Category Archives: Blog

My blog and occasional comment on current affairs.

RIP Rik Mayall

Rik Mayall in the Young ONes

Rik Mayall in the Young Ones

I just wanted to say a quick goodbye to Rik Mayall. I would find it hard to add the hours I have spent watching him on TV but it would be a hell of a lot. I suspect his passing will revive a lot of fond memories in those of a slightly older generation. We generation X-ers grew up with Rik Mayall on our TV playing anarchic manic characters and although the characters were vastly different, they were all very definitely him. He seemed to dominate my TV from when I was 10 and he was in the Young Ones, through to the mid-90s when he was in Bottom and The New Statesman. I know he did a lot of stuff before and after but this was the period when he was almost permanently on my TV and his humour perfectly matched my own. Even more so once VHS boxsets came out and I could watch the shows repeatedly.

My personal favourites that deserve particular mention are: Rik – the anarchist student obsessed with Cliff Richard, the awesome Captain Flasheart in Blackadder on whom I modeled my 20s, the legendary and highly accurate portrayal of the politician Alan B’stard on whom I may model my 40s, and Richard Richard who lived in a squalor in London that was a replica of nearly every flat I have lived in until I got married.

Although some of his humour may be a bit puerile or over the top, he brought me some of my favourite TV when I was young and I thought he deserved a mention and my thanks. I feel a New Statesman binge coming on. RIP Rik Mayall.

rik-mayall

 

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Turns out I’m an apathetic non-voting scumbag

I want to vote, I really do. Unfortunately, like a lot of the apathetic bloody populace these days, I don’t. There was a load of local and European elections in the UK recently and I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for any of the main parties. I actively distrust them all and don’t want to risk voting for a lesser political evil when the party involved might actually win and then invade an oil filled country a year later or starve pensioners or lead us to a scenario where no one will ever be able to afford a house ever again or… you get the idea.

I think everyone should have a vote – that’s a given. Everyone who chooses to side with a party and wants them to lead their country should be able to have a say. Democracy is a pretty bollocks system really, but it is by far the best we humans have come up with and I will fight for people to able to have their say. Probably not to the death, but pretty damned close.

I think I just increasingly dislike the generation of politicians who have made politics their career. They rarely seem to me to be arguing for what they genuinely believe should be happening in the country, they seem more concerned with getting one up on their rival politicians and furthering their career. They are more concerned with the politics of government than actually governing.

I don’t know why I have strayed from my usual inane fun this entry. I apologise. I think it is a combination of all the shiny politicians on TV, the fact that it is my birthday next week and I am getting increasingly grumpy, and a concern for all my friends and family in my former home of Thailand (and future) where democracy is really going through the ringer. In Thailand various failed power plays have caused people become so entrenched in two opposing political parties that the army staged a coup to try and get everyone a fair vote. On the same day in the UK, UKIP suddenly made huge gains because people were so fed up with the similar shite spouted from the main two parties that they either voted for UKIP or lay in bed in resigned apathy. In both cases, people in power craved more power and it backfired. Which is a good thing if it then leads to change. Sadly I don’t think that will happen.

The final reason is that I was reminded of a superb quote from George Orwell’s 1984. One of my favourite books. It got me thinking in a pointless and futile way and also gave me an excuse for a great quote on power. I shall stop whining now and leave you with Mr Orwell.

 

1984

1984

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.” ? George Orwell, 1984

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Deadly snakes that could kill babies at large in North London!

NatureLittle did I know that I, as a North Londoner, have been living with the threat of DEADLY KILLER probably EVIL, RABID snakes for years. These things are 8 foot long and can kill babies and may or may not be able to fly. Apparently it has gotten to the point  where my own borough of Camden is talking about culling the slithering menace and I am only just hearing about it now.

Panic damn you!

Ok, I am being slightly alarmist here but that is because I have just read a load of news reports that are being massive dicks about the whole thing. Here is one such headline:

“Deadly eight-foot snakes that can kill cats and dogs invade London.” (http://travel.aol.co.uk/2014/05/10/deadly-eight-foot-snakes-found-london-regents-canal/)

Here is another one:

“Snakes capable of crushing small children to death at large in London” (http://www.independent.ie/world-news/snakes-capable-of-crushing-small-children-to-death-at-large-in-london-30262994.html)

A few points need to be made here.

– Yes the snakes (Aesculpian snakes to be precise) are DEADLY – but to rats and birds and so on. All carnivores are deadly in that they make other animals die. So you should also be afraid of DEADLY pussy cats and DEADLY little birdies and DEADLY moles, etc. (Especially moles, they just look weird.)

