Edinburgh – ow my sides hurt

September 23, 2008 at 9:03 am | Posted in Comedy | Leave a comment
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The main reason I wanted to visit Edinburgh was for the fringe festival, mainly the comedy shows. So the night time was devoted to stand up, and the day was sight seeing. My lovely colleagues gave me a farewell present of a Falconry experience at Dalhousie Castle so I had that to look forward to. Let’s start with that…

Falconry: What an incredible experience. It was raining in the morning. Raining half and hour before the session, but then managed to clear up. Unfortunately we couldn’t actually take the Falcon’s out because they won’t fly in the rain. So just had to make do with the Owls and the Eagles! The words to sum up Falconry? Graceful, elegant, intelligent, beautiful and heavy!

Bill Bailey: Weaving music with stand up observational witty wordsmith. I felt that he has now moved more towards music than stand up. Not that I am complaining, as I believe that he is an incredible musician. If you’ve seen Black Books you’d know be aware of his musical skill. This was the first show I went to at the festival and felt it was a nice way to break in.

Russell Howard: One of the last shows I went to, and if you’ve read my blog you’re well aware of how much  I love his radio show with Jon Richardson. He has recently left the show with Jon Richardson now taking over. Back to his stand up. He delivers all stories with this school boy energy and charm that makes you like him despite the content (not that it wasn’t funny). My sister didn’t actually find him as funny, I think his humour perhaps wasn’t to his liking. But he was incredibly entertaining, and attracted a huge crowd.

Mark Watson: One of the only comedians that I had seen previously… on a number of occasions. I believe that he is one of the most intelligent comedians I have seen. Just the way he structures and presents his stories are interesting. One of the images he presented was a pigeon flying into the forehead of a man. Just conjuring up that image in my mind makes me laugh.

Michael McIntyre: The funniest comedian with the floppiest hair. If you ever watch him you’ll be mesmerised by his hair movement when he shakes his head about. But besides that, he is incredibly hilarious, lots of observational humour and delivered by a consummate professional.

Ed Byrne: One of my biggest fears about going to watch Ed Byrne was not being able to understand him. In actual fact he was perfectly understandable and just as funny as I expected. This was the first time I had seen Ed Byrne live after seeing him on TV back in the early 90s when he did a lot of comedy galas, one of his most famous pieces of material is about Alanis Morrisette and her lack of irony in he song Ironic.

Jason Byrne & Adam Hills: A midnight show, that was a huge surprise. I have seen Jason Byrne on many festival galas on TV and thought he was quite ordinary (probably because he only has a couple of minutes). He was an absolute laugh in this show. I felt that he upstaged Adam Hills. Far more natural and believable. It was pretty funny hearing Adam constantly asking “Excuse Me?” to Jason because he couldn’t quite understand him with his thick Irish accent.

Jon Richardson: After listening to his and Russell duel it out on a week to week basis it is great to put a face to a name. He is still quite new to the scene and it does show in comparison to the seasoned professionals, but he is getting better and does have some unique qualities, mainly his OCD.

Jimmy Carr: The king of the one liner. It isn’t for everyone, and my sister proved that. She didn’t really like a lot of his stuff, I think because a lot of it is quite in your face and as they are one liners, it’s hit after hit after hit. His show was quite long as well, so my cheeks were hurting quite a bit throughout the show.

Danny Bhoy: I’m afraid I am not sure whether I can see Danny Bhoy for a long time. He tours quite a bit, particularly in Australasia, but he recycles material. I have seen him I believe twice before, and left quite a big gap between last time and the festival and he is still throwing up some old material. I think it’s great to throw in some safe ones, but after a few years I would have thought that they wouldn’t be used. Ah well.

Henry Rollins: Also probably one of the biggest surprises of the festival for me. I had never seen him do ‘stand-up’ before … there’s debate over whether it’s stand-up or spoken word, so I had no expectations. I was a fan of Black Flag, he’s got tattooes, he’s rock and roll so he’s bound to be cool yeah? But he’s also quite funny, very passionate and delivers everything with conviction. He went overtime and was given the red light many many times and didn’t go off-stage. He was doing a limited run at the festival with the hope that next year he could perhaps do a full run. Given the popularity (there were people outside asking people to sell their tickets to them), I wouldn’t be surprised if he got it.

There’s far more to Edinburgh than the shows that I went to, but unfortunately I didn’t get to see as much as I liked, nor did I get to climb Arthur’s seat. Ah well, I am only a few hours away and will probably head back to the festival next year…

New York, New York

September 7, 2008 at 5:37 am | Posted in Me | Leave a comment
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Thankfully the weather wasn’t as hot as Japan. A little bit of relief! My main observation of New York was the food. There’s lots there but a small is a medium, a medium is a large and a large is an extra large! You end up ordering something small and they pile on the food!

Art Deco galore: One of the most beautiful architecture styles (in my opinion) and New York is full of these buildings. Empire State, NBC Studio, Radio City Music Hall, Chrysler Building to name a few.

