28 February 2011

Rango - The Premiere Experience

I saw Rango - Johnny Depp's new film - this weekend. That's right: before the actual release date.

Why? Because I went to the premiere.

How? Because the film has a water-efficiency/conservation theme which is a tie-in with work. So yes, I worked on a Saturday, but it was at a Gala Film Premiere: Family Edition.

The red carpet experience was just as I had always thought it would be: we woke up early Saturday morning and took the bus downtown in the grey dawn light; a good premierist never misses a photocall.

Arriving at Leicester Square we slipped inside and mingled with mariachi owls, rubbed shoulders with tweenage highland dancers, snacked on churros, and gladhanded the inflatable cacti that were spread out in the lobby. I worked the room like a showbiz vet.

But that's not all.

After enjoying a real live mariachi band, we also watched the film. Rango is ostensibly a children's flick, but it's also a western with some fairly adult themes and a hearty dose of fifty-cent words. It also has some ugly creatures doing violence and wreaking vengeance.

Apparently a few moms were less than enthusiastic about some of the darker stuff that went on. Sure, but every kid in the theatre was absolutely rapt, and the messages on the importance of being true to self and conserving water were clear as an unmuddied lake.

Sometimes I wonder if parents can be hyper-sensitive about children. Maybe kids have a greater capacity for grown-up content and ideas than we give them credit for. Think about it: kids are just like grown-ups. Only smaller.

And younger.

It was in this spirit of encouraging children to engage with grown-up themes that inspired me to help one young girl discover the importance of sharing.

She was outside the theatre hoarding multiple inflatable cacti. People (mostly the children) had been encouraged to take one. But this kid had four! I urged her - politely - to give one to me.

Because, you know, she didn't need four. And though she handed it over begrudgingly, hopefully the idea of making some stranger's day will be worth more to her than having four inflatable cacti. You could say that it was I who gave her a gift.

But if it didn't work out like that, at least I tried. That's what premieres are for.


22 February 2011

Bust 65 in Hoxton


I hesitated for a moment too long about whether I could make Buck 65's February 21 gig in Hoxton. So when I went online to get tickets, there was a big X through the ticket icon.

Despite getting ample heads up from Amsterdam Andy, I had missed the boat. "No online tickets," the site read, "But a limited number will be available at the door." Oh, I thought, that sounds promising.

There weren't.

Not for lack of waiting either. We spent three hours outside the venue door, drinking beers and monitoring the situation, until it finally became clear that we were not going

Fortunately, I'm fucking irrepressible. I took this disappointment on the chin. This frankly excellent attitude is due to a couple of factors: one I've seen Buck before a few times, and have those sweet memories.

Plus I had very recently (less than an hour prior) received a sweet new haircut, so I was in a pretty good mood.

And my co-attendee Dave Waller can roll with punches like few others. So 66% of us took the news pretty well.

But our new friend Spanish Martin railed, wept, shook his fist, and was nigh-on inconsolable for stretches of our futile wait. I met him at the venue when we both arrived around 7pm and peeked in on soundcheck. Turned out we had similar music tastes, he bought a round of beers, and we settled in, to be joined by Dave a little later on.

By the time 9:30 rolled around Martin, Valencia's oldest and most earnest Buck 65 fan, had run the gamut of emotional extremes. Luckily, he had emerged from the despair-rage of the 8:05-8:28 period to arrive at a good place.

Besides, we three had enjoyed some beers, some laughs, some frustration, and some life lessons.

So in the end, not a bad night. But, can't help but think that we could have had all that cake and ate it too, with a little less pre-purchase hesitation, and a little more ticket.


17 February 2011

Marbles & Furniture, Comedy Jazz

Marbles, London's favourite Canadian-Cornish improv duo now has a website! Designed by the bearded Cornishman Dave Waller, it is located right here.

But Ryan, you find yourself asking, I want to know - here and NOW - when is Marbles' next show?

Excellent question. 3 March, at The Miller.

But there's more:

This show, Beats, Rhymes and Mirth, features jazz, improv comedy, and hip hop, all together under one roof. I'm almost impossibly excited. It's ridiculous how sweaty and giddy I am over this.

First, jazz trio Furniture will be playing some funked-up, beat-heavy jazz. Listen. I know right? So good.

Then, Dave and I will do a set of Marbles-brand freeform comedy. For the first time publicly we will be joined by Furniture keyboardist, improviser, Australian, and all-round classy guy Rob Grundel.

If you've never seen Marbles before let me tell you that you've really never seen them until you've seen them multiply their freewheeling comedy stylings by keyboard. To the power of a Korg Kaossilator.

Already it's a huge win and a great night out. But there is a bonus element, for those who really want to party.

