Hoorah for Hollywood!

It’s been a while, folks.

I feel like I say that a lot. If I do, it’s because I’ve discovered that whilst I enjoy writing, I’m terrible at getting around to it. In a world full of stimuli seeking my attention, blogging oft gets shunted or propelled down the list. I’ve also been blogging on another site, so I need to figure out a way to share content.

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What is good, is that I’ve been a busy chap and moved again. For those of you who follow my peregrinations, you’ll know that I have lived in several countries including most recently, Portugal, Malaysia and back to the UK for a few years. Last August I made the decision to move to Los Angeles, California. I’ve been here a year now and I divide my time between teaching and making theatre and of course, performance. This year has been full and culminated with a stint at The Hollywood Fringe, for which I designed and collaborated on awhile new show called ‘The Universe (101)’ with fellow ISTA teaching artist Matthew Godfrey, a Canadian clown who I’ve known for years. I am happy to report that it has been an unqualified success with the public and the critics earning four awards and a nomination for ‘Best Cabaret & Variety’.

I have the penultimate show this evening and I’m about to make some props that are needed every night for some of the mystery work!

Since I’ve only been here a year, it’s been all about making contacts and meeting folk and I am getting to the position now where I am able to use those contacts. My teaching work has been both illuminating and invigorating. The small arts school that I am teaching at is a very liberal place and I have found myself having to adapt to new ways of working but also to bring some of my practices into the ethos of the school. In the short time I have worked there, I have helped the students achieve success in the community and also in the larger world through performances and entering a competition in which they did exceedingly well. Very proud to see them wrestle with material like Shakespeare and not just pull it off but demonstrate a fluency and familiarity in handling such complex text and themes in an assured way.

IMG_3495In Mentalism, I have joined a group of LA based mentalists founded by my mentor the Great Carlyle and his friends some time in the 60′s or 70′s. They’ve been wonderful about allowing a pasty Brit to attend meetings and sound off about the mystic arts. I have already visited the world famous Magic Castle and am in the process of applying for membership and to perform there. Cabaret show Was Ist Das in Noho was the first group to offer me a spot and I am a semi-regular there. I performed at a cabaret during the fringe which I will tell you about another time which was the most hilarious thing I had experienced in a while. With the advent of my new show, I will be touring and heading out to Edinburgh and have designs on New York next year. In hypnotism, I have collaborated with good friend Anthony Jacquin and Think Ten media to produce a web series featuring some frankly amazing hypnosis that hasn’t really been done before (more of that to come).

IMG_3243Being in the eye of the storm for cinema has made me gravitate towards ‘straight’ acting again and I am gearing up to run the gamut of casting directors and agents. Fortunately, my arts school wants me to be walking the walk as well as talking the talk!

It’s been a phenomenal year already including wild fires, mountain lions, black widows, mini tremors, a trip to the Grand Canyon, New York lecturing, teaching forum theatre to 300 adults, hypnotizing folk in Venice Beach, talking at seminars on living as an artist and an active shooter lockdown!

 

Fringe with Benefits

devilFabrySo I am back at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I apologise if you read this blog. As ever I had best intentions but life gets in the way. I actually have no idea whether anyone actually reads it! So feel free to leave a comment as it would be nice to know that this isn’t just therapy.

I’m going to talk about the first week of The Fringe Festival. As you may know, we have brought our brand-spanking new and shiny one-man show ‘The Devil Without’ to Edinburgh. The ‘we’ comprises of myself, Frank (foh, money, production), Mark (stage crew) and Matt (tech operator). It is only a little over a week ago that I hoofed it down to Brighton to tech-head supreme Jake Purches of Vivid Audio to test and pick up the Helmholtz Resonator. A mighty infrasonic speaker that we have nicknamed ‘Hellboy’. Jake has created a monster of marvel and I really couldn’t be happier with Hellboy.

