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Archive for September, 2010

@ The Promised Land, 23/09/10

This was my first Cardiff Girl Geek. I brought along my fellow blogger vanillalatte_1’s other half Drew as my ‘plus 1’ (guys can only attend if they are invited by a girl).

We were greeted by Chyrelle and Claire the two very smiley and friendly organisers and asked to wear name stickers which was a really good idea although I think I should have put my Twitter handle (@raitapaita) on my tag a la @reinikainen to try and get some more follows. Plus it might have been a conversation starter.

Drew and I jumped straight in there chatting to Aussie twitterer and techie Mark (@markheseltine) about whether blogs should be used as money-spinners through using adwords etc (Drew is of the strong opinion that they should) and I whinged a little bit about  how tweeting about two niche interests – Finland, and MotoGP – means I’ll never have many followers and am constantly alienating at least half of them at least half of the time.

After a little more chitchat dinner was served. Drew saved me a seat whilst I had to do a little eyelash fluttering at the server to give me two plates of chilli. Whilst in the queue had another little chat with Mark about school dinners and tuck shops as the guy ladling out chilli and us all forming an orderly queue (with @reinikainen first in line) had reminded me of school days.

Over dinner Drew and I discussed his MsC dissertation project and the problem of referencing code written by someone else (well, look this is a geek dinner!)

After dinner is was time for a talk by Dr. Kelly Page on ‘The Gendering of Digital Media Knowledge: Is it really all about Sex?” The talk was a short introduction into her research interests and some of the issues, questions and problems surrounding using ‘gender’ as a definition and a quantifier in research. I especially agreed with her point that gender is not binary (boy/girl) but a spectrum of masculinity and femininity and therefore to group results into boys think/say/do, girls think/say/ do is fairly meaningless. But then we’re faced with the problem that making gender a spectrum “muddies the waters” and makes the answers to a lot of questions “we just don’t know.” The gender issue of course applies to any field of research but is perhaps especially interesting / relevant in the emerging field of digital media knowledge which,  although perhaps seen by some as a male-dominated field is affected by the gender-neutral and anonymous nature of the online world.  The talk blew my mind a little bit and I’m not sure I (after 2 glasses of wine and a belly full of chili) completely grasped everything Dr. Page was saying but she was a great speaker: bubbly, lively, inquisitive and engaging. She asked for questions at the end and quite a few people piped up. The question that interested me most came from @reinikainen who, after Dr. Page made the slip up of saying “The web designer. What does he do at the weekends?”, introduced the idea of how language influence gender stereotyping. He used the example of the Finnish language where one word – “hän” – means both he/she and it so in Finnish you can’t gender stereotype in the same way.

After the talk there was more mingling and chatter. I enjoyed listening to Girl Geek organizer Claire and Drew discuss the South Wales music scene and community with especial reference to under-used concert venues in Cardiff. We moved downstairs after the advertised finishing time of 830 and I got chatting to a group of Cardiff girl tweeters including @grainyknits and @nicintosh – nice to make some new Twitter friends.

The chattering continued and I ended up outside under the patio heaters with Chyrelle, Claire, @reinikainen Dr. Page and some others to carry on slightly more tipsy and less geeky conversations on, amongst other topics netball and cigarettes. We stayed until the staff switching off the heaters gave us the sign that perhaps we should let them close up and go home for the night. I then shared a hilarious taxi ride with Chyrelle, Claire and @reinikainen. All in all a great night. See you all at the next one!

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  Three restaurant reviews, three first visits.

 Spice Quarter, Brewery Quarter, Cardiff 17/09/10

 Spotlessly clean and smart restaurant where you can see the chefs at work in the kitchen. It was interesting watching them cook the naan breads and my best efforts at distracting them didn’t put them off!