– They have invaded in the sense that they are not native to the UK. According to the newspaper reports, they originate from Yugoslavia which is no longer even a place. So they have been living here a while just getting on with things, although I am sure that still infuriates Daily Mail snake lovers.

– They live mostly on rats and small birds. Technically they can strangle small animals but as London is chock full of rats, why bother eating Mr Tiddles? As one paper pointed out – large snakes have been known to attack small dogs or babies but as this has never happened in London and after decades of them lurking around, I feel ok. Birds and rats have been known to attack kids too, so maybe this will balance out.

– The main concern about the babies being attacked comes from one quote from one person that I have seen repeated in several papers and online magazines (including the two above). They all use the exact same wording as if simply copied and pasted by some lazy bastard who can’t be arsed to do better research. Here is the copied and pasted quote:

Mum-of-three Sylvia Taylor, 33, told the Daily Star: “If they are capable of killing small animals then surely they could constrict small children?”‘

Great stuff. I have a degree in English and one part of my studies involved linguistic analysis. So having skilfully dissected the above statement I can reveal it is slightly misleading. She is actually asking a question not telling them something. Her hypothetical question is not answered but that doesn’t stop the question turning into an implication that is consequently used as a chilling headline.

I grew up in Asia and snakes are fine. Especially non-aggressive non-poisonous ones that eat rats. Leave them alone.

On the other hand I could be wrong! Be afraid! Think of the children! Next article: ‘Moody Geese from France are here to break your children’s legs.’

Regent's Canal, Camden. Right now! (Allegedly)

Regent’s Canal, Camden. Right now! (Allegedly)

 

 

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Augmented reality bus stop

This has been doing the rounds on the internet, but in case you missed it I thought I would share because it is bloody genius. I keep meaning to pop down to New Oxford street (it’s in London) and see if it is still there. Personally, I think they could go a lot further and have zombies, Triffids, psychopathic clowns, Daleks, Stormtroopers, Cthulu, Godzilla, the Borg, giant mechanoids, the Blob… well, I could actually go on all day. If I was trying to promote a film or a game I would be all over this augmented reality technology thingy but sadly I am not, so will just gawk at it instead.

Scifiward.com has shiny new look!

The good folks over at the awesome www.scifiward.com have a brilliant new look to their site. (Ok ScifiWard is me.) I thought I would try out a new design there and see how easy the whole process was. Turns out, it was pretty damn simple to achieve and now it looks like a veritable window on the future. I urge you to go and check it out forthwith and post haste!  As I mentioned when I chatted about doing code academy, it is time for this site to have a makeover.

I want to keep things simple so will probably go with a wordpress theme.

I just thought I would warn you all so that if you happen to be clicking to somewhere else on this site, everything may go a bit mental for a minute or two. While I may be brilliant at design and basic coding and most other things a human can do, I can’t work out how to change things on a site before it goes live. The changes may happen before your very eyes… Plus it is more fun this way. So don’t panic! Your computer isn’t broken. Look on in awe as a new site unfolds.

Look in awe at the new site!

Look in awe at the new site!

EDIT: Well I guess doing Scifiward first has paid off as the Word of Ward has now had its facelift and it took about half an hour. Any suggestions please email: thewordofward@gmail.com

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myhotel, Brighton

This isn’t really a hotel review as such – it’s more of an excuse as to why I have been a bit negligent toward the poor old www.thewordofward.co.uk website.

The reason is that I have been busy at work and then busy holidaying. I’m not sure that is a good reason but that is the way it is. While there we stayed at the fantastic Myhotel in Brighton. That isn’t a typo by the way, it is supposed to look like that because it’s all hip and shit.

It was Mrs Wordofward’s birthday and the good thing about Brighton is that it is chock full of cool bars, cafes, restaurants and pubs. All of which we are fans of. I’ve stayed at the Myhotel before in Brighton and it is in a superb location in the hip and cool North Lanes, just a short walk from the hip and cool South Lanes and consequently the not quite so hip and cool waterfront. (I am always disappointed by the pier at Brighton and while there is the odd nice cafe/bar by the beach, if it isn’t a sunny day then the Lanes are the place to be.) In fact, every other male I saw in the Lanes had a beard which shows how hip(ster) it is.

Another great thing about Brighton is that it is less than an hour from London.