Times Square: well there was the Naked Cowboy as well as all the broadway shows

Chicago: I decided that whilst in New York, must go to broadway. So went and saw Chicago. I haven’t actually seen it before, have seen the movie before. Verdict? Well I actually thought the musical was much better than the movie. It was interesting the amount of comedy that was actually weaved into it, when the movie version is far more serious.

Art Museums: WOW. MET is huge. I was extremely happy as I got to see works by some artists that I really admire (Hopper, Degas). Seeing the works that I studied in school in real life was humbling. I couldn’t believe how big it is, as well as how long you could spend in there. The Guggenheim wasn’t as good as what I thought it would be. I found it to be a little bit empty in comparison to MET. There was a small single exhibition on Kandinsky which was probably the highlight. The Museum of Modern Art housed a fantastic special exhibit on Dali. I was not a big fan of him to begin with but this exhibition completely changed my opinion.

SOHO: I loved it. The vibe was very much cafe culture, small boutique stores, lots of cool shops, and great places to eat. Spent a long time there. Would love to go back.

Central Park: I wish I had my rollerblades for this leg of the journey. Some people had thought of that, and in the centre of the park there seemed to be a small exhibition happening of people with their blades. One woman looked like she was ice skating such was her skill. It was nice to be surrounded by green for once.

World Trade Centre, Staten Island Ferry, Financial District: Of course fitting that the day we went to see the WTC it was raining. By the time we got there it cleared up slightly so at least we didn’t need to keep running under awnings. You couldn’t really see anything (not that you would probably want to). I just found it interesting that it was previously a place where people came to go up the towers and look out at the city. And now tourists are getting photos taken in front of the rubble.

Tokyo – Need I say anymore

September 7, 2008 at 5:21 am | Posted in Me | Leave a comment
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Righty-o, Tokyo a whirlwind of lights and shopping, shopping, shopping. Of course there is the old mixed in with the new, and the crazy kids and their outfits. What a place.

Stayed: Hotel New Star in Ikebukuro

Verdit: It wasn’t that bad. We didn’t have to walk very far from the station to the hotel. It was small as they all are and really just a place to lay your head.

Sights:

Nanjatown/Ikebukuro Gyoza Stadium: That’s right a whole place dedicated to Gyoza (Japanese fried dumplings). The ‘stadium’ is located within Nanjatown which is pretty much a place for kids (or big kids in this case). There are so many stalls to choose from, and many varieties of Gyoza to choose from. Yummmy

Imperial Palace Gardens: You can’t go inside as this is the actual palace of the royal family. But you get a chance to see the outside and the beautiful sculptured gardens.

Rumik World: I was fortunate to be in Tokyo at the time when my manga hero had an exhibition on. Rumiko Takahashi is the creator of one of the only comics that I am committed to ready Ranma 1/2. I stumbled upon the exhibition of all of her works in a department store of all places. Bit of a pilgrimage for me…

Senso-ji: The place was swarming with tourists, it was boiling hot. It was very spiritual but I would probably go on another day. Did however see a Geisha there! Felt sorry for her, as it was at least 35 degrees celsius, she must have been melting.

Studio Ghibli: The museum for the wonderful world of Miyazaki. If you are familiar with Miyazaki’s films “Spirited Away”, “Howl’s Moving Castle” etc you’ll understand what sort of place Studio Ghibli is. Lots of animation cells, explore a recreation of his studio, beautiful garden and a bespoke short film created and shown in the theatre.

Harajuku: As well as the shopping, there is the kids that dress up in those outfits. When we walked around there, tourists were swarming and wanting to take photos of the kids. There were ‘minders’ who were shielding the kids. Once again I felt sorry for the kids because it was really hot. I was impressed that their make up didn’t run!

Meiji-jingu shrine: You have to walk past the goth kids, and end up walking the length of an beautiful garden till you reach the shrine. There were monks there praying, banging the big drums and we also saw a traditional wedding between a Japanese woman and a non Japanese man. It was great to see everyone dressing up in the traditional clothes.

Shibuya: The scramble crossing is what it is most famous for (apart from the shops). You can get a great view from the Starbucks which is what all the tour guides tell you to go. What they don’t tell you is that you can’t take any photos up there. The scramble crossing is definitely as crazy as what everyone say it is. The statue of Hachiko is also located there.

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum: That’s right a ramen museum. A museum full of noodles. My heaven. Essentially the first floor is dedicated to the history of noodles. It looks at the varieties found in Japan and traces the evolution of the cup noodle. There was a cup noodle with Arnie’s face on it! The bottom floor has been designed to look like an old noodle market. With traditional ramen stalls and places for you to try the different varieties. You are expected to buy at least one bowl of noodle.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office: This is actually a free observation deck where you can see the whole city. Unfortunately the day we went it was incredibly smoggy, therefore you couldn’t see that far out.

That’s the end of the Tokyo trip, I didn’t mention any of the department stores or the shopping because it would fill a whole blog!

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