Monday, May 28, 2007

Dali Multifaceted Exhibition

"I dreamed I saw Dali with a supermarket trolley"(U2).
Dodging the rain Friday afternoon,I braved the crowds to view the Salvador Dali exhibition currently at the Nagoya City Art Museum.Billed as "Dali Multifaceted".

In my ignorance I thought of him only as the eccentric spiky mustachioed gent who was into melting watches.On show from his sixty odd year career were those dissolving timepieces but also examples of clothing,furniture,magazine covers,advertising campaigns and perfume bottles he had created and designed.
For a Friday afternoon the gallery was crowded.Populated with schoolkids and businessmen who should have been elsewhere at that time of the day.Not gazing at decaying birds and swarms of ants.Packed with pushy older women haughtily pushing in front of others and jostling to get a view while most people filed orderly past each piece on display.
It was difficult on occasions to spend enough time trying to decipher the hidden meanings behind the surreal creations as other viewers pressed past you or obscured your view.One of his larger paintings was displayed on the end wall of a room.It took up the whole wall yet still seemed cramped there.A larger wall space I think would have done it more justice and allowed viewers to see it more effectively.
The room lacked the width and depth to fully take in the painting.Stepping away from the canvas a couple of metres merely impeded other people looking at different exhibits on the neighbouring walls and encouraged others to move into the space you had just vacated.
Apart from this I did find the lightning above the magazine covers inadequate.It was difficult to see all the detail in the drawings as the lighting was just too murky to make out the whole of the illustrations.

Im not a great fan of surreallism with its emphasis on dreams and the unconscious.Or Dali with his sexual phallic images and decomposing animals.
That said,it was enlightening to see his work up close and realise he was into other more mainstream,accessible things.Some of the furniture such as the lamps were elegant and sleek while his lips sofa looked fun to sit on.Then again Im just pleased that I wasnt the only person scratching their head in front of some of his more obscure offerings with its biblical and mythical references.
The exhibition runs until early June and my adult admission cost me 1,300yen.

Book Review. The Beautiful Game?

The Beautiful Game? Searching for the Soul of Football. David Conn 388pages.Yellow Jersey Press.2005

I read this detailed,informative book recently.Appropriately enough at the time I was going to see a lower league football match.
David Conn is an investigative journalist but first and foremost the book comes across as a labour of love from a football fan.
Detailed,yet not bogged down with facts and figures it covers the origin and growth of the game.It describes the "whole new ball game" of the Premier League and finishes in the 2005 season.Included are chapters on such events as Bradford and Hillsborough and the stories of Wimbledon and York City Football Clubs.

The work covers the changes in the financial and governing situation of the game.How the splitting of TV and sponsorship money,the creation of the Premier League and the floating of clubs has changed the landscape in which clubs operate and survive.
How it is possible for some Premier players to earn more than 100,000 pounds a week.How despite the infux of money,half of the 72 clubs in the Football League have been insolvent at one time or another since 1992.How the game is being priced out of the range of poorer and younger people.
I found the chapters regarding the Premier League's creation and the business dealings involving such people as David Dein and Ken Bates interesting as I knew nothing about them though they are both still prominent in the game today.In fact Ken Bates is involved in the ongoing Leeds United financial morass this season.

On page 373 Conn suggests that a more even spread of money could ease the financial burden on relegated clubs and help remove the situation of one or two clubs dominating the Premier League.However even he realises its unlikely as Premier Clubs broke away from sharing money and regard themselves "as individual corporate beasts hungry for money,competing in the jungle against each other"(page 374).

Obvivously the book will appeal to diehard fans of football but could also interest those with only a passing acquaintance of the game.It serves as a good introduction to the current state of the game both from a business and fans view.The bibliography at the end of the book provides the reader with the resources for further study.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Flash....Food Photos

I bought this bento in London near the Embankment tube station on my vacation last month.The shop belonged to a chain called Wasabi.The website helpfully printed on the paper bag is if you are interested.Price wise it worked out similiar to what I`d pay here in Nagoya.There was a good selection of lunchboxes on the shelves including some non strictly Japanese fare such as California type rolls sporting avocado filling.From my brief sojourn in London it seems Japanese food is popular if the number of chains is any indication.

There seems to have been a rash of different kinds of KitKats available recently.The upmarket brandy and orange kitkat is a little more expensive than the other two recent additions to the range.The kitkat which proclaims to contain 72% cocoa is definitely more bitter than its 61% counterpart which I found milder and more to my taste.Im not sure what the marketing strategy is but I wouldnt be buying the higher cocoa containing chocolate again.