We arrived at 9pm having booked a table. My dinner companions were pretty “well refreshed” and a little rowdy.  We were squeezed onto a table without much elbow room or room to stretch out! I sat at the end with the designated driver and discussed the merits of Formula One vs. World Rally. The table ordered some popadums and dips to share. There was enough to go round and they happily brought us extra mango chutney when requested. For my main I ordered chicken tikka masala and garlic naan. The tikka masala was really creamy with a good depth of flavour and a spicy kick (but then I’m a real wimp when it comes to spicy food!) . The staff were very polite but the seating arrangement meant a lot of passing plates etc over peoples’ heads etc. I’d def go again but I’d like a better table.

 Harvester, Cardiff Bay 18/09/10

 My first ever visit to a Harvester. The occasion was vanillalatte_1’s birthday (Happy Birthday fellow blogger!).  The bar staff were super slow on the up take to serve us pre-dinner drinks – and I was VERY thirsty! But service when we sat down was good. Due to a mix up in the kitchen I got a bigger, better steak at no extra charge. Guess It was a shame for the guy who got mine but he deserves it if he can’t tell different between rump and sirloin! I was very excited by the free salad bar but in the end I only had one bowl as was trying to save myself for the main! We were all too full for pudding and cost for 7x mains and 4x sides was £63. Amazingly good value I thought!

 Ruby Tuesday’s, St. Davids Dewi Sant Centre, Cardiff 22/09/10

Last time I went to a Ruby Tuesday was three years ago in Times Square, NYC  so visiting the Cardiff restaurant (RT’s   first UK franchise) wasn’t quite the same ambience. The cook their fries in something delicious (don’t want to think about what) they are the yummiest fries ever and very moreish so it’s lucky they have their ‘bottomless fries’ gimmick. Although I was of course very British about it and asked very shyly for more. They also do bottomless refills on soft drink and do this without asking. They also come and snatch your glass away without asking and then don’t bring a refill! They seemed to be in a big hurry to turn our table over and kept coming over to ask if we were done. Perhaps this is to stop people sitting there all night eating fries and drinking Coke which is what we were trying to do but I felt a bit hassled. There’s a fine line between prompt and attentive service and feeling ‘bothered’ by the staff and I’m afraid RT’s crossed it.

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  There’s a slight difficulty in describing exactly what it is that Frisky and Mannish do. They describe it as ‘twisted pop cabaret’ and aim to educate their audience in the history and politics of popular music. I would say their act consists more of satirising and lampooning the power ballad / boy band end of the music market (as well as spot on impersonations of Lily Allen and Florence Welch). To glorious, uproarious effect. Really all I can say is: go and see them. Now.  Do it so you can say when they have become monster, best selling DVD, booking out Wembley famous that you ‘discovered’ them and loved them way back when…

Last night’s show at St. David’s Hall saw F&M fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe performing the first date on their ‘The College Years’ Tour. The show basically consists of Frisky on vocals and Mannish on keyboard and vocals performing new arrangements / reimaginings of ’80s, ’90s and ’00s pop songs. The reason this seemingly simple idea works so brilliantly for F&M is due to the amount of warmth, wit, talent and waspish humour in the delivery. Both have blow-you-away voices and impressive vocal ranges and could walk something like the X Factor. Both are also young, sexy, dressed up to the nines and prone to break out the crazy dance moves which I’m sure helps keep the audience hooked. 

Frisky and Mannish performed in the L3 Lounge at St Davids Hall an underrated venue which suits this kind of thing perfectly.  The audience instantly warmed to them and they seemed to have their fan club in as there was quite a bit of merry heckling from one table!

 Good news! F&M are performing at the Comedy Box in Bristol 12th and 13th Nov…Go book now!

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I’d better start this review with a confession…I wimped out of Mardi Gras. I only stayed until 5ish so I missed Ianto/Gareth David Lloyd and possibly quite a few other celebs.  This wimping out had nothing to do with the quality or variety of the delights on offer at Mardi Gras but was purely due to my fragile physical/mental state induced by a bout of drinking at Chapter on Friday night followed by having to get up early to work Sat morning.  I know this is a rubbish excuse considering my fellow blogger vanillalatte_1 accompanied me at Chapter (the drinking was preceded by watching Gary Coyle’s ‘At Sea’ – see our review here) and was up super early and at Mardi Gras for 12 hours!