Anyway, if you fancy Brighton I recommend the myhotel. It is like living in a hotel in Logan’s Run. Imagine the future as designed by someone from the seventies and you’ll get the idea. There is a great coffeeshop, cool bar – you get a free cocktail and they play retro movies on multiple screens while fish swim in tanks, and a modern Indian fusion restaurant which is also apparently pretty good.

So apologies for a slight lapse. Service has now resumed and fascinating things dealing with science and reviews of stuff and things will soon be forthcoming. In the meantime, here is a photo of our room:

myhotel room.

myhotel room.

 

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Brilliant explanation of the Big Bang – space stuff on Youtube

Youtube is normally just a repository for videos of adorable kittens falling over, or adorable humans falling over, or adorable blurry UFOs flying over, or adorable viral events that are soon to be over, or… Ok, I’ll stop as I am running out of ideas. Plus we all know there is a lot of other great stuff on there – trailers, clips of Felix Baumgartner falling from space, new fan made Star Trek movies, cool but stupid retro scifi movies like Space Probe Taurus, and so on.

There are also lots of youtube clips that teach you things. You can get totally educated and shit watching exciting animated clips and documentaries. I am currently watching a lot of astronomy related videos on youtube. This was partly inspired by a recent interest in physics (mostly particle physics but it is all related and bloody fascinating), and partly because I am a pretentious prick who likes to sound clever down the pub. There are some great clips out there like this one that explains the Big Bang for beginners:

The people who made this clip have a page called Kurzgesagt and they explain all sorts of things – astronomy, fracking, global warming etc. Click this for Kurzgesagt’s youtube channel. I am only mentioning all this as it is riveting and there are a surprising amount of people with time on their hands and internet connection. Why not learn stuff?

Here's a picture of the big bang purely because it is interesting.

Here’s a picture of the big bang purely because it is interesting.

On a similar note. Watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on youtube while you are about it. I watched this as a kid on TV and it sparked a lifelong interest in in astronomy and science. Here is the first episode. Enjoy.

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Fun with a Theremin

Leon Theremin playing the Theremin

Leon Theremin playing the Theremin

I know what you are thinking: everyone already loves a Theremin so what is the point of this post? Well sadly, you’re wrong you poor deluded fool. It turns out that some people don’t even know what a theremin is! In case you are part of the latter crowd, look to the left. That is Leon Theremin playing his Theremin. Bizarrely the similarity in names was a coincidence. (That was a joke – he patented his invention in 1928.)

I love theremins but perhaps that is because I am a bit of a geek and geeks seem to have been exposed to the sounds of theremins more than other mere humans. Theremins can be heard in The Day the Earth Stood Still (original), Ed Wood, The Thing (from another world), The Big Bang Theory, and so on. Funnily enough they are most famous for providing the theme tunes to original Doctor Who and original Star Trek. Neither is actually true but they do sound pretty fantastic on a theremin as this video clearly demonstrates with the Doctor Who theme:

In popular music, Theremins have been used by a ton of musicians including: Hawkwind, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin, (to name but three examples of personal favourites). Plus this guy playing Radiohead:

They have been used in classical music too, although that seems pretty rare. There have been a few professional devotees though, such as Clara Rockmore. Here she is playing Tchaikovsky and it’s rather pleasant:

 

In case you are bored at work which, let’s face it, is likely given that you have read this far, I give you (drumroll…) – a desktop Theremin! Well actually, I don’t, but here is a link to one thanks to the good people at www.femurdesign.com:

A THERAMIN FOR YOUR COMPUTER

Literally minutes of fun as you try and play the theme tune to original Star Trek, then a bit of Doctor Who, then… er… back to the web probably. I thought it was pretty fun for a few minutes and thought you might too. Who knows? Maybe this post will spark off a renewed interest Theremin playing. It’s unlikely but I bloody hope so.

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Conwy Castle, Wales

Conwy Castle exterior

Conwy Castle exterior

Apologies for not having written much of late but work was sparse so Mrs Word of Ward and I went a-wondering. I won’t gloat about the places we went (although I might later) as they were mostly sunny and warm. One place that wasn’t either of these, but was still pretty great, was Conwy Castle in North Wales. If you like castles or spectacular decaying edifices, I highly recommend it. It was actually pretty fun to go on a bleak mid-week afternoon in January as well, as we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

A photo of Conwy from a better photographer on a  nicer day.

A photo of Conwy from a better photographer on a nicer day.