Haagen Dazs have also been busy.I noticed two new flavours in a newly designed 110ml container.The tiramisu and creme brulee flavours cost a little more than the usual red tubs.

Finally I spotted these mini lemon flavoured KitKats in a convenience store on Wednesday.The lemon smell is quite strong once you open the bag.I found them a little too sweet being reared on lemon acid drops.A colleague thought they smelt and tasted like the citrus lozenges you see in mens urinals but I cant vouch for that...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Scunthorpe United Champions of League One

Hard to believe it was only three weeks ago.Scunthorpe United vs Carlisle United.May 5th 2007.Glanford Park.Kick off 3pm.
I was there along with a sellout crowd to see Scunthorpe United presented with the League One Cup and medals.To celebrate and soak up the atmosphere along with other long suffering fans.

Hard to believe just two seasons ago the club was staring League demotion and the wilderness of Conference football in the face.
Scunthorpe."A perennially unlucky club" according to one Guardian newspaper article.Maybe thats part of the appeal.A small North Lincolnshire town.Population around 72,000 people.Six hours by bus from London's Victoria bus station.Leeds,Hull and even Nottingham Forest draw more attention.And crowds.

As to the game itself Scunthorpe ran out the winners 3-0 scoring the first goal late into the first half.During half time I did a short live interview with the local radio Radio Humberside.My Japanese flag had grabbed their attention.Not that it was the only foreign flag or banner there that day.A bit tongue tied I explained to the reporter that I was but one of many overseas fans who had travelled to witness firsthand this game and the days events.

After the game and presentation ceremony I walked back from Glanford Park on the outskirts of Scunthorpe to The Honest Lawyer pub where many fans had gathered.Both local and overseas fans.I met people from Scandinavia,Serbia,Ireland and America among other countries.I also met people who had journeyed from much closer destinations but had eschewed the temptations and delights of bigger,more successful clubs to experience the ups and downs of lower league football.
Many different occupations and diverse stories as to why and how Scunthorpe United became their team of choice.
Its the second time Ive visited Scunthorpe and been to Glanford Park and The Honest Lawyer.One positive change at the pub is The Gallows Restaurant upstairs.Not the usual stodgy pub bar fare but well presented varied dishes and desserts prepared with fresh local produce.I recommend the cheese board in particular,a meal in itself.

During my six day stay at Scunthorpe I stayed again at The Downs Guest House in Scunthorpe.This homely Bed and Breakfast has a nice quiet central location not far from the bus station or the main shopping area of town.Great English cooked breakfasts with lashings of bacon and coffee served up by Allan and the friendly staff.With its comfortable beds and rooms its great value for money when compared to its equivalents in London.
In summary then my whirlwind trip was well worth it.As well as experiencing Scunthorpes promotion I met some great people.Visited some new places,revisited others.Made some new friends and renewed ties.Now I can look forward with anticipation to a new football season.New league.New challenges.Already theres talk of immediate demotion,such is the fate of a Scunny supporter.

KitKats...Some English KitKats

There were some varieties of KitKat products I hadnt seen before on my trip to England.
The brown pack contain chocolate finger wafers with fine dark chocolate.The pack claims the chocolate used contains 52% cocoa solids.There seems to be a trend to produce bars with different chocolate content.Some are sweeter,some more bitter than others.
The yellow foil packaged KitKat is a Chunky Peanut Butter bar which again I havent seen before that comes with a creamy peanut topping.

KitKats...Green Tea KitKats

Another local variety of KitKat products I spotted recently in Nagoya stores.These striped green tea flavoured ones have only a faint green tea flavour and seem sweeter than I thought they would.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Flash...A Few More England Pics

Just a few more photos of my recent trip to England...
Problems with Blogger trying to post but I think Ive resolved it with a little help...
The first shows one of the colourful flowerbeds in St James's Park,Central London.

This next photo is near dusk looking from Nelson's Column down to Big Ben in the distant background.One thing I noticed that was very different between London and Nagoya was the quality of the light.It seemed clearer and sharper in London.

Another shot of Lincoln Cathedral from the walls of the nearby Castle.

Finally a photo of The Honest Lawyer pub in Scunthorpe.One of many venues on Saturday 5th May full of happy Scunthorpe United Football supporters from the four corners of the world celebrating the teams promotion.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

England Trip Part 1.

