May 24, 2011

Screwed-up and useless: my fiction alter ego

This Thursday's Flash Mob Literary Salon sounds posh. It is, after all, in Chorlton.

For those unaware of this trendy suburb of Manchester, Chorlton invented cous cous, bags-for-life and gormless dragons.

However, the Flash Mob Literary Salon is not posh because I had a hand in organising it. And my hands are dirtied from moss, tree bark and lichen. They are gnarled, like an old woman's eyelids.

Let me tell you a story. Of how the Flash Mob Literary Salon came about. Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night, I ran a writing competition with some friends. They were Benjamin Judge, Lonlonranch, 330 Words and Words & Fixtures, Lots of people entered. Two weeks ago, we shortlisted 12 entries.

This Thursday's Literary Salon is the awards night, in which the shorlistees, along with me and my friends, will be reading their stories. Nik Perring will be our guest reader and we'll reveal the winners of our competition in a glittering ceremony. The end. Everyone lived happily ever after.

If you haven't seen me seize a stage before, this could be your chance to capture the full theatrical Fat Roland. In recent months, I have taken to short stories like a pelican to an oil slick. Bad Language have kindly allowed me to do several performances in which I have distributed toothpaste, taped a story to my chest and thrown my reading material, screwed-up and useless, onto the stage floor. (Do go to Bad Language's anthology launch tomorrow.)

My favourite pieces include 25 Words About Supercharged Beyonce, which does what it says on the tin, Sometimes In Life It Seems Like You Have Choices, which was inspired by a vision I had of bunnies cascading off a buffalo's back, and a story about a newly married couple and a boat-building tenant which should be turning up on Gumbo Press soon.

You can my stories at Bionic Matthew's Pen Of Doom (although some of the earlier ones are a bit first drafty for my liking). And if you would like me to come to your short story night, you can book me here.

Meanwhile, I will see you at the Flash Mob Literary Salon, which is not posh, this Thursday 7.30pm-9.30pm at Dulcimer in Chorlton. It's part of Chorlton Arts Festival and will be broadcast on Chorlton FM, so stick that cous cous in your pipe and smoke it.

See also: the time when we tried to start a literary scene

Picture: Gill Moore

May 23, 2011

ThingKong FingerFuture

Time to catch up on my blogging of FutureEverything festival.

I was still nursing my bruises and my bristle-burns from the face-hug I got during the previous night's punk gig, so I looked for something light and airy on the FutureEverything calendar.

'Geeks Go Camping' it was. Far from being a workshop on how to build a four-person tent from the remnants of discarded computer towers, this seminar explored the idea of programmers balancing their intellectual and physical energy. It compared codes to nature, although mental images of white-skinned web surfers making solo treks up the Khyber did little to dispel the stereotype of geeks being loners.

Meanwhile, 'We Are Forests' was brilliant. It's a public art project that started in Bristol on the premise of "what would you whisper in a stanger's ear". So you get handed a note and you're in a market space and you answer a phone and you listen to a voice and you get a mood and you get a narrative and you have to speak into the phone and you hear other people speaking into the phone and you have your words sung by strangers at the end and then, and only then, you read what's written on your note.

Of course, we didn't do all of that. It was seminar about it, but it did sound exciting.

The rest of the day was also mixed. The audio / visual tomfoolery in the Kraak gallery was a feast for the eyes, ears and fingers. You can see me swishing water in a pool in a video below.

Meanwhile, Rob Da Bank's re-scoring of King Kong was equally interesting and frustrating. Interesting because it's Rob Da Bank in a gorilla suit playing Flying Lotus at a 1933 film. But frustrating because he failed to capture the mood of the piece.

King Kong is loaded with pathos and sadness, and yet his choice of tracks seemed inconsistent. Yes, do play dubstep when Kong is attacking, but to overlay the death scene with the obvious (and biologically incorrect) Monkey Gone To Heaven seemed lazy. Some of the lighter moments worked, but it descended into trite.

It was almost as if Rob Da Bank had knocked his performance together at the last minute. As someone who has done a lot of this kind of 'soundtracking', I can be bold enough to claim that, given the time and funding, I could definitely do a much better job.

I'll sum up FutureEverything 2011 in my next post. In the meantime, here are some pretty pictures.