Conwy castle was built the late 13th century. As in just before 1300ish, for King Edward 1st. Or King Edward as he was known back then. It was a major base for King Ed as he was conquering the Welsh – although it is probably best not mentioning that when you visit as they have never quite forgiven us horrible English types.

Unlike a lot of tourist attraction castles, the interior doesn’t have too much crap in it like signs or gift shops or anything. The mood is pretty unspoilt and you are allowed to wander around and climb things. Here is another picture but this time of the interior:

Conwy castle interior

Conwy castle interior

Nice eh? You can almost imagine all the lords and ladies and knights and dragons and so on. Here is another that was taken from what would have been a basement. Note that in the distance of both of these pictures you can see Conwy’s turrets – more on that after the picture.

20140129_132740If you don’t mind twisty steep dark staircases, then I highly recommend you climb one of the turrets. The view is bloody spectacular. Here is a both a superb vista and a brilliant example of modern phone’s ability to do a panorama shot.

Panorama from a Conwy turret.

Panorama from a Conwy turret.

Now, here is a shaky video on a windy day from the top, which may or may not load properly.

I said end it all but here are a couple of bonus pictures as you have been so good. I mentioned how there wasn’t too much crap to distract you from the awesomeness of Conwy castle but there are a couple of random touches that I thoroughly enjoyed. I think they ‘re there to give kiddywinks something to find. There are a few of these. My favourites were:

The ghostly head of King Edward!

The ghostly head of King Edward!

and

A pile of armour with a helmet, crown, and spike in a deep pit. For some reason.

A pile of armour with a helmet, crown, and spike in a deep pit. For some reason.

So you can see the kid friendly, slightly spooky vibe they are going for. If you get the chance, I highly recommend Conwy castle. As you can see it’s a good balance of castle, decay, random sights, great views, and a general Game of Thrones type vibe.

Thanks to http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/conwycastle/?lang=en for the picture. You can also get more info there.

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Felix Baumgartner’s jump from a First Person Point of View

I know the world moves at a quick pace these days, but do you remember that Felix Baumgartner guy who jumped from space to prove that science was cool? It was back in the simpler days of 2012. It was a pretty epic fall and he was wearing several hi-def cameras that must have taken a bugger of a lot of processing as the footage has finally been released. There are some amazing shots and it’s still an incredible feat to watch. Enjoy.

 

Follow The Word of Ward on Twitter

Just a quick note as I am technically at work right now although I am writing this in my officially sanctioned lunch break. The Word of Ward has been getting a lot of attention recently (not sure why but the figures keep doubling), so to the 1000s of new unique daily visitors who missed it – I am also on twitter: @thewordofward.

For those of you not on Twitter, I apologise for brazenly wasting your time. Frankly though, this seemed a good excuse to remind people to follow me  as I clearly crave incessant attention. I promise to be vaguely interesting.

@thewordofward

Fuerza Bruta

Fuertza Bruta

Fuertza Bruta

I saw this last night at the Roundhouse in Camden (London) and if you want the short version of the review:

It was awesome, go and see it.

Now for a more lengthy version. I had no idea what to expect from Fuerza Bruta as every review I had read struggled to accurately describe what happens. I’m not going to lie – this will probably be the same. But it might at least give you a taster.

Here is a basic rundown of how things happened and what goes on:

At the start of the show we, the milling crowd, were led to the central section of the Roundhouse into what could be described as a circular circus tent that was missing a roof. The audience was immediately herded toward the centre of the room where we waited and sipped drinks and were treated to techno that sounded a bit like a heartbeat. A heartbeat from an increasingly excited person. Then the lights dimmed and Fuerza Bruta began.

_DSC6097.JPGAt first no one knew where to look. Then, people gradually turned in one direction where there was a guy silhouetted in an orange light welcoming us and shouting a bit. Then the lights came on and there was a row of Argentinian drummers. As their drumbeats filled the air a group of shouting people suddenly swung from out of nowhere and skimmed over our heads while at the same time lights started to strobe and the air was filled with confetti. This was what Fuertza Bruta was all about – spectacle, sensation, and an incredibly fun interactive experience.

The show was essentially three acts that were linked by drums, dancing, music and sensory assault. As things changed, the audience was expertly moved and parted to allow sets and machines to be brought among us.

