My Fancy Plant

Just thought I'd stick this up, although it will be of little interest to anyone not of the green-fingered persuasion. My Christmas Cactus which I got from Tesco some years ago is mental.

How mental? This mental:

Looks good yeah? For those not familiar with these plants, a flowering period is usually once a year, and you might get say 30 flowers each time over the whole plant. I'd estimate in excess of 200 big ones here. I haven't fed it or given it any undue attention, and it's normally sat quietly on a NW facing window with a dash of water every few days. It's usually a sign of a happy plant that its full of flowers (indeed, I've never had a plant that's so completely overtaken with them), so what's the problem?

Last year, once it had finished flowering, the back half of the plant fell off and died, and its not even close to recovering. What remains is not flowering, so much as **FLOWERING**, as if it knew of some approaching Armageddon and wanted to have one last flourish while it could. Each spur has at least one flower, often three or four - that's a lot of energy spent just to make my staircase look pretty.

My guess is that last year the poor plant exhausted itself with its mad flowering spree and just had to jettison the parts that weren't getting so much light.

This begs the question: is it about to happen again?

Tales of Obsession

Over at Psychotic Letters from Men - a site dedicated to exposing examples of ex-boyfriends (and less) who just can't accept the relationship (and less) ended because they were the broken tool in the box - comes this particular cracker, and the hugely entertaining but also disturbing aftermath that I recommend as casual reading when you have a spare hour.

Short version: Ben and Loren went out together, Loren got tired of Ben after 2 years of him being too full of himself. Ben became heartbroken and made a video to win her back.

But what a video. In it, we see just what Loren is missing - about 18 stone of self-loving and horribly vain, insecure steroid-packed beefcake who loves to pull skids in his lardarse truck and drive his quadbike into lakes for no apparent reason.

This is the point where it went from a personal quest to an internet meme. Muddying the waters by pitching it as a preview to a film he will star in, as well as submitting himself as the actor for the upcoming Captain America movie, his YouTube videos attracted well over a million hits, and almost as much criticism. So much so that he made several faux user accounts just so he could delude himself that he had an adoring fanbase by posting up fawning praise to himself on a daily basis.

All very funny. But the thing is with YouTube, other users invariably get the urge to take something such as this and do a spoof video of it. One guy who called himself Sanchez did just that, and then things turned a little more sinister.

This post on follows what happened next, with the desperate torrent of abuse, badly worded (and absurd) legal challenges and claims of prosecution from 'America's Homeland Security' division reproduced for all to see. If you want to see an example of how a person's over-patriotism and racial/religious intolerance can bubble to the surface (yes, Ben is that unfortunate mix of 'good old American boy' and a devout Christian, although we dont get to see that can of worms open itself for an attack or two) and show its ugliness, scoot on over to page 5, where it really starts to get bad.

Festival Time Again!

I nearly forgot that it's nearly time for the 63rd Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009 which takes place on 17-28 June. The festival brochure is now out (you can download a copy from here) and the festival takes place at the time of year that Cambridge used to before 2008 (Cambridge and Leeds fests are now frustratingly close together). Given my continued abstinence from work-related activities, it seems like the right thing to do to get myself up over the border for a week and see what's on offer, with a bit of Edinburgh sightseeing thrown in.

After going through the blurb, some films that caught my eye included Wide Open Spaces (a film about Celtic eccentricity from Father Ted co-creator Arthur Matthews), A BLOOMING BUSINESS (a documentary following Kenya's flower industry and the working conditions therein), The Maiden Heist (Three aging museum security guards steal treasures to stop them being transferred to another museum), Boogie Woogie (satirical comedy with an all-star cast set in the decadent corners of the art world), Isolation (a documentary about an ex-soldier turned photographer following the lives of injured soldiers let down by their country) and Tiny Joys (finding happiness in the classified ads).

You know I'll be seeing much more than that :)

Problem is I need to be in Leeds on the 21st June for the Jane Tomlinson 10k, my third year attending. This means I'll miss some other potential crackers such as Big River Man (one man's journey swimming up the Amazon) and Little Soldier (a female soldier questions her latest role - ferrying call-girls for her pimp father), unless I get lucky and they are picked as part of the 'Best of the Fest' lineup on the last day. My plan as it stands is to do the run, go home and then drive straight up to Scotland and maybe even catch one of the evening shows, then stay up there to the end.

As usual I'll be sticking up here whatever it is that I do end up seeing, so keep checking back.

A little bit of Fuse Leeds 09

As well as for films, those festival-heads at Leeds have also found time to turn their heads to music. The Fuse Leeds 09 festival has just finished and although I didn't go quite as mental as I did at LIFF 2008 (and will probably do again this year) I did manage to accompany Ms. Plants to the closing night showing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on 2 May. After what we saw, I regret not making more time to see some of the other stuff.

As with Film Festival, Fuse is intended to allow up and coming artists from the local area and around the world to show off what they can do, rather than the established, popular bands. Often, this will result in a more rough and ready experience, but also this allows for a more personal experience, as the audiences are smaller and the acts are not hidden behind a barrier of flashing lights, burly bodyguards and restraining fences. It definitely makes you feel like you're looking at something genuine rather than the super-polished choreographed and slightly detached routines you might see by a multi-million dollar platinum band.

On our gig, the main theatre was about half full, which equated to perhaps a couple hundred people getting comfortable to see the three acts of the evening. The seating spread from the circular stage up a steep slope, creating a Roman amphitheatre shape. This is what we saw:

Nancy Elizabeth (site)

A home-grown Indie talent, Nancy Elizabeth came on very quietly with no introduction and sat down at her piano, and treated us to (I believe) Sense, her first song of the night. Her voice is vaguely reminiscent of Dido, although with a saxon/medieval bent, and very delicate, able to hold soft notes on the edge of being heard without breaking up. Nancy was joined thereafter by two other women, one of which played the harp, the other general percussion, with both helping out on backing vocals.

Nancy moved between instruments seamlessly, from piano to guitar to harp with ease. Hugely rhythmic songs flowed from the stage, some highlights included I'm Like the Paper and Coriander, and especially Feet of Courage, on which she used a shaker, a chair and a drumstick and her tapping foot to hold three separate rhythms, as well as singing the words. Definitely a superb talent, the works were slow and deliberate, soothing and inventive. 7.5/10

The Acorn

All the way from Canada, The Acorn formed a six-piece band, missing their only female member Keiko Devaux for reasons unknown. Two drummers and three guitarists, plus one guy on an absurdly small keyboard makes for a large sound blasting from the amps, but the music was perfectly executed, an indie-flavoured folk sound with clear inspiration from the Canadian and American heartlands. The double drum set meant that each one of their several songs had a strong clear beat, balanced by a mixture of electric and acoustic guitar arrangements. It was a lot of noise in a relatively small theatre, but well done, distinctive music with inventive lyrical wording. Highlights included Crooked Legs and Dents, the latter of which showed off the perfect and meticulous synchronization between the band members. 8/10

A Hawk and a Hacksaw (site)

New Mexico as a home town and a slight cough picked up by accordion master Jeremy Barnes allowed a certain amount of humorous swine flu ice-breaking smalltalk at the beginning before the band set about assaulting the senses with a series of tunes reflecting hometown influences mixed with flavours of Romania, the Czech Republic, France and England. Without lyrics, the four-piece band used accordion, violin, trumpet and lute/clarinet to create their folk music, which consisted of pieces you would expect to be played at large social events in South America. The music was often very fast-paced, and often made provision for each of the band members in turn to have a little of the limelight, which was particularly impressive in the case of violinist Heather Trost, whose mastery of the instrument was the main focus of the event. Though it wasn't particularly my cup of tea, it was an enjoyable peek into the genre, and was made more personable by the encore, which involved all four members abandoning their amps, and playing right next to the front row, before walking up through the crowd and pausing to sit for a while in spare seats, playing all the time. You could hear them playing long after they had left the auditorium (through the audience exits!). 7/10

A really enjoyable night. Looking forward to next year, when we'll definitely look closer at what's on offer.