The Kraak gallery had a pool of light which you could manipulate with your hand.

Listening to the sounds of various cities at the Kraak gallery. It worked really well when you set all the cities off at once to create a terrifying urban dystopia.

  The conference venue.

 A rolling soundscape: in this case, I listened to Chris Swithinbank's La leggerezza delle città 
A bluescreen experiment (which went slightly wrong) in the lovely Umbro design studio.

An installation that is so narcissistic, it counts itself.... and that is the exhibition. Loved it. 
A band that only rehearsed online before meeting together for a quick dress rehearsal. I'm not sure if it just wasn't my type of music, but it sounded like everyone was trying to play at once.

May 20, 2011

McArndale Rubbishthing

FutureEverything 2011 launched itself last night with free vodka, more free vodka and a smattering of free vodka.

I'm covering this year's festival from a non-geek perspective, and so far, I'm safe. The launch was friendly, personal and, when it came to FE founder Drew Hemmett talking about arts funding, thoughtful.

FE, you see, got a wad of cash while places like the Greenroom are closing: not for the first time, Drew's speech reflected Manchester's pain with great sensitivity.

FutureEverything has its own base this year. It's at Four Piccadilly Place, which you will spot if you stand in Piccadilly Gardens, stand on the tram tracks and choo-choo your way to the train station. You will spot the FE building as the track falls to the right as it takes you towards UMIST.

The launch was a great chance to catch The Data Dimension, a meditation on data visualisation that you can see in the space for the next ten days. I'll finish this blog post with some pictures from that exhibition.

Meanwhile, I have two days of being afraid of all things geeky as I become a proper FutureEverything conference delegate. Pop this in your bookmarks. I'll keep you updated, dear reader, but if I am arrested within the next 48 hours for feasting on the brains of unsuspecting computer scientists, you know it hasn't gone well.

This is Nathalie Miebach's chemistry-set take on a blizzard, taken from meteorological data

This is a map of Iraq expressed as the number of news stories in the Guardian, courtesy of the BBC.

Adam Nieman's morphing map of views about Manchester. I didn't quite capture a bubble that swung across the landscape declaring that the Arndale is rubbish.

Twelve still-life paintings analysed for their nutritional content by Nadeem Haidary. Van Gogh's onions provided a nice little punchline (oo-er missus).

Here's about half of the launch room. During a talk from someone from the Arts Council (probably: I wasn't listening), I set off a really loud exhibit and interrupted the speech.

Interior Design: Music For The Bionic Ear by Robin Fox. This is bloody brilliant and I could have listened to this for ages.

Beautiful and sinister, Kimchi and Chips' Lit Tree is a tree that lights up as you waggle your vodka and cranberry juice underneath a camera.

Fat Roland On Electronica: track listing for the radio programme

Fat Roland On Electronica theme music: uses a sample from Autechre –See On See.

The sounds for the Rave Generator were constructed from samples of Orbital – The Girl With The Sun In Her Head and Moby – Thousand.

James Blake – CMYK

Clark – Future Daniel

Lorn – Cherry Moon

Instra:mental – Eight

Falty DL – Open Space

S>>D – Thirty Three

Squarepusher presents Shobaleader One – Megazine

Lone – Moon Beam Harp

Christian AIDS – Scum

Loop Guru samples: LFO – LFO; Aphex Twin – Father; James Blake – The Wilhelm Scream; The Prodigy – Speedway; Venga Boys – We Like To Party

Loop Guru track: Borland – Clockmen

Eskmo – Moving Glowstream

Matthew Dear – Slowdance

Rave Generator track: 808 State – Pacific State

Africa Hitech – Footstep

Raffertie – Rank Functions

Luke Abbott – Brazil

Battle Of The Computer Bands track (5th place): The Black Dog –  Train By The Autobahn Part 1

Battle Of The Computer Bands track (4th place): Future Sound Of London –  We Have Explosive

Battle Of The Computer Bands track (3rd place): Boards Of Canada – Chromakey Dreamcoat

Battle Of The Computer Bands track (2nd place but probably really technically joint 1st): Aphex Twin – We Are The Music Makers

Battle Of The Computer Bands track (1st place): Autechre – Clipper.