FuerzaBrutaFor the first act, we were split into two groups as a huge treadmill was wheeled in amongst us. Then an unstoppable man began an inexplicable journey. He walks, then runs, with wind and confetti blasting in his face. Suddenly there is a shot, blood appears on his shirt and he stops for second seemingly about to collapse. Then he takes the shirt off, revealing an identical one underneath, and gets going once more. I won’t go into too much detail but there are obstacles such as people, chairs, walls that explode into glitter, staircases and more, as this plucky fellow miraculously pounds ahead with music blaring and strobe lights strobing. Fuertza Bruta means ‘brute force’ and it clearly stemmed from this amazing set piece.

fuerza-bruta-2-816x1024After another few moments of ‘where the hell should I look now’ and a dash of ‘what’s going to happen next’ eyes strayed to the ceiling. Two large rectangular pools made from see though plastic where suspended above us. A light shining through revealed the body of a lithe young lady lying in a shallow pool of water. As the pools were lowered toward us she was joined by other lithe women and a strangely beautiful (and beautifully strange) dance occurs as the ladies writhe and leap and occasionally slam down in an explosion of purple-lit water. At times this occurs inches from the audience’s head and if you are tall enough you can push the plastic bottom of the pool as the performers slide over. It was such an amazing atmosphere and unique spectacle that it felt only a tiniest bit pervy.

1240-3-fuerza-brutaFor Fuerza Bruta’s final act a plastic sheet is pulled across the top of the audience – by the audience themselves – which is then filled with air to create a big plastic dome. Performers then appear on top of this dome and peep through via three holes. At one point they dropped into the audience and grabbed a couple of people, which was a tad disconcerting. Other madness occurs such as tubes with flying people and fans billowing and music and general shenanigans. By this point our senses had been pretty heavily assaulted by wonder and we calmly took it in our stride.It is then all nicely rounded off with the drummers and the whole cast dancing.

The above description is just a taste of what Fuerza Bruta is all about. There is a lot more I haven’t even mentioned. It is a spectacle where art meets performance and if that sounds pretentious then I should also add that it is messy, loud and bloody good fun.

If you are in London, it is on at the Roundhouse (which is an awesome venue anyway and well worth a visit) until the 2nd of March. More info here. It also appears all over the world, but I suspect only in major cities as it needs venues actually capable of holding the show.

In case my feeble description of Fuerza Bruta isn’t enough to wet your insatiable appetite, here are a couple of videos. Enjoy and then book tickets – it’s worth it.

Fuerza Bruta at the Roundhouse ad:

And a generic ad (from the New York show I think):

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Arthur C. Clarke predicts computers and internet in 1974

Arthur C. Clarke predicted a ton of stuff like satellites, fully immersive VR games, sexily voiced computers and space elevators and and so on. (Granted the latter hasn’t actually happened yet but NASA does have team on it, even if it’s taking a while http://science1.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast07sep_1/).

In this clip from 1974, he predicts small computers will one day exist in everyone’s houses. He predicted that these computers would also one day connect to each other so we can communicate, order plane tickets, buy pointless shite and look at naked people. The guy was a genius. Anyway, see for yourself:

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas from the Word of Ward! And from Mrs Word of Ward!

If you don’t celebrate Christmas but have a festival – then Happy Festival!

If you don’t have any festival or holiday or anything then… um… happy 4th day post equinox. I assume you are at work.

Whatever the deal – enjoy!

santa

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eBook Self Promotion

Well folks, it is almost Christmas and in the spirit of giving, buying things online and capitalism generally, I deem it a good moment to plug a book. Buy my book! Thanks.

RIGHT NOW AS I TYPE THIS BOTH MY EBOOKS ARE FREE! If you miss the promotion, I should point out that they are both at the minimum price you can charge for an ebook. Which is pennies. Or cents.

What I would really like from you dear readers is a review or ten. Especially from you lovely non-UK types. Trust me, a review really, really helps. Unless you are mean in which case – move along.

My travel book: Australia, Morocco, and Thailand. Three True Travel Stories is a collection of short travel tales of near peril. At this particular moment it is #1 in Essays and Travelogues on Amazon UK! It cannot be higher. (I have a screenshot to prove it.) And it’s free. So get it and review it. Here is the blurb:

Jason Ward tells three true stories of fairly perilous travel.
While backpacking in his early twenties, he decides to give fruit picking a go. Even without the spiders, snakes, and a plague of locusts, things turn out pretty badly.
A trip into the Atlas Mountains with his girlfriend turns out less than romantic when flash floods threaten to wipe out the town. The only escape option is a van full of Berber tribesmen and a waterlogged road on the edge of a cliff.
After moving to the peaceful paradise of Thailand, Ward goes to a local pub near his Bangkok flat. That evening there is a military coup. In Bangkok. So why can’t he see anything?
These stories are filled with humour and dollops of fear. Recommended for those who enjoy travel stories or just like reading about someone being mildly terrified in foreign countries.

