Wednesday, 27 May 2015

What's going on in Bath and Norwich?

Peaks and troughs

It's a good day today. The sun is out, the last of the screaming deadlines has been met, and the video-mapping is over to general acclaim. This morning I fit the massive pair of cast aluminium antlers to the metal stag on the hill, and I know they look good because I made them. I didn't know how the video would look.

I'm not allowed to show you pictures of the stag, but I am allowed to show you the video, which I will as soon as it's up on You Tube.

Green Eyes rang up in tears last night because she is struggling with a deadline too. It's a 3000 word essay which is quite a lot of words for someone with dyslexia. As soon as I get back, I am committed to helping her put it together because I don't have dyslexia. She knows what (medical stuff) she has to say, but she doesn't know how to say it. It's the other way round for me.

The trouble is that she was off at a festival over the weekend and is now suffering the consequences. I told her to not think about it last night, watch TV and have an early night. Young people - and most old people - revert to childhood when tired and under pressure. I panic about small things and don't give a toss about big ones. That's why I ain't rich.

I followed my own advice by watching two early episodes of Twin Peaks (the two last from the first series), then went to bed. It's the hair-cuts which give David Lynch away in it.

The bit which had me laughing out loud is when Agent Cooper finds himself in a veterinary surgery, and amongst the animals is a huge lama. Given that the lama was not an actor in a lama suit, it could not have been rehearsed when the beast gets between Cooper and another - at eye level - they both look int each other's eyes, the lama lets out a grunt of disapproval before moving on and Cooper carries on with the dialogue as if it had all been scripted. A true actor. I would have collapsed with laughter, but he understood the value of the scene instantly.

I love the setting as well, in the same way I loved the setting of The Shining. Mountainous, wooded, isolated, Northern territory with a massive waterfall. Log cabins, fishing, the smell of pines and piles of doughnuts in the middle of crime scenes.

Come on, don't tell me you didn't laugh when the three police take a break from their forensic search to reach for a doughnut, still wearing the latex gloves that are supposed to prevent third-party contamination?

I love the music too. The Italians are so good at sound track music. Look at Nino Rota and Ennio Morriccone.

A massive bonus is that I no longer have the sound track which I chose for the video-mapping going through my head. It has been replaced with the Twin Peaks theme. Relief!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Green Coat

48 degrees C outside, but many of them cannot afford to stop work and shelter. They have no AC, let alone Punkawallah.

There's a scene in one film where the rich man calls for the boy to waft the fan in the heat, but leaves his room to find that all of his domestic staff have gone.

The unanswered shouting down the echoing corridor is the absolute symbol of the demise of the ruling classes. The house I was brought up in had the equivalent of green beize doors, but 'paying guests' lived in the servant's quarters.

The Green Coat - the coat that was bought sometime shortly after my birth and never replaced for lack of funds - was the literal explanation of the whole event, had I been old enough to understand.

I knew there was something brewing as she washed-up at the sink designed for servants, making more noise than usual, and not responding to any of my 8 year-old comments. Just me and her in the house, but she put her coat on without any other explanation other than that she was leaving the house for good, and it was all my fault.

Of course, she didn't leave. I thought at the time that it was my begging her to stay which changed her mind.

Later, she would always become angry if I brought the scene up again, asking why it was that I always remembered the bad things, never mentioning the good.

I used to leave my unpacked bag close to the door of girlfriends who I had moved in with, to make sure I could get away quick, before they decided to leave themselves.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Obnoxious as well?

I took down yesterday's post because I (uncharacteristically) worried about offending people. Also, I'm fed up with unwittingly starting arguments, especially in this first weekend of the Summer of Love...

Tonight is the last live showing of the video-mapping project. We resolved the highly technical problem of low volume on the soundtrack. Want to know how I did it? I saw a knob on the side of the amp and I turned it in a clockwise direction.

The turn-out was not as large as the first night, but this is what we expected. The alternative would have been that it was larger - from word of mouth publicity - but it would never have been the same. Tonight is another unknown.

This weekend also coincides with a large festival run by some of the pub-goers, and pretty much all of the bar staff are there working on it, so none of them will see the video this time round. I don't really blame them - 5 minutes of fun doesn't quite compare to 48 hours, but the general manager is tearing his hair out about the resulting staffing problems.

There is a rather odd-ball, part-time DJ who does weekly sets here which are also rather odd-ball - Julie Andrews next to Jane Fonda workouts, next to Rap, next to German Oompah music. Unremitting strangeness.

Last night this DJ turned up half an hour after the showing and asked if it was all over. I did say that he has been looking at posters for about a month which clearly state that it starts at 10.00pm and that he had one more chance to see it tonight.

I might have added that it was typical of him to be completely out of touch with normal goings-on, and it was at this point that he snapped, telling me that 'some people had jobs to do' (I didn't know he had a night-shift, because he is not a professional DJ - no other pub would put up with his taste in music!), and he followed up by telling me to just carry on being the 'obnoxious tosser' that I am.

The rest of his family - who also work or go in the pub - have been ignoring me with marked hostility for about 2 years now, so it looks as though I can add him to the list as well.

Sometimes it is difficult to see yourself the way others see you.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

First night fright

I have been badly but strategically parked outside the pub for the last few days, so that I can park even more illegally in the road to make a space for people watching the video-mapping thing (which I have been droning on about for weeks).

So all I had to do last night was to switch the equipment on and shift the car 15 feet. It wouldn't start.

It has never not started before, so I put this down to God having what I am reluctant to call one last joke at my expense, to punish me for saying that everything that could have gone wrong has, and now it should be plain sailing.

