moving about. learning Chinese, practicing Tai Ji Quan, doing Qi Gong, or simply going out running. resisting the monkey impulses.

Monday, December 01, 2008

To Monkey, the opera

so I finally saw Monkey the Opera!

Proper title Monkey: Journey to the West. The west here is India, to the west of the western desert, but it could also been construed as here in London. Based on the pillar of Chinese literature, the Monkey King whatever whatever. For those not familiar, think of a cross between Don Quixote, Buffy (only with more actual sex), the Young Ones and the Gospel according to Luke. The famous novel is thoroughly comi-serious. Mallory and Python in one sprawling package.

How could I not be a fan? This first came to my notice before its premiere in Manchester in 2007. Fascinated! Why? let's see : arrrt (Hewlitt), martial and otherwise, cheeky monkeys, Chinese culture, Blur-y musical wildness, Mandarin.

Organisational crapness, and not wanting to sit in a crowded Pendolino all the way to Manc, prevented me from joining in. If my monkey-brain is right, I was probably tragically over-involved in the usual tussles, so come the weekend, phuh!

The show has now productionised itself, and is in the middle of a stint at the do.. er O2. Well not quite, a shaky tent just outside. So think circus-style wobbly bleachers and slightly dodgy canvas walls. All black though, to set off Jamie Hewlitt's art and the red lanterns, emblazoned with the ever-present monkey glyph.

en passant, I quite liked the whole Brit-cit 2000 AD scenario of train, tube, dome. More or less what I had imagined aged 12, less any flying cars.

What we saw then, was quite brilliant, though not the totally immersive spectacle that I'd imagined. Each of the set-pieces was great, and there was music and action and emotion in each one. The various scenes followed the genesis of each character, drawing on various elements and forces as a result. The Dalian circus performers were marvellous, spinning and flipping and posing, either in specific characters or fighters or as part of a background fantastic world. Costumes and props were clever, witty and stunning.

The music was weird and jangly (Damon Albarn does this very well), just how I like it. We had a good view of the band, which was a nice bonus.

Sung, yelped, growled and shouted in Mandarin, the words were probably incomprehensible to most (though maybe not, lots of Chinese faces in the audience) but I managed to grasp the odd word, e.g. DA SI NI MEN !! Quite encouraging really.

The main linking device between scenes was a closing of the screens and a chance to drool over a Hewlitt animation. These were often delightfully linked to the live-action through lighting effects. Maybe the links were a bit long, there was obviously quite a bit of scene shifting and re-costuming to be done, but somehow it felt like 9 lumps (of course, 9! the final scene being in heaven) and not a single great story all wound together as one, like.

Why was that? Limits of the medium? Not being in the front? Monkey's numb bum?

Still, there was so much to look at and think about, that the normally rip-off program was a bargain, stuffed as it was it gorgeous illustrations and nerdy details. Even a proper bibliography.

The soundtrack, which I've had for a few months now without making sense of, linguistically or otherwise, is now going to get a good rummage.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cycling in London

I've been waiting for ages for my folding bike to arrive. At last, here it is:


I'm really pleased with this. It can be folded in under a minute, and I can carry it round the block without my fingers going numb. The purpose of this is to whizz up from my mainline station in town to where I work. This could be a 25 minute tube journey or a fairly random amount of time on the bus. It's 10-15 minutes on the new toy.

I've found cycling in London perversely a lot easier than in Surrey. There are more paths and stop areas, and most drivers have by now seen a cyclist, and understand why we sometimes do odd things. We like to keep moving, and out of harm's way, so we don't always keep to the left where we can get squashed. So the taxis and buses all nod me through. Contrast this to leafy Surrey, where the 4x4 crowd think they have every right to blare their horns if I so much as think about using the road creatively.

And now for something completely different ...

Although Mayor Bozza is (was?) a cyclist, I fear that we have to fight for our space. So I was up there again for the weekend's naked bike ride, as reported in Londonist. This is partly a pro-cycle jamboree, but also somewhat an anti-petrol patrol and a little bit plain old naturist party. At least a couple of my hobbies represented then.

Snapping Assembly area Another Pause Music Bike

I took a small number of photos, but not as much as the gleeful spectators or some of the other riders. Have a look at the other Flickr WNBR groups (e.g. here and here) if you want confirmation of just how beautiful and funny the human race can be when it gets naked on a bike!

Obvious warning: depictions of nudity, blah, blah.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Overdoing it?

I should know better, what with my colleague being having been on a heart-surgery rollercoster, and who is now spending hours in sofa-ville, recovering.

The running was going fairly well, which is to say uneventful, until just now. The countryside has been lovely in the sun, and I'd been scampering about it 2-3 times a week. Mostly steady-paced running, usually with the same partner.

This Friday, we decided on Intervals, and round a field/cricket pitch nearby. I've done plenty of 2-minute fast sessions round there before, so I know the procedure pretty well.

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Now, you know when you do hard sessions, you usually hold something back? Well I do, anyway, not being temperamentally suited to the make-yourself-puke school of training. This time, having been complemented on my apparent speed (M travels a lot, and was jet-legged, hence 10 s behind), I progressively started to pile on the pressure at each repetition, knocking seconds off the watch each time. " 加油!" you might say. On the last but two reps, I started fairly steadily and was pumping all out for the last 50 yards. On the penultimate rep, I went for it with 120 yards to go. Can't. Talk. On the last one, I pretty much went for it from the beginning. These reps were all in the 1:45 area. Hey not bad. Nice jog home, shower, out for a curry in the evening.

You know when you eat loads, hot food especially, you can get uncomfy in the night? Well it wasn't that. Or had I bruised a rib? We occasionally practice push hands at home, but not with any striking, so it wasn't that. It was more like a soreness inside. Ouch. Sleeping on the other side didn't help. In the morning, the discomfort was still there, associated with a particular organ in the left side of the chest. It would exaggerating to call it pain. Is it possible to red-line a heart, bending the valves? Is it serious? Will it get better by itself?

Saturday was pretty normal, shopping and stuff. World Cup was completely unexciting, about from That Headbutt (Zinedine may have a future as a martial artist?). Lack of excitement is good. Low heartrate is good. I felt OK, but was still aware of Something Different. I cried off the Long Sunday Run, and flopped about at home. Flopped about at the office yesterday.

Today, I trekked through London to get to said colleague's place (two trains and a tube each way, which means about 3 miles of walking). I really felt as if my legs were in a different mode. Not heavy, but prevented from swiftness. It was rather an effort to get about. Normally I bound up stairs two at a time, but today there seemed to be a limit to my rate of progress. I was quite happy to bumble about in third gear. Or just to Sit Down.

Clearly something knows I need to take it easy. I'm going to check with my GP tomorrow. Meanwhile, no more running for a while.

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