For US readers:

For UK readers:

Thanks you wonderful people. I will soon be back talking about inane stuff as usual.

Stabilised Video of Lunar Buggy on the Moon

I saw this on www.http://sploid.gizmodo.com/ and thought I would share. If you like science and space exploration, you will probably have already seen the original footage of astronauts driving a buggy on the moon. If you haven’t then shame on you, but not to worry – here is the same footage but stabilised. It frankly fills me with wonder that we apelike creatures can achieve this stuff when we put our minds to it. I’m hoping that now China has it’s first moon lander Yutu up there, coupled with developments from companies like Space X, we are on the first of a much needed expansion into space.

Before the video, here is an interesting fact: NASA hired General Motors and Boeing around $40 million US for four of the buggys. Three are still on the moon.

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Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein starring Cumberbatch and Miller

Frankenstein directed by Danny Boyle, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller

Frankenstein directed by Danny Boyle, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller

I saw his the other day at the National Theatre Live screenings. I thought seeing a film of a live play was a bit of a weird idea but it actually turned out to be a superb evening out. Of course it could be down to the fact that the thing we went to see was absolutely incredible: Danny Boyle very ably directs Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in Frankenstein. I really cannot stress how great this was.

_51401429_frankenstein_464Part of the genius of it was having the actors swap roles on alternate nights. One night Miller was Frankenstein, the next it was Cumberbatch. The night we saw it, Cumberbatch was the monster. (This was possibly due to fact that my wife has a bit of crush on him and he is in a loincloth for most of the opening scene.) The idea is that the actor can effectively riff off each other’s performance, subtly affecting each other’s portrayals. You also get a slightly different experience on the two separate nights. What you end up with are two astounding performances from both actors. Miller and Cumberbatch were both superlative in their respective roles reflecting the similarities, contrasts, and underlying bond between Frankenstein and his ‘monster’.

Another big plus for me is that the play was pretty closely based on Mary Shelley’s original book. I studied Frankenstein for my Literature degree and always thought it was a shame Hollywood usually went for a mute and stupid monster, whereas in the original he was smart and erudite and tortured by the self awareness of how he looked and what he was. He was passionate and lonely and wanted to love whereas Frankenstein was cold and aloof and tended to shun company. There are a lot of themes being explored here and it’s intelligently done.

I’m not sure how long the National Theatre will be doing this but if you get a chance to see it, I thoroughly 100% recommend it. You can’t see it on the internet or buy it (which is weird in this day and age), so go and see Frankenstein at your nearest arty cinema.

Links to performances can be found here: http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/productions/16546-frankenstein

Here is a trailer:

Here is another:

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Amazon Prime Air

In a few years we will be in a fabulous and impatient science fiction-esque world with unmanned vehicles flying stuff to your very front door. But this is not appearing on the awesome Scifiward website as it is soon to be a reasonably exciting reality. As early as 2015 if Amazon is to be believed. Here is the idea: you place an order and a quad-copter thing flies it to your house. Pretty cool right? Here is a lovely picture:

Amazon Prime Air

Amazon Prime Air

Although I personally think it will be brilliant to have robots flying all over the place, I foresee a few problems with this:

It will only be for Prime customers. So it might be a fairly pricey object being delivered. Consequently it may be a target for ne’er-do-wells.

Even if it isn’t a target because of its perceived value, it still may have something fun inside it like a DVD or Bluray or whatever. Like a ‘mystery box’ of the air. People will try and shoot it down.

Even if it isn’t even carrying anything, people will try and take it down because people are just dicks. In Britain, they will try and take it down with stones or whatever. In America they have guns. In other countries they fire weapons in the air because they are happy/angry on a daily basis.

What if you live in a flat?

I can’t see me using this service very often myself. The main things I buy these days are books (delivered to my kindle through the internet), films (mostly downloaded legally or on Netflix) and games (download or Christmas gifts). The only thing I have delivered are Blurays, but with increasing bandwidths and cheaper cloud storage, I won’t even need that. But that’s just me.

However, I may change my tune if the following comes to pass. I am going to assume the drones will be able to zoom in on your mobile phone location as that is pretty damn easy to do. If this is the case and they deliver from their entire range then presumably I will be able to lie in a field on a summer’s day and with a tap of a finger can have a bottle of wine or a six-pack of ale delivered to my location. If that happens I will welcome this technology heartily.

