a cut or several or above average players, the apparent effortlessness inr producing astounding solos around well-known tunes such as the classic Take Five.

Such an enjoyable event, wonderful music, beautiful location and relaxed atmosphere.






Monday, 14 July 2014

Berlin and Frankfurt (Oder)

Museums + , Berlin 2014

Deutsches Technikmuseum
A great excuse to look over some wonderful old steam trains and carriages, fitted out as in their glory days in a country as fond of steam as Britain.  Historical ships remembered in painstakingly worked models, some of course in bottles, and a full-sized rigging on the ship reaching up into the rafters of the four or five storey building.
On the roof, an example of the famous Rosinenbomber ("raisin bombers") which kept West Berlin supplied during the Stalinist blockade of 1948.  
Slightly away from the core locations of Berlin's museums, this was really rewarding to visit, a sideways step from ancient history or classic paintings, but technology is such a base of society and its development and I'm trying to pick up more on basic science and tech as I get a bit older ... 




Frankfurt an der Oder
An hour away from Berlin and right on the Polish border, a pleasantly sleepy, historic, university town in the holidays, people around but no-one in the 
local museum and gallery where the eager assistant proved very keen to explain some intriguing displays to us, a figure suspended in air or paintings matched by those standing opposite.
Only the two of us, plus the keen attendant and the ticket-seller on the entrance.
History of the town with changes of political rule.  
Just over the border-bridge, Slubice, sleepy twin and once part of the same town, cheap cigarettes, hairdressers, and a mix of German and Polish language on the street.  Collegium Polonicum mirroring the 16th (?) century Viadrina University on the German side, a bright new construction with the library too.
A relaxing alternative to the edgy dynamism of Berlin, and time out just to sit in a cafe undercover with the rain coming down again in a stormy Summer.
Seeing local life going by or taking it easy after the working week, a local feel more than a tourist destination, even if literary tourism is drawn here by the museum to Heinrich von Kleist (and his poet brother Ewald).
So much German history is in the east, and cultural centres went and go beyond arbitrary borders and blend with each other and offer a counter-weight to contemporary economic success and financial market centres.
Plenty of sparrows again too, they seem to be populous here whereas decimated in Britain.
Strolling over the border to Poland without even a cursory glance from a border guard as there is none.  I was here once before, in 2003, and some members of the group I was with had to stay in Germany, as they were from outside Europe and didn't have visas.  There was certainly a border control too.
Life would be so much easier without borders, controls, guards, terrorists and the fear of terrorists, political controls and national egos and agendas.
Will they ever disappear, properly, globally ?  Unlikely.






Saturday, 12 July 2014

Impressions

Any cafe has its regulars, in Berlin the sparrows are the Stammgaeste everywhere, it seems, and I liked that.  They'll sweep up any crumbs and encourage you with a visit to your table as well (and your plate in some cases if you let them).
They're part of the city-scape which would be poorer without them.

Our choice of cafes: local cafe corner of Markgrafenstrasse and Rudi Dutschke Strasse, just south of the old Checkpoint Charlie border control and where the Wall once blighted Europe.  Used by locals - builders having a second breakfast, office workers collecting coffees 'to go', regulars dropping by - and tourists like us looking for a start to the day more authentic and cheaper than the tourist cafes around the Gendarmenmarkt a short walk away.
Around the Hackescher Markt, past the tourist trap bars right by the bridge, we found a corner cafe Italian-run with noodle salad and cappuccino, all for about 5 Euros each, and as importantly with a genuine feel to it, a place it's great to stumble on.

Prenzlauer Berg has a relaxed if gentrified feel, and Cafe Sowohl als Auch and Anna Blume, opposite each other near Kaethe Kollwitz Platz, both serve good food and drink in a lovely spot, sheltered but close to the street to watch people go by. A bit higher-priced but worth it.  Tip: don't ask at Anna Blume for the Apfel Strudel - they don't have it and disappear when asked!  Nice place otherwise though.

Hops and Barley is in alternative Friedrichshain and does a small range of tasty beers.  Next to M13 tram to Warschauer Strasse (this from the guide book).

Lehmke is also near Hackescher Markt and was pricier but the beer and ambience are traditional and reliable, the food a liitle less so.  Just missed the World Cup 7-1 win over Brazil ...