What follows is a review of my recent trip to England.One of the highlights was being a spectator at the final game of the season between Scunthorpe and Carlisle on Saturday May 5th.After the game,Scunthorpe United was presented with the League One Champions Trophy and winners medals.Next season the team will play in the Championship for the first time in fourty odd years.A remarkable achievement considering the size of the club and its resources.I'll write more about it next week.

Before the game I spent a few days in London before heading off to Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire.A slow six hour bus ride.I also visited Lincoln,an interesting spot about two hours from Scunthorpe by bus.

London Museums and Other Attractions

It goes without saying there are many museums and other attractions in London.Unlike Japan many of the museums are free to enter or merely suggest you give a small donation.

Imperial War Museum
The first museum I visited was the Imperial War Museum.It is devoted to conflicts in the twentieth century from World War One to the present day.

From the battlefield to the homefront,from conscientious objectors to Holocaust victims the museum has a diverse number of displays.The IWM features a huge atrium displaying various tanks,missiles,guns and military hardware.Overhead WW1 and WW2 planes (such as a Camel and Spitfire) are suspended from the ceiling.
Various floors are devoted to different conflicts e.g WW1,WW2,Post 1945 and theaters of war e.g the Home Front and the Gulf War with lots of uniforms and medals on display.Theres a WW1 trench display you can walk through and a Holocaust Exhibition which is harrowing and disturbing to view.Apart from the archive film playing,the display of shoes taken from Concentration camp prisoners hit home.
The Museum also has an art gallery and temporary exhibits.Well worth a look and judging by the number of school groups and other visitors I saw in my two and a half hour visit a popular and educational institution.

The Natural History Museum

Like the IWM this was my second visit to this museum in South Kensington.Huge collections of dinosaur bones and skeletons,plants,stuffed animals,minerals, fossils and meteorites.There are cabinets literally crammed with specimens of birds and butterflies.The museums displays are separated into such sections as Human Biology and Creepy Crawlies.The Earth Galleries have displays explaining natural phenomenon as earthquakes and gravity.
Outside theres a garden divided into different habitats including a pond and hedgerow thriving with bugs and insects.
Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens in West London contains the worlds most comprehensive botanical collection on earth within its 120 hectare grounds.As well as enormous hothouses containing palms,orchids and cacti there are specimen trees,seasonal walks and decorative flowerbeds.Last time I visited in winter the grounds were bare so it was great to revisit in late spring and see trees in leaf,drifts of bluebells and magnolias in bud.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Finally I made a quick whistle stop tour of the V and A Museum which contains collections of decorative art and design.There are over 150 galleries containing such things as Chinese Ceramics,Rodin sculptures,jewellery,glass,metalware and clothes amongst other things.The two and a half hours I spent werent enough and I'll have to revisit it in the future.

Lincoln City

Lincoln,the county capital of rural Lincolnshire,Eastern England is dominated by a hilltop Gothic cathedral which overlooks the town centre below.
As well as the Cathedral which featured in "The Da Vinci Code" there is a Norman Castle and steep streets lined with Tudor style buildings and a number of interesting museums.

The Cathedral dates from Norman times and has three huge towers.There are various tours for visitors to take including a floor and roof guided tour.I took a roof tour which gave me an insight into how it was built as well as some great views of the city below and surrounding countryside.

The Norman Castle nearby used used to house the city court and prison.Again,there are some great views of the centre and a chance to walk around the castle walls.

Lincoln Museums

A ten minute signposted walk from the castle finds you outside the Museum of Lincolnshire Life.The museum has an interesting mixture of collections and displays of life in Lincolnshire.Theres a domestic wing with such exhibits as a nursery,kitchen and parlour and a commerical row with Edwardian era stores such as a chemist and ironmonger.Theres also a Transport Hall and an Industry and Agriculture Gallery.Among the steam engines and tractors is a World War One tank named Flirt 2.Theres also an informative video outlining the tanks history and how it came to be built in Lincoln.

Finally closer to the city centre is The Collection Museum which houses both art and archaeology.A very hands on user friendly institution with lots of touch screens and interactive displays for kids.You can try on Roman clothes,helmets and uniforms as well as looking at fossils and mosiacs excavated from the site on which the building stands.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Flash...Back from Blighty

Arrived back from England late last Wednesday after a whirlwind tour of London,Lincoln and Scunthorpe. Some photos I took while away with more to follow...

Tube sign near the Houses of Parliament London.

An exhibit from the ironware section of the Victoria and Albert Museum London

One of the glasshouses at Kew Gardens just outside London.

Some Scunthorpe United players after the Carlisle game and presentation ceremony.

Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln probably best known for its appearance in the movie "The Da Vinci Code".