Friday, November 11, 2011

AOL and The Huffington Post

The Huff is now the main news page on AOL in the UK and its proof readers are to be congratulated on producing accurate, grammatically correct copy. Unfortunately, the front page of AOL is still written by bozos who are unable to spell or to write anything that makes sense. Until the Huff controls the front page as well will remain a haven for illiterati.

Today's front page gems (the inside versions of these by the Huffington Post are correct - it's just the usual AOL ace cub reporters who can't write) :

Landlords boast profits in rent boom

Italy to vote crunch on austerity plans

Poppy burning Muslim group faces ban

Monday, July 18, 2011

And the judge said...

Bank Street Writers
International Short Story Competition 2011
Judged by Joan Park, novelist.


1st Prize £75.00
Parsons and Pretenders (Austentatious) by Andrew Campbell-Kearsey, Brighton.
‘An imaginative title and a good opening line create interest. The writer shows a good use of language and I enjoyed his alliteration and play on words. The reference to celebrities puts the story in time and place and the ending rounds off the story perfectly. Emotion: Laughter.’

2nd Prize £50.00
A Prescription for Horror by Ken Marshall, Torfaen.
‘A clever title sets the scene for this powerful story. I enjoy binary combinations and here we have innocence v testosterone fuelled wickedness. An excellent short story where a lot is said in a few words. Emotion: Dread.’

3rd Prize £25.00
Statues by Sue Johnson, Pershore.
‘Here we have a formidable boy meets girl story. We know how it is going to end but the getting there is enjoyable. The alliteration – clearing clutter, finished by Friday, damage was drop-dead gorgeous, all flowed beautifully. Emotion: Satisfaction.’

Two stories were Highly Commended:

Maiden Voyage by Norman Kitching, Gosport.
‘A good title, a sense of place and a character who we can relate to set the scene for this story. Life gets in the way of most of our dreams but Sadie hangs on to hers and we can applaud her for this. A Twist in the Tale ending is not always successful, but we have it here and it works. Emotion: Surprise.’

High Hopes by Sarah Evans, Welwyn Garden City.
‘An emotional story with a lot of believable dialogue between mother and son. We all want our children to be ‘normal’ and fit in and in this story we share the mother’s frustration when her son doesn’t conform. Emotion: Pity.’

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Hard Traveller

Thirty years down the line, Dave Sharp now has a top repertoire of his own songs. Some of these refer to his time spent in America where he played alongside many of the big names. His lyrics reflect a troubadour tradition that goes back to Woody Guthrie, in fact some of the songs are what could be called updates on old Guthrie songs.

When you hear a song like his 'Hard Travellin' for the first time, especially if like me your music roots go back to the American folk tradition, it is hard not to be moved by the resonance of the lyrics: the poor are given comfort through religion, there are references to the 'last fair deal' and to a 'vision of the nation'. Guthrie himself wrote a different 'Hard Travellin' and lived that life, travelling around America, championing the oppressed, singing for his supper.

Dave Sharp's version contains some terrific imagery:

Desert roses far from water... three ravens rising, two rivers raging... and so on.

His voice has certainly mellowed since the Alarm days, and has that 'been around' edge that only constant gigging and Marlboros can produce. He is of course living the legend of the hard traveller, gigging all over the country up to four times a week at small venues. He has a particularly strong following in Scotland and Wales.

It is fair to say his overall performance at these gigs - I have seen three of them this year - puts most other solo acts in the shade. I don't see many if any guitarists with his flatpicking skills and I see a lot of guitarists.

I am looking forward to his new material with a new band. The CD should be out in a few months time. Meanwhile you can catch plenty of his stuff on youtube both the more recent solo material and his work with The Alarm. It is worth noting some of the comments by youtube viewers many of whom refer to him as a greatly underrated guitarist, as the engine or powerhouse of the Alarm and so on.

Try to listen to his 'Looking this world over' or to my own favourite 'Mexico'. Great songs. His eponymous website has a long list of gigs to come this year.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

David Byrne: Ride, Rise, Roar. The Michael Clark Company: come, been and gone.

Two very different dance productions came to Manchester this month. On Thursday 20th January we went to see ‘Ride, Rise, Roar’. This was a film about David Byrne’s tour a couple of years ago and was different in that he had three dancers animating his songs during each concert. Unfortunately, the showing at the Imax in Manchester was very badly advertised and only a handful of people turned up to watch it. Besides the Byrne classics there was some newer material which was very different and exciting. The dancers made a huge difference to the performance. At the end of the film we were ushered to a different screen in the complex for a live satellite link-up where we watched a question and answer session with David Byrne and Stuart McClunie. This was much shorter than we were told it would be by the cinema staff and McClunie only let one member of the audience in London ask one question while he asked loads. He seemed ill at ease with the whole interview and was disappointing. David Byrne, looking as youthful as ever despite the white hair, was much more amenable, probably because he had nothing to prove.

The second event was the Michael Clark Company’s ‘come, been and gone’ at The Lowri on Friday 28th January. This was an amazing show. The first dance under the heading ‘gone’ was from ‘Swamp’ a revival from the 1990s set to pulsating, electronic music by Wire and Bruce Gilbert. This was perhaps my favourite section of the night. The four other sections were set to music by Brian Eno, Lou Reed, Kraftwerk and above all David Bowie. Of course,the interpretation of Bowie’s more popular numbers such as Heroes and The Jean Genie went down a storm. The costumes were mostly by Stevie Stewart. The dancers were Kate Coyn, Melissa Hetherington, (both of whom teach for the Company) Oxana Panchenko, Brooke Smiley, Harry Alexander, Simon Williams and Benjamin Warbis.
This was the kind of performance you could watch many times and experience something different each time. With up to seven dancers on stage, plus the music and sometimes back projection, there is so much to take in that a very enjoyable sensory overload occurs. It was uplifting, it was fabulous. From androgynous costumes to complement Bowie’s music, to a figure stuck with hypodermics while Lou Reed sang about heroin, there was a very powerful connection between costumes and movement and sound.
The dancers rightly received several long curtain calls from the packed house. A whole new performance will premier in London in June. Not to be missed.