So, Frank, Mark and I made the pilgrimage up the A1 breaking our journey at the wonderful Holy Island before over-nighting in Alnwick.

Alnwick (pronounced ‘Annick’) is a friendly place and despite incredulous quizzes as to why we weren’t staying in Newcastle we managed to have a great evening, including meeting a local who described me as a confidence trickster before I gave him a reading which sent him running away shouting ‘He’s Reel Man! He’s the REEL Deal!’

The next morning we rolled into Edinburgh to the mighty Leith to overnight. We were staying with a group of comedians but the house wasn’t available till the next day, so we hired an apartment for a night and planned the forthcoming tech rehearsal. We also got to meet our Edinburgh techy Matt.

The tech was a classic all-nighter we were scheduled to start at 3am. Most of it was spent ok’ing props and technical elements with the venue staff and getting Matt used to Hellboy. The first time we tried Hellboy in the space was electrifying. On a descending range from 40hz to 8hz the sound hit the different resonate frequencies of the room. The whole theatre literally shook. It was immense. Different materials vibrated as we passed through their frequency giving the impression of something travelling around the room. For me, this was  a particularly profound moment as it was the culmination of a idea that started a long way back. The Martin Atomic strobe we were using too had an amazing flash and although we couldn’t achieve blackout in the space due to health and safety reasons (and hence, no phosphenes), it was adding greatly to what we expected to be a great atmosphere. We rolled out at 7am. I parked the car outside of the city (Central Edinburgh is the caviar of parking!) and made my way back to our flat totally blasted.

Captain of the Lost Weekender

A disturbance in the Force

A disturbance in the Force

Full-on Friday

Festival started proper. As we walked towards the main arena we could hear the jolly strains of the cantina music from Star Wars and a amiable Chewbacca greeted folk next to the universe’s tallest Jawa.
There are lot of serious fans here, the sheer level of detail on some of the costumes beggars belief and you an see the love and craft that have been applied to the costume. Stand-out costumes for me were the Judges, a Motion Capture Jar Jar Binks, a hugely impressive ensemble from Total Recall and a Warhammer 40k Marine. The Galactic Knights were out in full force and in detailed finery, a bunch of Hobbit characters and a mother of dragons/ Khaleesi who made me do a double take.

Glenn rocked up about two pm along with Alan Mitchell. It’s always a bit weird meeting your idols however Glenn was instantly welcoming, warm and friendly. Glenn sat down and instantly got to work whilst across the tables Simon Bisley and Will Simpson were busy working. Alan Mitchell has to be one of the most interesting and thoughtful people I’ve met in a wee while. We had a good chat about the state of things including martial arts in movies with particular focus on Judge Dredd and The Raid.
It was fantastic to see the painting for The Devil Without in full glory behind Glenn whilst he chatted and drew commissions for fans. It really is a striking image.
Whilst hanging out in the ‘strip club’ I met with the boss of Area51, Matt Page.

Area51 are an amazing unit of performers, designers and bespoke festival and events planners. Throughout the day eight feet robots, fauns, leather-clad warriors and other-worldly creatures promenaded through the spaces. Matt kindly offered me a slot with the Imaginarium and Caravan of Lost Souls’ evening performance which gave me a chance to perform a scifi specific routine I have been working on that uses Doctor Who as a premise.
The crowd were lubricated, loud, communicative and up for as much fun as they could get. A perfect audience.

Petey The-Tall bagged this shot.

Petey The-Tall bagged this shot.

I started off with some blindfold work and moved into the time travel routine pausing briefly only to ask the audience to aid me in making the Tardis sound.

