Tuesday, 31 May 2011

St Patrick's Catholic church in Soho to reopen after £3.5m restoration

'It's not a conventional parish,' admits pastor of London church ministering to sex workers, gay men and generations of migrants (Guardian, 30/5)

Friday, 27 May 2011

science's debt to christianity and the middle ages

Science owes much to both Christianity and the Middle Ages: This week's guest blogger is James Hannam, he has a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge and is the author of The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (published in the UK as God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science).
- interesting article on blog section of Nature magazine website, 18 May, correcting misconceptions (though many of the commenters are resisting)

art spaces in the elephant

It turns out that I wasn't in Studio at the Elephant last week, because I was in the shopping centre again this morning and it's upstairs with its final event today. Downstairs last week's installation has gone, but another one is there, yesterday and today, 'The Public House'. Janet and John mosaics are also back - I say back, I'm pretty sure they were away. The Studio upstairs were designing Utopia with children; the installation downstairs was laid out like a living room with some art in it which you could pop into and have tea and biscuits. I popped in and spoke to the two people who were there; I didn't have tea, as I'd just had, and I didn't have time to stop to play Scrabble but I did put down the next move. It seemed churlish to ask what was the point of the installation. It was put on by Hiru Dance, a group of friends who studied dance together, one of them told me but have obviously branched out. There were to be dance, music and film events through the day and evening (paid in evening) but nothing on while I was there.

I don't know if the fact that the plans for the shopping centre have settled down for the longer term means that there will be fewer of these pop-up art installations and studios in units in the centre, as rents go up and longer-term leases become available, but it's quite interesting at the moment. Hopefully this doesn't mean we are the new Hoxton.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

bin laden and the it crowd

Bin Laden and The IT Crowd: Anatomy of a Twitter hoax.
Rumours circulating on Twitter that Osama Bin Laden was a fan of The IT Crowd sitcom were an elaborate new media hoax. Here comedian Graham Linehan explains how he organised the ruse.
- BBC, 24 May

'I'm from bakersh road'

Norrie Tomsh has taken over from Mr Whiteford in writing a golf column which I read - Mr Whiteford (deputy rector when I was at the Nicolson) wrote for the Gazette, Norrie was apparently writing one for the Gazette (which I stopped getting a few years ago, I could no longer bear the lack of grammar, proofreading, news or analysis) but joined the Free Press.

From his column of Friday 29 April:
'No badger shelf' he proclaimed as he opened the door of my taxi. I thought, given that he had what appeared to be an earphone dangling from beneath his hat, that he was talking to somebody on a mobile phone. As it dawned on me that he was waiting for my reply, I asked him how 'it' was going? I was oblivious to his predicament as to where to keep his spare badgers.
... The local vernacular has changed completely and it is now no longer considered necessary to ask any form of poser before telling people that you are 'No bad' and then asking the completely rhetorical question 'Yourself?'
This was news to me, but Ivor was sympathetic to my plight. I had wondered if his hat might have had anything to do with what I thought was his original reference to striped burrowing animals, but he assured me that there were now t-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with this now everyday greeting, thereby negating the need for any conversation at all.
'No badgers, elf' is now the reply to the original statement/question and from thence the 'banter' either flows or simply ends. What followed next was an example of why it may be best to keep one's mouth firmly closed.
'Say flowers,', Ivor asked.
'Flowersh,' I replied.
'Now say it without the "h" at the end,' the cheeky blighter shot back.
'Ha-ha,' I almost blushed, not at all minding being a bit of a maw.
'Say horse,' he continued.
'Horsh, I said, increasingly aware of where this was going and that I had no defence against my (and many others') derivation of the Queen's own best BBC English.
He continued in this vein for a while, admitting that he too pronounced every single word offered as bait in exactly the same way.
He then told me the story of the poor young lady that he had teased similarly the weekend previously. Every time he prompted her, she fell into his trap. 'But I'm *not* a maw,' she protested, 'I'm from Bakersh road.'
In a world so small that we can tell a townie from a Niseach and a Hearach from an Uibhisteach simply by listening to the lilt of their accent, be thankful you are a maw or a teuchter, a Highlander and a Gael.

bridge over troubled water take two

June 2010 issue of Word speaks of 'the awkward, perfectionist' Paul Simon, 'who had demanded 72 takes of Bridge Over Troubled Water, only to end up using the second'.

that one special person

I saw a card in a shop in Gabriel's Wharf a few weeks ago that made me laugh so I bought it. Blank inside, could be a wedding or anniversary card, old tinted photo of a couple, caption, 'It's great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life'

strata links

Strata has an intranet (you can only see the front page) and an official Flickr site; they also have an unused Twitter feed. There's an official Strata website, of course.

Not sure if this will always be here, but here is an estate agent's spec, with layout and spectacular photos, of a penthouse flat they are/were selling (our house is behind the blue crane tower in the first photo).

more e&c links

St Modwen reveals more details of Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre plans: Early concepts for the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre were shown in public for the first time at Southwark Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
- London SE1, 18 May

Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre to endure
- long forum thread on London SE1

Elephant & Castle: council accused of 'abandoning town centre vision': Last week's decision by Southwark's cabinet to cooperate with St Modwen on the refurbishment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre will be considered by a cross-party scrutiny committee after the decision was 'called in' by opposition councillors.
- London SE1, 26 May

Plus a link to the Elephant Amenity Network, a new development, not clear on who they are, but they're not keen on the regeneration. And here's the Lend Lease site, they've got elephantandcastle.org.uk.

Also The Car and the Elephant - an illustrated online history of the Elephant & Castle.

hamlet the clown prince - hackney empire

On Friday 25 March I went to Hackney Empire to see Hamlet The Clown Prince. Done by The Company Theatre of Mumbai, it was a version of Hamlet as done by clowns. It was at the Empire for four days, and was pretty poorly attended the night I was there (indeed I was in the middle of the front row). As a production, it was more about the characters of the 'clowns' than the characters in the play, more about the putting on of the play than the play itself. Even in those terms, it was still just okay; as a version of Hamlet, it didn't have much to say (and seemed to rely on the assumption that everyone in the audience would already know the plot, as it didn't really make much effort to put the plot across or have it make sense). At this distance, the bit I remember was where Ophelia and Hamlet delivered monologues/soliloquys at the same time, I guess after the corridor scene, which paralleled the internal turmoil each was feeling. Apart from that, the thing I mainly remember is them getting cheap laughs by the repetition of bits of nonsense speech and business. Hamlet was played by perhaps the oldest man in the company (looking at the programme, I see he runs The Company Theatre), and his clown character was rather unsympathetic. There was an allusion to the fact that an actress playing Ophelia had left the company and was studying in London; two Ophelia actresses were listed in the programme, so perhaps for the London performances of this tour it was the student who was back to do Ophelia.

It didn't leave much trace online, especially in the form of reviews. The Hackney Empire page. The Company Theatre site - which still has this production as its current event, with links to a blog, a a Youtube trailer and a Facebook page. The blog includes and links to a few reviews, mostly from Newcastle: The Guardian (the commenters liked it more than the reviewer, who liked it more than me; What's On Stage; The Journal; British Theatre Guide. Elsewhere: British Theatre Guide review from the Hackney Empire; a What's On Stage interview with the director; Exeunt (new to me, seems a bit pretentious); Reviewsgate; Bardathon; Margate Sands (which gives a detailed account of the production, think I may have seen one of their reviews before - and looking at recent entries I see I missed a Hamlet at the White Bear, which is annoying, our nearest theatre and they don't do a mailing list).

Most of the reviews seem to have liked it more than I did; I'm surprised that so many of them thought it brought fresh insights and wasn't just gratuitously wacky. In general my view is that people who set out to make 'a funny version of Hamlet' and who do so by adding all the humour to it from outside rather than drawing out the humour within it are failing. It's based on a false premise that Hamlet isn't a funny play. Many 'straight' productions have demonstrated this to be false, not least Mark Rylance with RSC at the Barbican - unlikely to be displaced as my favourite ever.

An illuminating exchange from the director interview:
'Hamlet the Clown Prince is only 100 minutes long. How did you decide what of Shakespeare’s text to cut?'
'We were trying to find the essence of the text, so a lot of the plot has gone, all the political things, Fortinbras, all of that. It doesn’t excite us. What is the essential tragedy of Hamlet? The tragedy of Ophelia. That’s what concerned us, so we looked only at that.'
- the Hamlet/Ophelia relationship - and the relationship between the clowns playing them - certainly did get a lot of the focus.

Monday, 23 May 2011

studio at the elephant

I visited Studio At The Elephant last week [Later: No, I didn't - see Fri 27th], shortly before its run of hosting the work of several artists, perhaps all studying at the LCC, under the exhibition name The Opportunity Area. One of them, Brett Van Ort, was there and I spoke to him; he'd done a speeded-up video of the area. My favourite thing was in the window, by Marta Moreiras, who had taken photos of the inside of people's fridges (body and door), which were fascinating. I don't know if another exhibition will follow, or if that's the end of the lease. Leases might be getting longer again if they're going to stick with the current shopping centre, as the latest news suggests.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

alaskan welfare

In fact Alaska - the rugged image of the state and by extension the rugged image of America - is a myth. The cold hard fact is that Alaska is run by the federal government in Washington. American taxpayers subsidise the whole show. Alaska lives off federal welfare: roads, bridges, even most jobs, are paid for by taxes raised from the poor folks of New York and Chicago and Los Angeles. Alaskan bears are on welfare ... This you do not learn in Sarah Palin's Alaska.
- Justin Webb previewing Sarah Palin's Alaska in this week's Radio Times

anna maxwell martin's first and worst audition

'When I walked in, the casting person pretended he had lost his voice and couldn't interview me. Then he got on the phone and bellowed: "I told you to send the pretty ones!"'
- from this week's Radio Times

eddie mair

Eddie Mair writes a funny radio column in the Radio Times. He used to do comedy before he became a serious journalist, and his humour always comes across on PM, where he's a much better presenter/interviewer than any of the Today presenters, getting more out of them by subtlety and reason than aggression and hectoring. I enjoyed the war gaming programme he presented for a while - Time Commanders?

In this week's he writes about a visit of Chris Patten, the chair of the BBC's Board of Governors. 'While I embark on my famously witty small talk ("I met you in Hong Kong." Silence. "You probably don't remember."), an unintroduced man behind the chairman is writing notes that I assume will subsequently form part of my letter of dismissal.'

Monday, 16 May 2011

boris johnson: next stop, no 10?

London's mayor talks adultery, ambitions and why he's a 'monstrous zeppelin of self-confidence' to Simon Hattenstone
- Guardian, 16 April

bermondsey abbey remains

Bermondsey Abbey book launched at Woolfson & Tay: Archaeologists have gathered in Bermondsey Square for the launch of a book on the Bermondsey Abbey excavations.
- London SE1, 12 May

Extracts:
'The Abbey stood on the slightly high ground of today's Bermondsey Square with its church lying across the Abbey Street/Tower Bridge Road crossroads.'
'Jackie Millar, Bermondsey Square manager, reminded the audience that some remains can be seen inside Del'Aziz.'

southwark votes yes to av

Southwark was one of only ten voting areas to vote Yes in the Alternative Vote referendum:

'More than two-thirds of those who took part in the poll opposed replacing the current first past the post method with the alternative vote system. Out of 440 voting areas across the country, the Yes votes supporting change made up the majority in only 10 areas. The 10 areas are: Cambridge, Camden, Edinburgh Central, Glasgow Kelvin, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth, Oxford, Southwark.'
- BBC, 7 May

more e&c links

Studio at the Elephant - our new art studio, upstairs in the shopping centre.

Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre: council to agree deal with St Modwen & Lend Lease: Southwark Council is poised to sign a three-way co-operation agreement with developers St Modwen and Lend Lease for the refurbishment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre.
- London SE1, 10 May

In Pictures: The Heygate Estate, SE17 – A Modern Secret Garden?
- Londonist, 3 April

urban legends: the preacher’s edition

Those of us who are entrusted with the task of expositing the Scriptures in a local church must take care to verify our sources, illustrations, and stories. No matter how helpful an illustration may be, it is dishonoring to God if it is untrue. Here are a number of urban legends that get repeated in sermons. Some are more pervasive than others, even appearing in commentaries and scholarly works.
- blog entry, Kingdom People blog by Trevin Wax, 27 April

Sunday, 15 May 2011

private eye cartoon readings

From 29 April issue:

Lady reading nursery rhymes to three fat children eating MacDonald's takeaways. She reads, 'And the dish ran away with the spoon.' First child says, 'What's a dish?'. Second child says, 'What's a spoon?' Third child says, 'What's "ran"?'

Cartoon in style of Lowry, crowds of stick people walking past in foreground with workplace buildings in background, two of the buildings have signs on saying 'BBC' and 'Media City'. Caption: 'Quick! The last train back home to London leaves in 10 minutes.'

Monday, 9 May 2011

arthur c clarke epigraph

Nicholas Lezard reviews The Eerie Silence by Paul Davies in the Saturday Guardian, 30 April. He says that the book's epigraph is 'Arthur C Clarke's remark that "sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering"'.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

behind the hunt for bin laden

New York Times, 3 May, account of the hunt for Bin Laden

'everyone was talking about that at the mosque'

Nabil Deen, 34, strolled down from Brixton mosque, where he works, to watch the ceremony on TV in a coffee shop. "It's a big day for everyone," he said, with half a smile. "I am a practising Muslim but I am part of wider society. And in Islam marriage is a very sacred institution."
What about those extremists who threatened to disrupt the day? Nabil rolled his eyes. "Everyone was talking about that at the mosque," he said. "Everyone is fed up with them."
- my favourite quote from the Guardian's Royal Wedding report supplement on Saturday 30 April, from a report by Hugh Muir from Brixton

Friday, 6 May 2011

thoughts in hexham abbey

I first went to Hexham Abbey when I was seventeen and was then most struck by the Night Stair in the south transept. This wonderful staircase, down which the monks came for their night prayers, has such worn treads that you can almost hear the sandals still slapping down the stones. The abbey was originally built by Wilfrid, an enormously powerful figure up here in Christianity in the 7th century. There is still some of the 7th century church remaining – the crypt.
It was strange to be talking in that abbey about the 400 years’ airbrushed history of the effect of the King James Bible, because here was a place where Christianity had been assiduously practised for hundreds of years, with no questions asked. One thing I find intolerable is that people simply dismiss Christianity. Atheism, agnosticism, secularism and even indifference are to be given equal respect with other religions and no religions. But to call foolish or to sneer lightly at what people like us, but in a different context, with different intellectual means, did is not only mean, it’s unimaginative and sterile.
And yet the idea of night prayers, the idea of intelligent men and women devoting entire lives to prayer and seeking the merest glint of response as proof of providence is extremely difficult to grasp. It happened across what we might now call Europe at a time when the most magnificent artefacts were being made, laws were being formed, languages being developed, sciences being translated out of Greek into Arabic and then into Latin and later into national tongues. To ignore those who devoted themselves to the churches is not anything like as interesting as to wonder why they did it. Just as the attack on, say, the Aborigines’ culture by some current atheists as being mere “clutter” is to miss the point entirely. Human beings work with what they have and the extraordinary thing about successive civilisations is that they are working to the same ends, often in poetic ways and increasingly in scientific ways, but do we think that our current ways are the final definition of four and a half billion years of struggle?
- from Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time newsletter, 6 May

let me tell you about my brother

Let me tell you about my brother...
- interesting 4 May blog post by Torcuil Crichton about his brother Donald, then Labour candidate for the Scottish elections (now defeated)