Here is a clip:

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Octoberfest Munich

I’m a bit late with this, given that we got back from Octoberfest a month ago but it stays pretty much the same each year. So for those who are merely interested, this will be a fascinating account as usual. For people going to Octoberfest 2014, this should give a bit of a heads up as to what to expect. Hint: bring Berocca. I wrote this soon after we got back to London.

OCTOBERFEST!!! What is there to say? My bucket list has been pretty shortened recently what with a visit to Pompeii and now a slurring stumble through OCTOBERFEST!!! (That’s how it has to be pronounced I’m afraid.)

Augustiner tent

Augustiner tent

So what is OCTOBERFEST!!! (alright, I’ll stop now) actually like? Mrs Word of Ward and myself were a bit mental in that we went in October. Most of it is in September, but the Bavarians obviously decided Septemberfest sounded stupid. I highly recommend going mid-week because it can get ridiculously busy at weekends or holidays. Our first day was a Monday and we found a seat in several ‘tents’ pretty easily, which was a relief and erroneously made us think things would always be this civilised. Each time we moved to a new tent we wandered about, found a bench, then chatted to the other inebriates at the table. It was a pleasant international pissup indeed and a fine way to start the week.

Here’s a breakdown of things as they happened.

We arrived at around 3pm and headed for one of the bigger tents – the legendary Augustiner Festhalle (www.festhalle-augustiner.com). We found a seat pretty quickly – between an older couple from Vancouver and a group of drunken Italians. A middle aged German waitress, who was very much in charge and a little bit scary, took our order. Which was pretty easy because there were just two options – a litre of lager or nothing. She then took several other orders. Five minutes later she was back and carrying TEN litres of beer. Just one is heavy, ten beers weighs more than my wife. Probably.

There is a band in each Octoberfest tent and every 15 minutes or so they play a drinking song which then necessitates everyone to cheers each other. Or specifically – say ‘Prost’ and smack glasses together. Everyone on our table chatted to each and it was all remarkably friendly. The Augustiner beer is probably my favourite lager there and I pride myself on being a beer connoisseur/mild alcoholic.

Octoberfest

Octoberfest

After our first litre we went for a wander. The festival is a bit like a standard fair with several roads lined with food stalls, fairground games, a few rides, and lots of drunks (the latter are common in British fairs too but at least here there is an excuse). The Octoberfest beer halls are immense – some can hold up to 10,000 people. The amount of beer being drunk is quite awesome and inspiring to behold.

We decided to check out a few more of the beer halls because that was the whole point of being at Octoberfest after all. We had a guide we had printed from the all-knowing internet that gave a rough overview of each hall and their differences and specialties. Frankly, by our fourth ‘Festhalle’, we realised that they were all pretty much the same. A massive hall with a band in it and tons of wasted people singing and shouting ‘prost’ every few minutes while incredibly strong German women charged around with tankards of ale. Of course it could also have been that after four litres (actually a bit more as I gallantly helped Mrs Word of Ward with some of hers), your ability to analyse, discern, or even see is somewhat compromised.

As the evening wore on, the halls got more and more packed and the people got more and more drunk. By the time we left I was amazed that so many were still able to walk, although there were a few casualties sleeping it off here and there. If this had been anywhere in Britain there would have been fights, vomiting, rioting, random nudity and so forth, but the Octoberfest was ridiculously nice.

20131001_155321On the second day we got there in the early afternoon and it was noticeably more packed. It was the 2nd of October and the 3rd is German reunification day and a national holiday. It seemed as if everyone had taken the afternoon off, knowing they could sleep in the next day. We went to a tent called Schützen-Festzelt (www.schuetzen-festzelt.de) as it was legendary for its suckling pig. Unlike the previous day, it was a nightmare finding a seat. After half an hour we lucked out when a group of young, traditionally dressed Germans took pity and let us join them at the end of their table. From that point on, the aisles started to fill with people so we really were quite fortunate. We ordered more beer and the tent specialty – roasted piggy. The huge slab of pig and crackling was amazing. Perfect beer food. Our table was entirely local Bavarians and the smaller tent felt very German. I didn’t hear any other languages being spoken anywhere and we felt a bit left out when loads of German beer songs started to get sung. By the end of our epic porcine breakfast/lunch the place was heaving and it was a relief to get out.