In the routine, I get something wrong but as I can time travel, I go forward to the end of the show taking note of what I got wrong and then go back in time to leave myself a note!
The note contains a word that a volunteer is thinking on.
The lady’s face was pure shock when I told her the word. I always love these moments of incredulity from participants whilst their brain re-boots! She was excellent and it was great to run it out to a crowd who ‘really’ understood the concept of time travel.
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Backstage whilst giving the appearance of untrammelled chaos was in reality, a finely choreographed movement piece by the unflappable stage manager Ming. I always love being backstage at events, behind the glamour, seeing the nuts and bolts of theatre, the last-minute checks, alterations and hurried ciggie’s before assuming the character and striding into the stage.

After my performance I got to go through the pass door and watch the inestimable Professor Elemental whip the crowd up with his relentless chap-hop anthems. I particularly enjoyed his riposte at the news that Michael Gove listened to his music and the partisan crowd agreed with his response too. The highlight of his set was when he came amongst the crowd and freestyled on objects the audience held aloft- including a shattered sleeping child, proudly hefted high in a Spider-Man costume.

After the show, I repaired to the bar for a few drinks and a catch-up with Frankie to go over the performance. I always like to pick apart the performance whilst it’s still fresh in my mind and to sift over what worked and what did not. When the adrenalin started to fade so did I so I turned in at a respectable 2am.

Big Saturday

A breakfast bap from the Spar and a cup of coffee from Starbucks set me right for the second full day of SFW5. I was determined to get some film in the can and also to get some publicity for the new show. Yesterday, I was meant to have a three minute stage slot to plug the Kickstarter however timings had gone over and it didn’t happen (such is the way of things) so I approached the good folk of Area 51 running the Caravan of Lost Souls and asked if I could do a set, again, they were receptive and I was scheduled in to do ten minutes of the second show of the day. As this was much more straight-up street performance I went off to do a little planning. I love street work, it’s very honest and you know if you’re getting it wrong because people just move on.
During my time in Edinburgh last year, I saw it happen countless times, where a performer had built up a crowd and then another came on and promptly lost them and also vice versa. The cabaret artists of Area51 are all extremely good at what they do, they worked the crowd easily with an affable charm and a gentle threat from master of ceremonies Luke. The range of work in their show is diverse enough to keep folk rooted to the spot and it’s tight, there is no dead time between acts. What I admire also is the real sense of ensemble, during any act, the other company members will be working the crowd, pulling the public in and entering into subtle by-play with them but-importantly- doing it without drawing focus from the act on stage, an incredibly hard thing to achieve. Even harder when there is a scene-stealing Dalek behind you monologuing about being unable to get served in the bar.

I managed to get along earlier in the day to the chat with Pat Mills hosted by Alan Mitchell. Informative and engaging, Mills is a man who paints his colours firmly on the wall. It was great to hear him sound off on why comics were flailing in the UK, the appeal and untapped area of Girl’s comics and the role of women in comics. Highlights included hearing anecdotal evidence of his time at ‘Spanker’ including the exploits of Captain Cainer and Corporal Punishment administering sound thrashings to the axis forces and also the storyline of a girl’s comic character who pogo-ed across Nazi occupied Europe with the plans for an invasion inside her pogo stick. Marvellous! Made me want to read it! Mills’ take on what constitutes a real hero made for interesting subject matter and I left feeling I felt a little wiser.

My performance went well and I got to road-test an idea based around the blast shield moment on the Millenium Falcon where Luke gets his first lightsabre lesson. It worked well and inspired a few ideas to maximise the comedy. The smaller of the two main areas was a nice space for walkabout and I worked the crowds indoors listening to the panels of hanging out in their Cosplay factions. It made me laugh a lot when I witnessed a bunch of Sith harassing some Jedi. One of the Jedi inadvertently got separated from his herd and the Sith were on him, manhandling him and shoving him about a bit until the other Jedi saw what was going on and came over to claim him. Another cosplayer so involved in her retreat from a Xemomorph crashed into an innocent bystander and simply righted herself and scarpered off! It reminded me of the good old days of Larp’ing and Labyrinth so very long ago.

