The sound of silence

The very first night of Greenbelt saw me and my companions realise a joint 2012 First – attendance at and participation in a silent disco.

Our presence was very much thanks to the person who had the honour of being the first friend I bumped into on site – former colleague George Luke (in a record 5 minutes) – who happened to be one of the DJ’s that evening. In fact, there was a silent disco every night during the festival, but Friday night was the only evening there wasn’t a programme conflict with something crucial. (Well, something crucial in the eyes of the others…)

Silent DJ’s at work.
(Photo from here, courtesy of St G’s very own Elaine.) 

We arrived at the Big Top and immediately had a sense of foreboding. The vast majority of our fellow disco-ers were significantly younger than us. In fact, we whiled away a few minutes before the headphones were handed out playing a game of “who looks more out of place here than us”. In fact, we quickly became grumpy old women as far as the teenagers were concerned, disapproving of their stampede to acquire headphones, rather than queueing sensibly…

[My state of grumpiness towards idiotic teenage behaviour continued all festival. In fact, perhaps I’ve now actually become a grumpy old woman permanently? After one of the rainstorms I came across a ridiculous gathering of teenagers in the toilets which prompted the following tweet:
“Having a “I judge you when you wear weather-inappropriate clothing to an outdoor festival” moment. Looking at you, teenagers drying pants…”

I dislike waterproof clothing as much as the next reasonably fashionable individual, but seriously, flimsy summer dresses on a day when heavy rain was forecast? Foolish.] 
Back to the silence. 
The premise of a silent disco is that it’s held in silence – you wear headphones through which the music is played. Often there’s more than one channel and DJ’s compete over whose tunes get the most listeners and best reactions. This means you could be in your own world dancing away to something, when a cheer will alert you to a better track on the other side. 
On our evening there was a mix of world dance music on one channel and hip-hop/general pop stuff on the other. To be honest, we would have preferred a bit more cheese (which is what the DJs played on Sunday night – we could hear dancers singing along from across the site). The best bit of a silent disco is without a doubt when a total tune is played and the entire crowd move as one. In our case, this was the Cha-Cha Slide – courtesy of George – which worked fabulously. (Worst bit of this particular silent disco? The teenagers conga-ing to everything. Why??) Singalongs are also great, obviously, because no one can hear themselves sing but outside all you can hear are voices singing as one, a cappella. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that in our case, this moment happened with Call Me Maybe…

I was so consumed with the dancing that I had no idea just how unflattering a horizontally striped jumper looks when you’re moving from side to side at speed…

I utterly loved it. Despite the annoying teenagers and the not-quite-my-style music, it was totally freeing. It didn’t matter what other people were doing, the headphones enabled you to be in your own little world, dancing your heart out. Plus, if you took the headphones off you could have a perfectly normal volume conversation with people, unlike the ridiculous shouting that has to be done in clubs. My only complaint was that I could get the headphones to stay on my head securely while I flailed around like a mad thing. 
Please Greenbelt, more of the same next year? Muchus gracias. 

Friday Fun from the past

Happy Friday! My brain is a little weary, so let’s head straight into the fun…

Have you ever wondered how historical events might have been documented if social media had existed? Wonder no more – here’s what it would have been like if historical events had had Facebook. My particular favourite is the creation of the world:

Continuing the whole God theme, on Monday morning during college worship I discovered the existence of an educational computer game that helped unsuspecting kids learn memory verses in the 90s. Anyone else indoctrinated via Captain Bible? The concept was a simple one – Captain Bible used Bible verses to defeat his enemies, but those playing the game would have to find them from a database. On reflection, it doesn’t actually sound that fun, but you can try for yourself as downloads are available. Or, you could just watch this guy play it…

We had no such thing in our household. Instead, we had a Learn Biblical Hebrew CD-Rom. My sister can still sing the Hebrew alphabet to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. I guess that’s a whole other kind of indoctrination?

Computer games involving ancient texts are rather brain testing for a Friday morning, so how about something that’s simply delightful? Like a toddler dancing – with serious moves. Utterly awesome. (It comes right after the stuff about martial arts in the video below.)

Finally, something that could send you into a spiral of YouTube distraction – so don’t say I haven’t warned you! While on holiday with Americans, I heard of a satirical TV show that I doubt will ever grace British screens because it’s so reliant upon an understanding of Portland, Oregon. For those not in the know, the city is one with a reputation of a bohemian, granola-loving, organic-obsessed, jewellery-making population. As explained in one clip, it’s as if it never quite emerged from the 1990s. It came up in conversation after I’d mentioned the danger of putting a DVD on and pressing ‘play all episodes’ – someone mentioned a Portlandia episode in which a couple do just that with Battlestar Galactica and end up losing their jobs and trying to create a final, final episode:

There’s a wealth of clips online that are a joy to watch – especially one in which a couple quiz their waitress about the origin of their chicken and end up going on a little road trip. It’s all quite, quite beautiful. Portland may now have gone up several notches on my ‘list of US cities to visit’ – although it was already quite high, perhaps because at heart I am a jewellery-making, 90s-loving, geek…

Eclectic Friday Fun

I’m not even going to attempt tenuous links between today’s offerings – they’re all utterly unrelated, but their diversity should provide you with some entertainment, even if your taste in fun doesn’t precisely match mine…

First up is a bit of culture. Earlier this week, the Hairpin linked to a gallery of Life magazine’s most boring covers, which proved to be much more entertaining than you might imagine it to be. (Surprisingly, many of them were Christmas editions.) Then it emerged that there was also an online gallery of famous magazines’ first covers – very intriguing. The two galleries will probably divert you for at least 5 minutes, so that’s a decent Friday morning distraction.

