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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins


Friday, June 17, 2005

London Calling

Some more observations and thoughts from the other side of the pond...

One of the things that I find amusing about England is the labeling on some products. For example, I bought some shampoo here. On the back of my bottle of Head & Shoulders is a graph. On the X axis is the number of washes, running from 0-6. On the Y axis is “amount of dandruff,” which, as it approaches the X axis, is labeled as “less.”

So as I understand it, after six times using Head & Shoulders, I will have “less” dandruff. However, I can’t get any less than that. The line hits the X axis – it never goes below “less.” But, say someone else started with the amount of dandruff that I have after six washes. He can get “less” dandruff by using it six times.

It’s all too scientific for me. I need to see the raw data behind this graph. Are there people in a lab somewhere in Britain shampooing vigorously while guys in white lab coats look on?

***

I had the chance to visit the National Gallery, right across Trafalgar Square from our hotel. It’s a pretty impressive collection of art – all European – from the 13th to 20th century. Plenty of famous painters and styles are represented there – Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Raphael, Monet, Rubens, and so on. There were a few Caravaggios there, also. I’m always impressed by the realism in his work, ever since I saw his Medusa’s head painted on a shield in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. (I’m getting the names of the paintings wrong, so bear with me. I just don’t remember them.) Anyway, there were several different paintings in the gallery depicting Salome being presented with the head of John the Baptist on a platter, but Caravaggio’s is the most vivid of them all. There was also a painting – I forget the title or the artist – which made amazing use of light in its depiction of a pretty bizarre and sick science experiment. A scientist was demonstrating what would happen to a cockatoo placed in a glass vessel connected to an air pump (the painting was called something like “Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump”). Presumably, the painting captured the moment just before the vacuum created in the vessel led to the explosion of the cockatoo. Kind of sick, but the lighting is incredible.

***

One of the things I was most looking forward to when I visited London was seeing Weezer in concert. It wasn’t a disappointment.

The venue itself was incredible. Carling Brixton Academy, judging by its looks, is an old converted playhouse. There are detailed patterns and reliefs on the walls, and a big, wide stage and seating area. There’s a balcony upstairs, which I only saw from below. The seats have all been removed, so the downstairs area is entirely general admission, with a sloping floor that allows for a clear view from just about anywhere. The place probably holds about 4,000, although Weezer (surprisingly) didn’t sell it out. It was a nice touch that despite the building’s sponsorship by a British beer company, there weren’t ads all over the place. One sign that was entertaining was a “no crowd surfing” sign, which showed one stick figure being held up by three other stick figures, covered by the universal “no” symbol.

Weezer themselves played an excellent show – their setlist encompassed about half of the Blue Album, several songs off their new CD, and their hits from their albums in between. They finished the main set with “Undone – The Sweater Song,” and then returned for an encore of “Haunt You Every Day” from the new disc and “Hash Pipe.”

Rivers Cuomo, the eccentric lead singer, was strangely (well, this was actually expected) the least energetic person in the place. He’s taking his whole anti-social persona to a new level. No matter how fast the beat to a given song was, or how rocking a guitar riff was, Rivers stood there and played it with very little emotion. If you closed your eyes and listened to the power with which he sang, you’d imagine he’d be up there rocking out, but he was just standing there with an apparent indifference. The only time he did anything was at the very end of the show, when he held his guitar over his head and shook it to create a reverb effect. For a second I thought he would even throw it into the crowd, but that didn’t happen. It would have been sweet, though.

Despite the fact that Rivers didn’t show much energy, the crowd was very much into it, jumping up and down in front and even crowd surfing in spite of the signs warning against it. They also chanted for the band in a British accent, which was entertaining. “Wee-zeh! Wee-zeh!”

Another problem I had with the concert was that none of the t-shirts had tour dates on them, so I couldn't get one with "London, June 15" on it. I had to settle for one that says, "Weezer - rocking the bitches since 1994." Oh well.

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