Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Seen and heard: October 2013

Queen of Heaven - concert by The Sixteen, mainly Palestrina plus beautiful comparison-contracts with the contemporary James Macmillan. Fantastic to hear this top class choir close to home, now that they've added Milton Keynes City Church to their annual choral pilgrimage.

A Night in Vienna - concert by Milton Keynes City Orchestra, Strausses, Lehar and so on. Great fun, with conductor Hilary Davan Wetton in full audience-pleasing mode, though I'm not sure how many of the large youth party from Milton Keynes College really enjoyed it.

The Big Red Bath - a kid's theatre trip to The Stables for our grand-daughter aged 6. I didn't seen how a simple picture book about bathtime could make a stage show, but the Full House theatre company did it: with three actors taking all the parts, atmospheric music, and lots of mime and dance. As one of the Stables staff commented, not one child asked to go to the toilet during the show: a strong indicator of quality.

The Russia House - 1990 film with Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer, watched again on video: an anniversary present from my wife. It's one of our favourites: a John Le Carré novel in a cracking adaptation by Tom Stoppard, heartfelt and powerful. Best line: "these days you have to think like a hero just to behave like a merely decent human being."

22 Reasons for the Bedroom Tax - gently satirical poem by Carol Ann Duffy, riffing on the ministerial statement about the difficulties encountered with the badger cull (that "the badgers had moved the goalposts"). Also a witty commentary on the use of clichéd metaphor in public life.

Get Your Inbox to Zero - training course provided by ThinkProductive. I'm fairly cynical about the value of most training, but this fell into small fraction of courses I've experienced which was actually good and useful. It was basically an application of the well-respected David Allen "Getting Things Done" approach, and by the end of the day I had indeed reduced my email Inbox to zero, from a starting point of nearly 300. More to the point, it's still at zero, or at least I get it to zero by the end of each day.

Masters of Sex - Channel 4's intelligent and period-detail-rich dramatisation of the collaboration between Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson in their ground-breaking 1950s study of human sexual response. Michael Sheen is especially good as Masters: since it's presumably not known what he was actually thinking and feeling as their relationship took its twists and turns, this is made into a character trait: you feel that he's a stranger to himself and doesn't really know his own thoughts and feelings.

Inspector Montalbano - new series on BBC4. So The Young Montalbano was a gap-filler (very good gap-filler) before the return of the original. Good to be back in Vigata, though a bit sad to see how much older everyone is now - especially Augello.

New Directions in Learning and Teaching - my Faculty's annual mini-conference / workshop, with particularly memorable presentations on peer assessment, student experience of online materials, and the strategic use of discussion forums.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective - Japanese cartoon-style point-and-click adventure game. The character whom you play is dead and the murder he's investigating is his own, using his abilities to move physical objects poltergeist style, travel along phone lines, and wind back time to four minutes before someone else's death in order to prevent it taking place. Funny and charming, with excellent animation (especially the dancing police inspector); no voice acting, but the story cracks along just fine through speech balloons. Lots of happy hours here.

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