I had to be pushed the 15 feet as the crowd gathered, then pushed back again. Imagine the ignominy of it. The bloke who set up the entire event has a car which will not start.

Within two minutes of finishing, 30 seconds of the video projection was up on Twitter and You Tube, having been filmed by one of the crowd. We are making the full length version (taken from the scaffold) tonight, but I also saw a well-known local film-maker (no, not Ken Loach) recording the whole thing with two cameras. She has an interest in it anyway, because clips of her film have been included (with her permission) in the projection.

My friend Simon was in the audience. He is a professional cinematographer, and it was him who first introduced me to 3D video-mapping after I had asked him to help me with something else. He came back from Cornwall (where he is filming the next series of Doc Martin) to see the 5 minute thing of ours, but I think he also had a family to see at the same time, so I am not taking it too personally.

Last night, after I had had probably one beer over the limit for driving, I looked for the only tee-totaler in the crowd so he could shift my car the fifteen feet, but he was nowhere to be seen, so I decided to move it that teensy-weensy car-length myself. Naughty, I know, but I had to move it there and then.

When it wouldn't start, I opened the bonnet and began searching in vain for a fuse marked 'fuel pump', because it was showing all the symptoms of fuel-starvation.

With my head stuck in the darkness of the bonnet and trying to read tiny writing on the fuse-box cover with a torch, I didn't notice a uniformed policeman walk up alongside me - someone told me later.

This policeman is a friend of mine, and a regular in the pub. He is probably the only policeman who goes into the pub - or at least the only one who admits to being one. Thankfully, all police ignore drivers in trouble (for fear of being asked to help) unless they are causing an obstruction, so he just walked on by. I wonder if it is an offence to be pushed in a car without the engine on if you have had a beer?

So today I will wait for roadside assistance, but I am asking them to bring some petrol. I might just have run out of fuel - as everyone suggested last night whilst I was developing conspiracy theories about having been sabotaged for bad parking.

I even shone a torch up the exhaust-pipe to check for potatoes. The ignominy would have been compounded if it turned out that I had simply run out of fuel, and the gauge was telling me this. It had to be foul-play. Anything else would have been beneath my dignity...

Friday, 22 May 2015

Another day...

I slept until 9.00 this morning, having gone to bed without any dinner. This video event has taken up 90% of my waking thoughts for the last 2 weeks - the other 10 being my real work - and if anything could have possibly gone wrong only to be put right with 5 minutes to spare, it has.

Last night I blew the amp to the speakers, meaning we could not test the soundtrack. I left the artist at 11.30 pm, and as far as I know he was mapping away on the frontage until about 2.00am. The projectionist said that he could pop in around lunchtime today, bringing a different amp and something to play music through. I hope he remembered to get the transmitter from the mapper, otherwise we still won't be able to carry out a sound-check.

I spent yesterday whiting out windows and blacking out a street light with a 15 foot pole with a brush taped to the end of it. This takes longer than you might think, but it only takes a second or two to blow an amp.

Rachel joked that the electrician has gone off on a long weekend. He actually has. Tonight, I will be in charge of a load of sophisticated electrical equipment of which I have no knowledge at all, having always left electrical stuff to the experts.

I stood on the street last night, watching the meticulous process of 3D mapping against a full-sized building, and marvelled at the way the windows appeared to warp and bend until the image fitted precisely with the real stonework.

I have seen a rough edit of the video, but in one dimension on a small screen, you cannot get any idea of the finished effect. At one point (which I had not seen on the edit) the block-work of the stone front suddenly shifted in and out until great lumps of stone seemed to be on the point of collapsing and falling into the street, all following the actual joint lines which had been mapped in.

Then it was if someone had re-painted the entire building in a brilliant blue, with violet edging around the windows. Moments later, the program grid appeared, filling the front of the pub whilst the artist locked various components into position on his screen. Space Invaders scuttled along below, shooting down aliens which descended from above.

I do not know the man-hours which have gone into this 6 minute display, but I would guess them to be well in excess of 2,250 when you factor in the logistics of it all.

Last night, after about 3 fruitless hours spent trying to fix the amp, I went downstairs and the 300th person asked me what video-mapping was all about. "Just fucking turn up and see for yourself!" was my somewhat curt response.

In 11 hours time, people will be standing in the street, looking up and expecting a sound-track to go with the visuals. What could possibly go wrong?

(This blog just crashed and froze when I tried to load the image. I had to go somewhere else to see if it had been saved. I hope that's only God having a little fun with me - again...)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Hands up anyone who knows how to peel a potato


If there's one thing I have learned over the last couple of years, it is 'never volunteer for anything'.

When I was a kid and we had a couple of pianos in the house, my uncle used to say that - if ever I should find myself in the army and the Sergeant-Major asked anyone to raise their hand if they could play the piano, I was not to admit to it. He said the thing would go like this:

"Hands up anyone who can play piano."

Gullible private raises hand.

"Right. Follow me. You're peeling potatoes for the next two weeks."

Two years ago, a Board member asked me if I could think of anything that the pub could do for the Bath Fringe and associated activities. I said he had left it too late to do anything worthwhile, so we should speak after Christmas.

About three months after Christmas he asked me again, and I came up with the idea of a video-mapping event (don't ask, just find out for yourselves if you're that interested). Good idea he said, could I organise it?  Yes, I said. That was when my persona was taken over by Linda Snell.

If I had known exactly how much work was going to be left entirely up to me in order to make a 6 minute video a reality, then I would have kept my bloody mouth shut.

I only hope it will be worth it.