So, impressions of Mardi Gras:

I rolled up about 12.45 armed with McDonalds for the hard working Press Officer which the gate guards/stewards very kindly let me bring on site. I then staggered to the Co-op tent where I picked up my green backstage wristband (me so cool!). Press Officer then came to find/rescue me and escorted me backstage where I got my ‘Media’ gaydar.co.uk lanyard. I then collapsed backstage for a bit to watch the comings and goings and listen to the performers on the main stage over the roar of the gennies.

After a bit I decided to have an explore around the site. I managed to bagsy quite a few freebies from  the various stalls although I could perhaps have been a bit cheekier and got more. Best freebie was fabric bag from National Museum of Wales adorned with a pair of wellies in honour of the fact that they were exhibiting Dame Shirley Bassey’s wellies from Glasto.  I also got some nice stickers from Amnesty International and the Welsh Labour Party. Thanks to Stonewall I now know ow to say “Some people are gay. Get over it.” (best slogan ever) in Cymraeg – well I have it written down, haven’t memorised it yet!

I then met up with some mates and we went to watch the South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus (SWGMC) perform on the Cabaret Stage.  Preceeding them was a glamourpuss belting out some pop hits inc. Alexandra Burke’s version of Hallelujah which she did very well. The SWGMC completly stole her thunder by dancing and singing along behind her ‘backstage’ and one them even got up on stage tobump ‘n’ grind with her! She took it in good spirits though. When it came to SWGMC’s performance they disappointed a bit as the rhythm seemed to have deserted them and they only swayed gently whilst singing when moments before they’d been doing the can-can ‘backstage. ‘ Sadly they were also a bit drowned out by the bass pounding from the funfair rides. They still delivered a charming performance, however.

There has been some controversy about the culture/atmosphere surounding the site and  the set up of the site itself. I thought it was a good idea to fence it as it made it feel safe and secure but I think the site was too small. Even by 5pm it was too crowded to walk around the site freely and there was a feeling of being ‘penned ‘ or ‘kettled’ plus the queues to get in and crowds around the entrance were pretty bad. But the atmosphere was gentle and non-threatening (at least in the early evening). I think considering this was a free event there was lots to see and do and the organisers should be very proud of their acheivement.  A thought for ext year though: lots more loos please as there always seemed to be 30+ people queuing!

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Review: Gary Coyle: ‘At Sea’

Gary Coyle: ‘At Sea’ – Chapter Arts Centre, Friday 3rd September

Gary Coyle’s solo performance ‘At Sea’, a culmination of over 10 years spent swimming in the sea every day and photographing and documenting his experiences, is a beautifully presented glimpse into the mind of an artist.

Using photos as visual pointers, Coyle talks through his experiences and motivations in the photographic project which, throughout its course, developed to include writing notes about his swims as well as collecting and bottling the sea water.

A natural public speaker, Coyle is very engaging and easy to listen to and his account includes a lot of humour as well as well-structured tales of particular journeys. His philosophy about performance art is also very insightful; he tells of how he has always hated performance art but somehow became a work of performance art over this epic mission to record his unique experience.

The photographs themselves are stunning – sometimes surprisingly ordinary images are brought to live by the stories recounted in relation; other images need no explanation, many are humorous, some completely mesmerising.

The most interesting aspect of the performance is seeing Coyle recount how absorbed he has become with the experience of daily swims recorded in this way. It’s almost as if he wants it to seem ridiculous but is feeling a deeper commitment to the art than he is prepared to let on.

This is not the sort of performance one encounters every day and is a must if you want to experience a very interesting way to combine several art forms without losing the beauty and greatness of any of them.

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