Tuesday, August 29, 2006

the rest of the fest

or, what I did last week (don't worry, no "what I had for breakfast"s, just the edited highlights)

a festival-free day, but we did venture out to watch the rugby (ABs vs SA) for the first time all season, in the cosy, friendly and delightfully unsmoky Teuchters.

Ian Rankin on the couch - psychoanalysed by celeb psychiatrist Raj Persaud (whose Motivated Mind sits unread on our bookshelf - we're too unmotivated to read it). What makes a crime writer, and his famously damaged creation, Rebus, tick? It could have all gone horribly wrong, but Rankin's gabby enough to pull anything off (and I mean that in a nice way).

Wide Awake at Cineworld - a personal exploration of insomnia. I thought I was bad, but this guy (the filmmaker, Alan Berliner) was a lot worse. Good film though - with all those extra waking hours he's built an amazing warehouse-sized archive of footage and newspaper clippings that was used to great effect in this doc.

John And Jane - another doc, this time about call centre workers in Mumbai. Quite a surreal start when after the EIFF graphic came "New Zealand International Film Festival, sponsored by Telecom". Bad print hygiene, I guess, but it did make me smile. The call centre was for American clients, the workers kept American hours (working through the night), and as part of their training learned about the differences between the US and India (fluffy towels, consumer choice and catalogs). Side-effects of this 'education' included the conversion of Hindu call centre workers to happy-clappy Christianity of the mid-west kind, and the tragic figure of Naomi, bottle blonde, right down to the eyelashes, and "totally very Americanized". The backdrop of Mumbai streets and homes rapidly gives way to desolate malls, endless cookie-cutter apartment blocks, and the sterile call centre itself. One character even dreams of owning a Spanish-style villa. A disturbing glimpse of globalisation in action.

Work freebies took us along to the bookfest to see Ian Wilmut and Richard Holloway chew the fat. Cloning, animal research, all the usual suspects.

A. thought she might not be much good live. But Regina Spektor was better than good. I felt like I was in the presence of rare talent. Better live than recorded. What a voice! And so sweet with it. Gush.

I came across her in a slightly unusual way. Every time we went to the cinema, we saw the Sky TV ad with "I am Danny Way" on it (y'know, UK dwellers, the skateboarding one) and Regina belting out the uber-catchy Us. Had to track her down. And then she came to Edinburgh :-)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Festival recollections

It's been a busy old week and a bit. Lots of culture. I'm going to try to track back through it, see what I remember. If my memory's good, this could be a long one. You have been warned...

Tonight's easy. It finished little over an hour ago. The closing gig of the Edinburgh Book Festival - Richard Holloway. A. asked me as we waited what he was going to be talking about. I had no idea. " Dunno. Philosophy, I guess." I'd booked the tickets on a bit of a whim, as we'd both liked his Looking in the Distance so much. Holloway used to be the Bishop of Edinburgh, but is not so hot on God any more. It turns out (not all that surprising, given his former life) that he's a fantastic, captivating orator - who can recite whole chunks from texts with scarcely a glance at the page. Tonight's theme was suffering - not an easy subject, "sacred ground" that it is - and the intellectual, theological and practical responses that are possible. He circled around his theme, reading from the book of Job, holocaust literature, Larkin, a Polish poet whose name I couldn't catch, and the ending of The Line of Beauty, as Nick contemplates his likely fate:
It was a love of the world that was shockingly unconditional [...] It wasn't just this street corner but the fact of a street corner at all that seemed, in the light of the moment, so beautiful.
I hadn't felt like going out, was feeling a bit festivaled-out. I'm very glad I did.

We had landed some freebies from A's work to the if.comeddies - the awards formerly known as the Perriers. Good sponsorship deal that - even though they've stopped sponsoring, everyone namechecks them. Not so sure about the new name. I read an alternative suggestion in the weekend papers - the iffys. Fortunately, the comedy was not remotely iffy. For the first time this festival, I laughed a lot. Especially at David O'Doherty, and his story about the other David O'Doherty - top in Google and a bit geeky too. Even funnier was Mark Watson - no cheap jokes, no sweary words (you could take your mum), just great observation and timing and a very endearing persona (again, mums would love him).

Earlier in the day, we watched Zidane, a 21st century portrait. Football and art cinema - an odd combo. For one game, 17 cameras are trained on Zizou. No narration, just a few quotes as subtitles, a soundtrack by Mogwai and the sound of the game, as Zidane hears it. I didn't even realise that other 'galacticos' like Beckham and Ronaldo were playing until well into the film. Like much art film, (and much football!) it was both fascinating and boring. I began to think maybe that was the point - to show how mundane football really can be, how much downtime, sock folding, spitting and sweating goes on. You get to see lots of all of these. How daft our emotional and financial investment in this game really is. And yet. There's something about Zidane - he's unreadable but not in Beckham's blank way. A bit more mystery. You never see his eyes. He smiles but once. Communication is limited to about three words. You sense his instinct as he roams the pitch, hunting the ball. And delight when he finds it, or it finds him, and he performs the magic we love him for. Beautiful - in spite of all the sweat and spit.