May 19, 2011

Fat Roland On Electronica: on air

Fat Roland On Electronia will become a radio programme for two hours on Thursday May 19th (tonight). It airs from 8-10pm on Chorlton FM for the Chorlton Arts Festival.

You can catch it on 87.7FM if you're within wheeling distance of Chorlton, Manchester.

You can also listen to the programme online on the Chorlton FM website.

The playlist can be found here, and you can keep up with all things radio by following the blog tag 'the radio programme'.

May 16, 2011

Oysterthing Pandarubbish

Diving into my first full day of the FutureEverything festival was like springboarding into a swimming pool of motherboards, microchips and pliers. It looks different, but it's painful on first contact and is difficult to navigate through.

It was certainly a far call from my last trip to the event when it was called FutureSonic and it had weirdos circuit-bending into Gameboys at the Contact Theatre. Now, it was all about data, meta-data and, um, whatever comes after meta-data.

Still, for every couple of sessions that befuddled me, there was one that pricked my ears. I learned about 'things that no longer exist', which talked about objects being made up of the real world and the data world. For example, an Oyster card is partly physical card but is mostly invisible data.

And so we had objects made up of material and memories (a stripey pink jumper with a barbeque smell), to Poltergiest (the film, not an actual one) and Heidegger's profound observation that the "Old High German word 'thing' means a gathering."

The Guardian did a couple of sessions. One, about data and journalism, reminded us that it's all about people and not just machines, although the people in this instance provided a disorganised and dull seminar.

Another session, about robots and editors, was brilliant and equated Trip Advisor reviews with stepping on other people's experiences, declared that robots were evil and had a magical rainbow-vomiting panda.

Anyhoo, in the evening, I went to see Fucked Up. It was an alarming mixture of extremism, love, danger and inclusivity. I'd liken it to the best rave moments at Sankey's Soap and, I think, solidified Islington Mill's reputation as one of the best venues around.

That is, if the venue still exists. The audience insisted on trying to pull the roof down (hence the lead singer's worried "guys, those are water pipes" announcement near the end of the show).

Not much to photograph today, but here goes...

The Fucked Up lead singer spent most of the time grabbing the crowd, including me. This photo is by Andrew Fisher.

The magical rainbow-vomiting panda pair had some brilliant visuals.

Look! Punk pigeons in the Northern Quarter!  I told you I didn't have many photos.

Now I'm getting desperate. Honest, there'll be more photos on my next FutureEverything roundup.

May 13, 2011

A temporary blog hiatus...

...until Blogger solves their problem.

I spent ages on a post yesterday, including some lovely pictures from the launch of FutureEverything. Because Blogger tackled their gremlins by rolling back their site to the previous day, my post disappeared and I'm still waiting for it to return.

They seem to think my blog post will be restored. But rather than continue blogging about FutureEverything (and other everythings) into a bottomless pit of Bluggerdom, I'm holding off.

I hope it won't be long. Watch this space.

Edit: well done, Blogger. I'm restored and ready to catch up with my blogging over the weekend.

May 11, 2011

McFuture Tuckything

FutureEverything does not make sense. The programme is full of things like 'urban friction', 'global data' and things about circuits. I'm the type of person who uses boxing gloves to type so no-one can steal my passwords: this is way too geeky for me.

Which is why I'm going to the FutureEverything conference. I'm going to 'Fat Roland' everything, if 'Fat Roland' is a verb that means to have a drunk, aggressive fat man constantly interrupt a session on the challenges of connectivity in computerised urban iconomical sound environment with bawled phrases such as as "I HAD A COMPUTER ONCE", "TWITTER IS WELL GAY" and "HOW FAR IS IT TO McTUCKY'S?"

I have penned 24 circles in my festival brochure, and I will probably:

(a) attend five of them;
(b) of which three I will leave crying;
(c) of which at least two will result in the calling-in of the fire service, mountain rescue and the Thunderbirds.

Truth is, I bid for my FutureEverything delegate pass at Twestival by donating some money to the excellent Wood Street Mission. So if you want a few blog updates on the FutureEverything conference from a vaguely appreciative but mostly overwhelmed non-geek, this is the place to be.

But seriously, are we near McTucky's, because I'm starving...