We wandered around a bit more but the crowds were getting pretty oppressive. We then found a seat outside a tent and got a couple more litres in. Our table was once again full of chatty local Munich people. They asked if I thought German was a harsh language, which was hard to answer without being rude. I basically stated that at least it wasn’t French and left it at that. Some guys started singing and suddenly everyone else did too. This had a slightly more passionate edge to it than the happy go lucky drinking tunes of the tents and one of our neighbours explained that it was a football thing.

It was then that we realised that it really is essential to be inside a beer hall. Being outside in a beer garden, we could have been anywhere and the atmosphere inside was a hell of a lot more fun.

After a couple more halls we were done. It was too busy. By 7pm, there were now queues forming outside each beer hall and we couldn’t be bothered. One tent, called Fischer Vroni was famous for fish. Outside they were cooking them whole over a long line of coal. We bought one and it was bloody delicious. I highly recommend it. At 16 Euros, it was expensive but it really was worth it. Also each beer costs 10 Euros, so it’s all relative.

Awesome fish at Fischer Vroni

Awesome fish at Fischer Vroni

So what tips can give?

-Bring lots of money. A bottle of water was 4 Euros, and beer was 10 (actually a bit under that but the waitresses really deserved a tip).

-Pick your day carefully. If it’s a weekend or holiday then get to the tents early. You can book a table for a couple of hours if it’s busy but otherwise it is fun to wander around and share seats. Most tents have a reserved area and a free-for-all area.

-Most evenings get pretty packed. Be prepared to queue. Or beat the system and get drunk early.

-The atmosphere inside the tents is much more fun than outside.

-The food can be pricey but they are American (or Bavarian) sized portions and are good for two people. Unless you are American or Bavarian.

-Eat the fish cooked over coals, it’s seriously nice.

-As I said at the start – bring Berocca.

Erm… that’s all I can think of. Octoberfest is pretty much what you imagine it will be. A massive pissup organised by Germans and enjoyed by all. In a tent.

 

 

 

 

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LLSB – Long Live Southbank

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

Even without everything going on Southbank is a nice spot

This is primarily about the LLSB, Long Live Southbank campaign but it also rambles charmingly on about London in general. So if you aren’t a Londoner but one day hope to visit, consider this an incentive. Alternatively, if you are into skateboarding, check out the video at the end.

southbank human statueOne of the joys of being a Londoner is just the sheer amount of stuff that is going on all the time. Truly if you are bored of London, you are a boring bastard indeed. There is not just so much going on that you feel guilty every time you browse an issue of Time Out, there is also a ridiculous variety of things all around. I love all the book readings by famous authors, comedy nights, world famous bands playing live, the greatest selection of theatres on the planet, the markets, the pubs, parks, and random events like boat races/fireworks/pageants/random art happenings/street performances, etc. There are also things I don’t really give a shit about – opera, human statues, invigorating swims outside in the winter, performance art, vegetarian restaurants, chessboxing, religion, skateboarding, and so on.

But just because I don’t give a shit about these latter examples doesn’t mean I don’t want them around. They add something to the city.

Southbank-bookstallFor example, a place I love is the Southbank. This stretch on the south side of the Thames holds pretty much everything I have mentioned in both lists (not sure about chessboxing but I wouldn’t be surprised). It has Shakespeare’s Globe theatre (which must be experienced), the British Film Institute, the London Eye, Tate Modern, second hand books stalls, bars, restaurants, theatres and art galleries. It even has a beach!

It has also a place for skateboarders which has been there since I was a kid. As I said, I don’t really care much about skateboarding but the Southbank skateboard park is something I would be very sad to see disappear. It adds to London’s diversity. It seems a fun place for all the young youth-types to hang around. It’s always a laugh watching someone trying to show off and falling flat on their face. Besides, the area has been dedicated to the skateboarders for 40 years. Everyone likes it, including tourists.

LFA-south-bank-skateboarding_jpg_573x380_crop_q85The problem, no matter what the council’s argument claims to be, is that the skateboarders don’t make any money for Lambeth whereas a Starbucks/Wagamamas/Nandos/whatever will.

If the Southbank skateboard park is shut and replaced with chain shops/restaurants, it can only be a bad thing for a city trying to stay one of the top places for art,creativity, and diversity. I think it will be a massive shame to lose this. So do lots of others. Consequently, the LLSB or Long Live Southbank was set up.

I wrote most of this because they have now made a short video that they want to try and go viral. It’s actually really interesting, even if you aren’t into skateboarding. (Their website is here and is worth a look: http://www.llsb.com/)

At least watch the video and make your mind up. I learned some new things.

 

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