That’s Vogue and National Geographic – both have come a long way since they began.
Picking up the ever amusing subject of cats on the internet, I also offer you Louis Vs Rick, the story of what happens when a man teaches his cat to IM – delightful. Here’s a sample of their conversation to whet your appetite:
RickDickens77: Well, it’s not really.. I mean, you can use it for certain things, but usually people don’t use it because it looks like yelling.
RickDickens77: Well keep it to yourself, I’m trying to get things done so I can bring you dinner.

Thirdly, it wouldn’t be Friday without the opportunity for some frivolous dancing, so I offer you an interesting take on the ‘choreographed first wedding dance’ thing, this time with the Father of the Bride burning up the dance floor…

It also wouldn’t be a proper Friday of Fun without some singing – or, given the end of last week’s fun, some Lady Gaga. How about a group of older people singing Bad Romance in a Chinese dialect, accompanied by Beijing’s Crystal Orchestra? It’s both sublime and ridiculous!

I’m beginning to wonder if I should make Gaga a regular Friday feature – there appears to be enough random interpretations of her work on the internet to keep this blog full for quite some time to come…

Have a delectable Friday!

Some alcoholic, childish Friday Fun

First up is something that isn’t fun of itself, but that in the right hands and filled with the right liquid could be a huge amount of fun – I love handbags and I love wine, so these would be simply awesome:

That is the ‘Baggy Winecoat’ – a bag in which you can tote a box of wine. I’m assuming everyone’s been in a situation where they’ve thought to themselves “gosh, life would be so much easier if I had a bag for my wine box”, I know I have. It comes in a variety of colours, but sadly you have to provide the win yourself. Actually, over the summer I was thinking that in my future life as a vicar, a hipflask might be an important accessory – you know, just for those emergency, alcohol involving pastoral situations? But perhaps the wine bag would be easier to get away with? Something to ponder…

Try-hard segue time: you know who liked lots of wine and probably would have invested in their own Baggy Winecoat? Ally McBeal. Ages ago I found something which I added to my Friday Fun file, but hadn’t so far found a suitable outlet for – now, given what will be book-ending this feature, I feel it’s finally appropriate. I appreciate that not everyone will remember the great late 1990s TV series as fondly as I do, but the fact that someone had captured her facial expressions so perfectly made me chuckle a lot:

More Ally McBeal faces here. You know what else Ally McBeal liked, besides wine and making weird faces? Dancing babies. You know what I spent a not inconsiderate amount of time watching last night? Videos of dancing children (they’re pre-schoolers, so not strictly babies, but it’s still cute as). 
Who isn’t going to have their morning brightened by watching super cute twins dancing (and doing a bit of singing) in front of their TV? A hard-hearted mean person, that’s who! 

Keep your eyes on the boy on the right – he’s a right little mover and is definitely the one with rhythm. If you’re really in need of cheeriness, I highly recommend also watching Who Let The Dogs Out and Kung Fu Fighting – super cute! Watching these has also reminded me that I’ve got a copy of Just Dance for the Wii knocking around that I’ve never played with, so if anyone fancies emulating the twins, let me know…

Also, just to warn devoted readers that blogging may be light/non-existent for the next week as I’m off to France. No, not to play with scaffolding (sadly), but to have vicar school en Francais for a week. I don’t go to France for fourteen years and the I end up going three times in four months – typical!

The strange things that happen in London parks

Us urbanites have to get our grass and tree fixes where we can. For most Londoners bereft of gardens, this means public parks (unless you’re super swanky and live on a Notting Hill-esque enclosed square), of which there are many. Space amongst the green is at a premium whenever the sun comes out and last week’s hugely bizarre autumnal heatwave brought the sun worshippers out in droves.

After church on Sunday I headed to Brunswick Square to make the most of the sun and to simultaneously catch up with the parentals (it’s that all important multi-tasking again). As I’ve mentioned, my mother always asks where I am/where I’m going at the start of the conversation and Sunday was no exception – except that she shouted me down as I began with “I’m sat on the grass in Brunswick Square with sandals on and no sleeves…”. It seems that those across the Irish Sea have not taken well to all the talk of British heatwaves when they’re sweltering in temperatures of 14C as opposed to London’s 29C…

As we chatted, my eyes were drawn to two film cameras that had moved into view, seemingly about to film something happening beneath a large tree. I looked around trying to work out what was going on and spied a group of fairly non-descript people gathering with a sense of purpose. I hoped against hope that I was about to witness an awesome flash-mob in the league of the Welcome Home T-Mobile ad or the fantastic Improv Everywhere, so I watched eagerly and gave my mother regular updates as to what was occurring.

The group assembled under the tree and a gong rang out…

So far, not terribly exciting. Then the gong rang again:
And again:
Then someone came round with a flyer as an explanation. Turns out it was modern dance, only ‘dance’ in a ‘change your position once every 90 seconds’ context as opposed to ‘interpret music in a visual way’ context. As far as I could gather, the troupe were basically making their way from ‘very big tree’ to ‘very small seed’ via gongs…
From a distance it looked as though this guy was doing a plank. 
I’m rather disappointed that on closer inspection, his arm’s on the ground! 
The fantastic news is that this isn’t a one-off! Should you like to witness this yourself, you can – this weekend in fact – they’ll be in Brunswick Square again, as well as Queen Square, Woburn Square and Gordon Square. Entitled ‘Square Dances’ (do you see what they did there?!), “audiences will be able to encounter recurring moments of fleetingly beautiful dance performed by 200 Londoners of all ages…”.

I mock, but seriously, this is what I love London for. Its quirky, public, free to watch events that appear as if from nowhere. Spend more time in parks – you never know what might happen…