Archive | July 2010

Bettakultcha III

Tonight, at the second attempt after a work distraction halted my presence at the previous event, I spent an evening at Bettakultcha. Bettawhat? Based on the Pecha Kucha Nights, Bettakultcha takes the Pecha Kucha concept (present 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds) and adapts it slightly (present 20 slides, each shown for 15 seconds).

Fabulous cakes

This isn’t the only twist on the concept though, the most radical being Bettakultcha holds its event at Temple Works. A seemingly odd, unobvious choice, the venue comes into its own after spending only a couple of minutes mingling with the other attendees, all awaiting the start of proceedings. It feels like a cellar, a long, wide cellar, pillars creating an ‘outside’ walkway, while inside the barriers an incredible space that has just the right width to seem airy without being too distant. