Spank's LFF Diary, Sunday 19/10/2014
Spank's LFF Diary: The Wrap Party 2014

Simian Substitute Site For November 2014: Black Powder Monkeys


Comedy: Recently, my Moderately Responsible Job In The Computer Industry took me to Aberdeen for a few days. A work visit outside England is normally the cue for me to start researching a Monoglot Movie Club piece, but sadly none of these was showing at the Vue while I was there. Still, I found plenty of things to occupy my time after work. I found further evidence that Aberdeen is one of the finest cities for desserts on the planet, with Musa's Cocoa Psycho Affogato now joined by Merchant Bistro's deconstructed Arctic Roll. And I finally made the acquaintance of the Lemon Tree arts centre, where I saw Mark Watson performing an extended version of his Edinburgh stand-up show from this summer, Flaws. (Not to be confused with the after-hours silliness we saw him hosting this year.) It's always interesting to see how a comic takes a tight Edinburgh hour and converts it into a two-hour touring show. In Watson's case, the first half becomes an extended ramble cum improvised natter with the audience, which shows off his knack for getting a crowd to conspire with him, something that's impressed me since that first 24-hour show of his a decade ago. But gradually, a theme comes to the fore: Watson believes that stand-up comedy is basically someone with interesting character flaws talking about them entertainingly, so that's what he's decided to do. And in the second half, he focusses on one flaw in particular with surprising candour, but remembers to include some cracking one-liners with that. "I was drinking a bottle of wine religiously before every show, and by 'religiously' I mean 'without really thinking it through properly'..." He's doing this all round the country for the next three months, so check here to see if he's playing your town soon.

Comics: Is that really true? I posted three separate articles under the Comics category of this site within the space of a month in 2011, and there's not been one comics post since then? It would seem so. But over the past few months, I've started getting into funnybooks all over again. Unfortunately for comic shops, my way back into the medium has been through digital marketplace Comixology. I'm always a little nervous about the move to digital media generally, but given that I end up buying many of my favourites twice (once in monthly format, then again in collected trade paperback), replacing the first one of those with a cheaper online copy seems a sensible compromise. Besides, it means you can find out about a series partway through its run, and not have to deal with the hassle of trying to find a shop where you can buy the early issues. Case in point: Dicks: End Of Time, by Garth Ennis and John McCrea. It's twenty-five years since Ennis and McCrea made their comics debut with Troubled Souls, a heartfelt but somewhat earnest story of life in their home city of Belfast at the height of the Troubles. Two minor characters from that book, Dougie and Ivor, subsequently ended up in a sequel called For A Few Troubles More which toned down the social commentary and ramped up the gross-out comedy. They've kept coming back every few years since then, ostensibly trying to make their living in post-conflict Belfast as private detectives, hence the title. You can tell that the Dicks books are where Ennis and McCrea get to go mental as a break from their more serious comics work, and End Of Time pushes that approach to their wildest extremes yet. A demonic plot by Protestant extremists - to make that thing they always say about the Pope literally happen - requires Dougie and Ivor to run through Irish history in a home-made time machine, gathering relics of Ulster bigotry like King Billy's Gay Porn Mag and The Empty Lunchbox Of Bobby Sands. By this point you've either bought all the comics already, or kicked in your computer screen in disgust, and I honestly couldn't blame you either way.

Food & Drink: It may not seem entirely relevant at first, but let me take this opportunity to give you an update on the Twitpic fiasco discussed in this post from six weeks ago. On September 4th, Twitpic announced that they were about to close down. Since then, they've also announced a) they've found a buyer and are staying in business: b) they were a little premature about the buyer thing and are going to shut down after all: c) they've now shut down permanently, but Twitter will be maintaining their archive in read-only format. For all I know, the situation's changed again since I started typing that previous sentence. But in the meantime, I'm still looking into alternative ways of sharing photos with my readership while on the move, and Moblog is looking like a good one. Among other things, I'm starting to appreciate how I can combine it with Twitter to instantly pass on photos with short-to-medium text pieces attached. Last Saturday - coincidentally, the day when the plug was due to be pulled on Twitpic - I took Moblog out on a road test. I used it to provide a running commentary on CollabFest 2014, an all-day event in BrewDog bars featuring the launch of sixteen new beers, each one made by the staff of one of those bars in collaboration with a local brewer. The task that The Belated Birthday Girl and I had set ourselves was simple: use the circular bit of the London Overground service to travel between all four of the London BrewDog bars, sample four of the CollabFest beers in each one, and write about it as we did so, all in one day. Did we succeed? Moblog has the answer - this is the route we took, and this is what we drank in Camden, Shoreditch, Clapham Junction and Shepherd's Bush. (As a bonus, you can also look at The BBG's photo essay documenting the journey.) Moblog passed the test with flying colours, apart from my Twitter interface code not being able to include @ signs in the tweets it sent out - I'm still working on that bit. Also, I'm amazed at how coherent my writing stays after sixteen beers. (Okay, sixteen 1/6 measures of beer, if you insist. It sounds less impressive like that, though.)

In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for November 2014 is Black Powder Monkeys. As regulars will know, I frequently use seasonal events as a trigger for Simian Site selections, and I've chosen fireworks companies on two previous Novembers - Monkey Fireworks from China in 2010, and Powder Monkey Fireworks from the US in 2011. Both of those, however, are manufacturers, whereas Black Powder Monkeys will organise your displays for you. This link is actually to the Irish branch of the company: they also appear to have an English location in the Yorkshire Dales. The Irish site has a bit more to explore, including a set of videos of their best displays that's curiously only accessible from some of the pages in the site (the link at the front directs you to a holding page, so maybe we're not meant to be looking at these). It's all good stuff, but don't ask me how many times I've accidentally typed 'Black Power Monkeys' during the writing of this paragraph.

Coming up on the site this month... well, obviously, there's still a line to be drawn under my coverage of the 2014 London Film Festival, and the Wrap Party is going to be a little late this year. But if you think that's late, you should see the travel piece I've got lined up, which is so late it's actually coming around to being early again. You'll see what I mean when it happens.

Have a fun and safe Bonfire Night, everyone! Let me know how it goes in the comments box below.


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