Whilst performing in a walkabout I strayed into the merchandise area (highly dangerous) and met the absolutely lovely and super-friendly Sandira Reddy & Afshin Salehzah of Canvas Warriors.
http://canvaswarriors.com/

They had THE most coolest painted converse with every kind of genre, series and style you could imagine. In fact, if they didn’t have it, they could do it. Ooh! Bespoke trainers! They will be mine! They also did a fine trade in fantasy and scifi jewellery and accoutrements. I was smitten and bought several bits to give to my family.
We talked comics, art, Djinn and energy and we did some metal bending and I hope to see them again at another event.
By the evening the Cosplay parade was in full force and winners celebrated enthusiastically. In fact, everyone celebrated enthusiastically. The evening show knocked the energy even higher. I met YA Science fiction author Bryony Pearce who I had met on the Friday (so long ago!) looking for the main stages. I’d seen her on a panel and she was sparking with energy after having been on panels all day and running around catching stuff when she wasn’t. Bryony is one of those people you know you’re going to instantly like and she proved to be excellent company, fascinating, whip-smart and with a great sense of humour. I introduced her to Alan and they proceeded to talk in earnest about time travel theories so after a while we went backstage to find Glenn holding court and a bunch of the usual suspects drinking dancing and grinning like loons. We had no intention of beating them and every intention of joining. In a rare moment of time travel theories being validated it all of a sudden became 3.30am and although the venue closed we took the executive decision to carry on back at our chalet. After a litre of brandy and Baileys and large quantities of mirth and drunken dialogue I retired to my cot at a little past 08.00 ish- it gets a bit vague. I left Frankie and the Fabry singing after joining in for a final rousing rendition of ‘Avenues and Alleyways’. They kept going for another hour or so and lulled by their mellifluous vocal stylings I found sleep.
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The Father Turk

Let’s Talk Turkey

As usual, my attempts to make this a weekly blog continues to fail spectacularly. Since I ranted last, I have been practicing hypnotherapy, tarot readings, teaching and performing on the streets of Istanbul and right now, I’m part of the magical, mystical menagerie currently roosting in the railway arches of Shoreditch’s Village Underground known as The Imaginarium.
I shall try to post a few blogs over the next couple of days, so watch out.
I’ll start in Turkey.
Istanbul is always a great place to visit, however, this was the first time I have visited where I felt a palpable sense of tension. Turkey is in a strange and delicate place right now. Friends I talked to, told me that the government was systematically rounding up those who had demonstrated earlier in the year. Including arresting members of the army- Turkey’s traditional safety catch against anti-secularism. Those I talked to, were pessimistic about the future of the country. The undercurrent seems to be dissatisfaction bordering on outright dissent for the current ruling party’s actions. But there is fear, friends of friends suddenly arrested, charged and languishing in jail. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t go this way. Turkey’s path has been as twisty-turny as most nations including controversy, darkness and mishap but part of what makes Istanbul so unique for me, is the way it neatly straddles East and West, a cultural ragout and the way Ataturk blazed a path of reform. Turks are proud of their independence and the progressive ideals sown by their leader.
In fact, I was in Istanbul to celebrate Ataturk and his story at a drama festival, so it seemed poignant and entirely appropriate to look into his influence on modern Turkey. You may not know it, but there is a great story regarding the father Turk during the Gallipoli campaign. During one of the pitched battles, a shell exploded near Ataturk. He made a point of being in the thick of it and his men adored him for it. This shell sent a piece of shrapnel into his chest, knocking him off his feet. One of his men ran over and saw that the shrapnel had gone through his chest, Ataturk however, was alive but shaken. He was saved by a pocket watch in his jacket pocket! The watch was given to a friend of his after the war and was unfortunately stolen, so that today, it’s whereabouts are unknown. Whether or not the story is embellished, it makes for a fantastic story and you can’t but help imagine what a different Turkey sans Ataturk would have looked like today.
On this visit I was staying on the Asian side in Kadikoy, enjoying great views from my top floor breakfast lounge across the Bosphorous, minarets of Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque glinting in the distance. I love the Turks, they have to be one of the most friendly and interactive races on the planet. I have many, many anecdotes that I normally dine out on with regards to their famed amiable nature and hospitality however, I’ll give you this new one: I like to go out and walk around a city. I like to orientate and I like to meet folk. On my second night in Istanbul I went to a few of the local bars, some of them less salubrious than others, in fact one or two wouldn’t look out of place as an interior for a Sergio Leone movie. It’s hard initially, to tell their character because the norm in Istanbul seems to be dark windows and small entrances designed to pull you in via your curiosity and the obligatory rictus grin doorman. So I opted on a bar and in I went. Immediately upon entrance I was clapped on the back and told to sit down. I ordered an Efes and within two sips was joined by a lady. It became apparent that she was ‘working’ so I made clear that my companion for the evening was the pilsner and I decided to change the dynamic by getting out my ESP cards. The transformation was instantaneous, the barman, the doorman, the lady and two of her friends gathered around. Pretty soon the pock-marked and scarred proprietor sauntered over and oversaw what we were doing with his shark-dead eyes. I know about seven phrases in Turkish- none of them applicable to what we were doing and the level of English in the room was lower than a Balham speakeasy at five am. So I let the cards do the talking. The reception to what occurred was lovely; a mix of consternation, rapid chatter, a slice of wonder and narrowed eyes/furrowed brows and jabbed fingers indicating that I should do it again. So I let them take over and we had a great fifteen minutes of scratching heads and pondering via carefully measured moustache strokes. I was interested to see if mentalism, that is normally so dependent on language could still affect, still make a profound impression on someone significantly outside of my culture and linguistic framing. Afterwards there was much cheering, a couple of nervous glances and I was invited over to share a brew with the Turkish version of Spinal Tap by means of a devil’s horns salutation. A dynamic duo, one in head-to-toe black leather with studded accessories and the other wearing a classic 70′s East German secret service combo of box jacket, sleeveless mustard cardy and jaunty-collared shirt. Leatherman performed complicated air guitar solos for me whilst Trabant, his keyboardist friend insisted I listen to Richard Clayderman tracks on his iPhone and communicated his great passion for Clannad. They took me on a tour of a few more bars and although we could only communicate by grunts and gestures, we had a great time hanging out. They were entirely generous with their time, humour, drinks and banter. I’m not sure, as the details are a bit sketchy, but I may be the newest member of the band.
Brooklyn Burger

The Big Apple

I’ve always had a soft spot for New York. I am sure it comes from watching multiple episodes of Taxi, Differn’t Strokes and Cagney and Lacey as a burgeoning adolescent. So you might imagine how excited I was to be in New York a couple of weeks ago. One of the many joys of NYC is simply walking around manhattan and ticking elements off of your mental checklist. There’s always a corner that you’ll turn and bosh! There is a view that you’ve seen many times in a movie. Chrysler building, check! Empire State, check! Steam issuing forth from a drain in the road, check! Cop with donut, double check! Stretched limo, fire truck, tinfoil hat wearing hobo, Times Square, mad lady on subway, well dressed elderly woman with ridiculous yappy dog standing under awning talking to a doorman with a peaked cap…checkity, check, check! And my particular fave: grouchy deli sandwich maker annoyed that you stood for five minutes in the line and you still don’t know what you want!
I was working on 8th avenue delivering drama workshops but also had an ulterior motive/ mission which was that I had manged to finagle a slot on manhattan’s prestigious Monday Night Magic. A mighty magical institution that is New York’s longest running thaumaturgical theatre experience.
So how did it go?
Well, I learnt a whole lot, that much is certain.
1) As my friend Sherri Sutton has oft told folk ‘don’t make fun of Jesus’
2) know your Americanisms, know your crib from your bassinet, your hourglass from your timer.
3) Get on with it! That is to say, you got twenty minutes, that’s all you got!
The staff at the venue were absolute diamonds, Ryan and the tech crew were effortlessly organised and lovely. I got to meet a fair few Magi as well including Bobby Torkova, who astonished me and made me feel that wonderment that I hardly ever feel about magic anymore. He was a gentleman and a consummate professional and just a joy to watch. I only wish I had had time to see him perform some mentalism because the gentleman exudes quiet charm and confidence. Also on the bill were Peter’s Samelson and Kougasian the former, the headline act and the  latter, the  MC for the evening.
I should also at this point say a grand and fulsome thank you to the producers of the show and in particular Michael Chaut who so kindly allowed me to take the stage.
A little bit about what I did.
Well, I tried, for better or worse, to do something different from perhaps what the audience are used to. I have a show that is two hours long end-to-end (with an interval!) and I’m used to establishing a connection, some rapport, with my audience. My mentor Ed, has always preached the importance of being likeable and he’s right as usual. In fact, I was lucky to get some excellent albeit brief feedback from the great Ken Weber, author of ‘Maximum Entertainment’ and I immediately went back over the book upon my return to the UK and he makes the point too, but more on KW later.
My problem therefore lay in a twenty two minute set. On reflection, I should have done an Osterlind and got straight down to it. Less preamble, less chat. I’m a natural talker and I like to chat on stage, it’s part of me and part of my show however, this wasn’t my show, it was a slot on a magical variety bill.
I decided upon a multiple mind read whereby I read ten people’s minds. When I get it wrong (and I do get it wrong, and that’s part of me too!) I like to give myself an incentive not to get it wrong again by a painful reminder, which translates as either a staple from a Staple gun in my arm or sometimes a mouse trap on the tongue. This horrified some of the audience (important point) and it would seem that American audiences are a little more squeamish than their European counterparts. During my time in Edinburgh, I performed a variant of this routine and an eleven year old girl volunteered to come on stage and pull the trigger on the staple gun! No qualms whatsoever, however, the audience at MNM were unsure about what I was about. One criticism I received was that it didn’t work because I hadn’t contextualised it enough. Fair comment. I shall work on that.

I then followed with a hypnotic segment which went really well. I hypnotised a complete stranger and whilst in trance was able to ascertain a word thought of by another audience member. I was very happy with the hypnotic subject and the way the mind-to-mind link played out.

Ken Weber as I mentioned before, gave me some solid gold comments whilst giving me a lift back to midtown. Anyone who performs seriously can benefit from reading his book and I have certainly percolated on his advice.
After watching the other acts, I noted importantly, that success was evident and threaded throughout the evening, magical success. This is perhaps a reason why I wasn’t such a good fit for the evening with my election of material.
I quite like to fail. It doesn’t bother me unduly, other than the staples, that I don’t always get things right. I don’t believe I could do what I do and get it all right. I present mysteries and part and parcel of that is allowing the mystery to run it’s course. For me, it is what keeps my performances vital. That is not to say that there isn’t a plan or indeed a structure, as anyone who has seen ‘Your Place or Mind’ will understand, however, I factor into my shows spaces where for want of a better expression ‘stuff can happen’. And stuff has happened. Participants going off on little unplanned journeys of discovery. Folks divining things they couldn’t possibly know without my help or any suggestion, dumb luck or providence striking clearly like a bell- I love it.
I realise that last sentence may be a bit loose or suggestive of what magicians like to call woo-woo. I suppose it is, but it is also a desire to make the live event, exactly that; a live event. No two shows are the same. There will be familiar materials, there will be process and scaffold but the building should come out different, even if only slightly, every time. My background is very much in theatre. It’s where I grew up. I don’t care for acting ‘tricks’ to make a performance seem fresh because it hardly ever does it for an audience (even if the performer feels so). An act of theatre is an act of communion between the performer and the audience. Whether It is tacit or overt communication, we are ‘en rapport’ or should be. For the same reason I love the word ‘script’ but hate the word ‘patter’, because patter suggests something you trot out (even if it has been meticulously crafted), that it is an adjunct to whatever you are attempting, as opposed to a script, which whilst carefully assembled allows you to riff off it, to throw yourself into the darkness knowing eventually you’ll hit a net. I suppose a criticism that might be honestly levelled at this approach is one of ‘who cares about what you want’ but what I want is connection with the audience, they are the focus and I want them to share something which is temporal, a one-time deal, mine and theirs only. So I don’t like performances delivered so fluidly that they lack connection. I don’t like disjointed or by-rote performance either. It’s a thin line. One of the joys over the Fringe Festival for me, was to talk to Frankie (my technical manager) after the show and go over what had happened that particular evening. It was always different and lovely to talk to participants afterwards too, to hear their version of what had transpired.
If you’re still with me, then I guess the point I am making is that the next time I play a twenty minute slot, it will be a different me. The next show I’m going to create will be theatre where magic happens and not the reverse. And lastly, I loved every crazy second of it. It was wonderful fun and I got to meet some of the heavyweights in my world like Tony Razzano and Nick Belleas, who, by the way, you should avoid going with to Irish bars when you have to catch a flight in a few hours!

New York's Finest Mid-town mayhem with Mr. Belleas.

New York’s Finest
Mid-town mayhem with Mr. Belleas.

A ship atop a building.

The Big Durian

Singapore was amazing. I went there to deliver some drama training and lead a student ensemble. I count myself fortunate that I get to do this. I got to work with middle schoolers, high school students studying theatre at diploma level and also teachers. Whilst working with ISTA, I visited the gardens on the bay, which were superbly crafted bio-domes containing plants from different climatic zones across the globe. The riot of colour and range of smells were delightful and the architecture made me feel like an extra in The Minority Report or a live-action remake of The Jetsons.
Singapore is a roaring city-state. It makes itself known and wants the visitor to know that it is not by chance that Singapore has come to be, it is the product of industry, hard work and vision. In fact, Singapore is all about vision. Singaporeans work hard, they pay and play hard also. I have a few friends who are Singaporean or work in Singapore and I am always constantly amazed by the stories they tell. 100% tax on a car, schools corralled by square feet per student, the populace re-housed by the government on a whim or order to make way for a new, brighter development and of course, the fines!
It is possible to be fined for any kind of infraction in Singapore. I watched an entertaining piece of theatre by the students of Lasalle College of Performing Arts based loosely around the life of Singapore’s most famous playwright Pao Kun integrated alongside the story of Peer Gynt. The thrust of the performance was the playwright’s struggle but also to demonstrate the range of skills of the student actors incorporating moments of physical theatre, voice work and borrowed moments of eastern theatrical traditions. A mezcla of styles and practices but nevertheless a very enjoyable one. A good deal of the comedy came from a character, an ‘Uncle’ slapping fines on the hero for a series of wrongful doings including spitting, poor parking, littering, jaywalking and disrespecting ancient cultural property!
To be fair, most of the laws make perfect sense or are at least common sense and you’ll get fined if you lack common sense. For example, littering. You know you shouldn’t do it, so don’t. However, there are a few strange or at least draconian laws such as 500 dollars for eating and drinking on the subway or a nippy little 130 dollar fine for dropping off someone in your car at or near a bus stop. I narrowly avoided transgressing the law when I took a soft drink into the MRT, luckily, a poster pointedly reminded me of the risk I took, so I took the way of brain freeze instead and drained my cup before carefully depositing it in the proper receptacle.
They had just entertained the formula one race in town too, so I got to see remnants of the infrastructure being dismantled ( no doubt to a specific time frame to avoid being fined) as I walked to Clarkes Quay to watch the daily spectacular light and sound show from across the bay.
Singapore certainly doesn’t do things by halves.
I really like Singapore, it has a duality, it’s yin and yang, though don’t even think about taking a Durian anywhere by public transport.
I’m wondering what the penalty would be for jaywalking in possession of a ripe durian…
A ship atop a building.