It's Zizou who says it best: "Magic is sometimes very close to nothing at all...nothing at all."

pink minicrocs

It seems I am not the only croc-wearer in the whanau. I have, however, discovered a problem. Static electricity. I wore them all day on Thursday and managed to get a shock from the car (twice) and my computer. I also seem to be even more trip-prone than normal.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

new things

It's been a material week. First, a whole roomful of brand new carpet. It's nothing fancy, but infinitely better than living with someone else's stains. We decided on it in record time a few weeks ago. When they didn't call back about the fitting, I started to worry...a feeling exacerbated when I looked for their telephone number and found this litany of complaints. #1 and 4 on Google! But I tracked down the errant fitters and it's now in situ.

On the carpet are my brand new crocs - shoes that are impossible to be sad in. Soft, comfy, incredibly light and silly. What more could a girl want? If I was embarking on a round-the-world adventure, they'd be my shoes of choice. I'm still trying to decide whether I can wear them to work, but they'll definitely be just the thing for the pebbly beaches of Hydra.

This monotype by Ruth O'Dell was my birthday present from A - bought is a cute wee gallery in Harris and just back from the framers. Can you tell what it's depicting?

One new thing I'm not allowed to play with is a new blog. Meanies.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Festival team

Yep, it's that time of year again. Tourists and thesps take over. Buttoned-up Edinburgh becomes, for a month, overwhelmingly theatrical and even a wee bit camp. It's fab, but infinitely distracting. A's working hard on Teamtastic (what do you mean "what's Teamtastic?"??? - you haven't been spammed yet? - well get in there and check it out), and I've been helping out a bit, but we've managed to fit in a wee bit of festival distraction too. Sleep? Pah, who needs it?

Today we saw the eye-popping Kataklo - "athletic dance theatre". We were right in the front row - close enough to see every breath, sinew, and bead of sweat on the amazing troupe of 7 dancers, as they interpreted sports like football, swimming, tennis and skiing through dance. It was my favourite Fringe show of all time (3 yrs so far) - for the art, physicality, wit and sheer endeavour of it all. How did they make their bodies do that?

Yesterday was MyoSung, a Korean show fusing jazz, hip-hop and classical Korean dance. Yep, dance is my thing this festival. Not as slick as Kataklo or last year's Jump, it felt young, raw, and full of energy (tempered with a bit of angst), and had plenty of amazing moves to keep things interesting.

Later, a freebie from A's work led us to Tim Minchin, an Aussie comedian (former glam rocker) who sings like a glam rocker should (maybe better), plays the piano, and composes wickedly funny, perfectly rhymed lyrics - with the odd off-rhyme moments hammed up for comic effect. Entertaining but nothing mind-blowing - although his resemblance to a Mr Smith I know was slightly spooky...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The moon is like a piece of pie

I just looked up to see a pie-wedge moon peeking out above a cloud. It looked really cool but I was too slow to grab the camera and now it's sunk down behind the clouds. I always thought moons rose. But that's the second time this year I've watched it set.

There's also a bat flying around outside - it's the first time I've seen a bat in the city. And yesterday there was a fox skulking between gardens. All this wildlife might have to find a new home if our big garden neighbours have their way, though. 2 houses at the end of Jordan Lane each want to subdivide their enormous gardens, building new houses and chopping down lots of trees. The neighbourhood is in revolt, there are notices in stairwells, and peer pressure to make a submission. It's not so much the bats and foxes. Mostly, people are worried about where they will park their cars.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

camping in Scotland

We managed 6 out of 8 nights under canvas on our last wee trip north. For those of you who know Scottish summers, this would probably mean a miserable week all round. But no. It was sunny. We wore shorts. We only had one picnic in the car (this is A's universal marker of all-time holiday low). We enjoyed nights that didn't really get dark: wandering home to our tent just outside of Stornoway at 2am, after a night at the festival, the town far from asleep (even though it was, technically, the Sabbath), the sky still streaked with remnants of what must have been a gorgeous sunset. We saw a few of those on our trip.

Harris was a bit rainy, but fortunately we were holed up in a fab wee B&B, warm and well-fed by chef-owner Margaret. The first time I'd ever seen kumara and haggis paired on a menu (Margaret had spent a season cooking in Whitianga, so was well acquainted with this most kiwi of vegies). Highly recommended if you're ever out that way (unlikely for most of my readers, but you never know...).

Skye brought more good food and some spectacular hills to climb (no not the Cuillins, we're much too soft), and probably the hottest day of the year. And back on the mainland, via ferry ride number three (I do like ferries), midges, a swim and a gorgeous beach. Here 'tis.