After Marbles has done their set, Dave and I will host a freestyle mic-rocking hip-hop free-for-all. One which may also include:

  • An actual rap song by Canadian deep underground mic-wrecker Ryman Illa (of See Spot Rhyme)
  • Guest spots by some of London's premier comedy talent
  • Some drunk guy (TBC)
  • You?
All this for just £5.00. To book a ticket go here.

Seriously. Do it.


09 February 2011

The Hood Mixtape vol. 5

Since I discovered the Hood Mixtape vol. 4 last year, I've listened that tape down to a nub.

And, just in time, the new volume is out!

As Jason Kottke would say, Yes. Yes! YES! It's MIXMAS!


04 February 2011

An Edinburgh Fringe Moment


From my Edinburgh Fringe notes of August 7, 2010.

I arrived at Fringe Central early – at around nine, as has become my custom. I was seated, coffee in one hand, stapler in the other, with a two sheets-worth of glowing reviews of Roman Around printed out on fortune cookie fortune-sized strips of paper, and a stack of flyers on the table in front of me.

While having your flyer adorned with bold pullquotes and five star reviews is preferable, if you'd already printed your flyers before the (three and four star) compliments came in, it is apparently accepted practice to just staple them to your flyers. I was not about to hide the nice things that have been said, and there’s a meditative quality to the rhythmic papercutting and stapling that’s a nice way to start the day – productive and relaxing.

And then I witnessed, and was drawn into, something that upon reflection was pretty amazing - and somehow emblematic of the hustled flurry and random encounters of Fringe-ness. It was also hilariously awkward.

Fringe Central was busy, as it always is, with Fringe staff, producers, journalists, performers and all manner of folks in various stages of panic or hustle. As I sat down I noticed the smartly-dressed journalist, about my age, sitting two tables over. He always seemed to be at Fringe Central when I was there, working his laptop and his phone, lining up shows to see and emailing finished reviews to papers.

Not too far away on the other side of me was a middle-aged producer, sweat stains already creeping out from the armpits of his baby blue golf shirt. He too was working the phone lines. I sat stapling away on my stapler, letting their respective half-conversations flow around me – adding more sensory filling to my HOLY SHIT I'M AT THE EDINBURGH FRINGE experience.

After some minutes of overheard phone moments I realized that a single phone conversation being was formed from overheard snippets. Actually, it first entered my consciousness more subtly – their fractured halves aligning in what seemed like a remarkable coincidence.

“Hello,” the journalist answered his phone.
“Good morning,” I heard the producer say. I noticed the way the conversations seemed in sync, and then focused back on a tricky bit of stapling.
The voices then increased in volume, the journalist enunciating into his iPhone, “It's kind difficult to hear you.”
From the producer, just to my right: “I'm sorry, is that better?” an edge creeping into his voice as he shifted in his seat.

By now, I had twigged that I was witnessing something special.

After a moment’s hesitation I stood up to inform the producer that the conversation he was having would be a lot easier if he put the phone down and addressed the gentleman sitting right in front of him. The producer though, confounded by the poor reception, was growing increasingly desperate. He had a reviewer on his hook and did Not. Want. To. Be. Distracted.

As I approached he made a studied attempt to look away and concentrate harder; he did everything but actually wave me away. I tapped him on the shoulder and waited. When he glanced up I pointed at the journalist the next table over. The journalist looked up. I said, loud enough for both to hear, “I think you guys are on the phone with one another.”

After jointly attempting to verify my claim over the phone, they hung up. Then they had an awkward conversation that I enjoyed as a background to my stapling, pleased that I had a personal stake in what was happening: not only had I facilitated a real-life Fringe Connection, I had been part of some bizarre alignment of circumstances and people that can only happen in Edinburgh, and only during the Fringe.


03 February 2011

Fucking Periodic Table Shit


If you're a regular reader you know that I'm way up to date on periodic tables.

Sometimes I'd say I'm right on the knife edge. Like when I was the second (or maybe third, I don't remember exactly, but I was right there) person to break the news of a new element being added to the Periodic Table of Elements.

And the elements one is obviously a pretty good periodic table, and will always hold the title of 'the original'.

But it is not a patch on the Periodic Table of Awesomements, which I reported on here in 2009.

That table even made its way into an improv show by Ottawa's Crush Improv.

Now, my local neighborhood bookstore Pages of Hackney has turned me onto a new periodic table: The Periodic Table of Swearing. Credit to Modern Toss for putting that shit together.

All the fundamental building blocks of a good tirade or invective-torrent are there. But there are also some new favourites, such as Cock Garage (Cg), International Cunt Circus (Icc), and the remarkably restrained - considering it has an atomic number of 68 - Shut Your Bloody Noise (Sbn).

So get some bloody swear science into you, you Big Fucking Arse.