A ship atop a building.

Rojak

‘Because things are the way they are,
things will not stay the way they are.’
 

My days in Penang, the beautiful Pearl of the Orient are coming to a close as I prepare to shift focus back to Europe for a while, and to be honest, I’m going to miss Malaysia and in particular, Penang.

I’ve made a lot of friends here during my stay and met some incredibly interesting people. I’ve gotten involved in all kinds of capers and eaten some of the most bizarre and delicious food I have ever tasted. Malaysia is Rojak.

Rojak for the un-initiated is a medley of cucumber and tropical fruits with added extras tossed in a sauce and sprinkled with toppings. A vague description, I know, however, Rojak is different everywhere you go. One man’s Rojak in KL will be significantly different from the fella’s in Johor Bahru. A chap from Kuantan will tell you what his Rojak consists of and it’ll be very different from the Rojak a lady from Malacca will describe to you. In Penang- food paradise of The East, they change it again and it changes from hawker to hawker. Here’s a picture of Penang Rojak:

 

Penang Famous Rojak

 

Why am I banging on about Rojak? Well, because to me, Malaysia is Rojak, it’s a grand mixture of all kinds of things. It’s sweet and sour by turns, piquant, savoury, at once familiar and then strange, a melange of flavours that your mind tells you at first wont work. But it does work. I love the fact that Malaysians take their food so seriously. I think it says a lot about a culture, when a typical greeting is not ‘how are you?’ but ‘have you eaten yet?’, that although there are many things that Malaysians do not agree on, they all agree that a good feed is entirely necessary.  Yesterday I went to Red Garden Hawker Centre with fellow hypnotist and man of mystery Frankie Lee, and there we both sat gorging ourselves on Loh Bak and Dim Sum. We (I) over-ordered and missed out on having some Char Keow Teow, Frog Porridge and fried oysters – there simply wasn’t any room. Whilst I was there, I was hit by a premature wave of what the Portuguese call Saudade. I looked around and saw the uncles and aunties, the young potential boyfriends desperately trying to impress the immaculately turned out Chinese girls, the large extended Malay family out to celebrate, the Indians playing cards wreathed in cigarette smoke, the waitresses wending their way through the cheap plastic tables, slotted into their Carlsberg and Tiger dresses and of course, the singer accompanied by a synth-pop backing track, adorned in a necklace that highlights her singing prowess, growling bitter notes of unrequited love in Hokkien and Cantonese.

All Malaysian, all getting on because Malaysia boleh!

Another friend of mine from KL, Chi master and Silat practitioner Henzi Nusantara will be walking blindfolded soon across Peninsular Malaysia one kilometre for every year of independence to celebrate the idea of Satu (one) Malaysia. That’s right folks, 55km blindfolded.

One dish, many ingredients. 

Hope to be back soon, gotta get me some of that Rojak and Laksa, and Bak Kut Teh and Hokkien Char and Kuih and Satay and Belecan Chicken and Roti Canai and Ice Kacang and Nasi Kandar and Nasi Campur and Nasi Lemak………..

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Indescribable… Indestructible! Nothing Can Stop It………The Blog.

A formless mass that accrues as it goes and terrorises the masses – sounds about right.

Welcome to my blog. I hope this will be a stream of communication and not merely a series of nattering, yattering comments from me. I’m sure they’ll be in effect but I also hope to have a dialogue and to create a space where people can talk with me about subjects we find mutually interesting. A good friend of mine asked me why I hadn’t blogged before- he stated that he was shocked that I hadn’t already created a veritable mountain of digital prose and I answered that to do this kind of caper I imagine you have to be dedicated to it. I didn’t have the time.

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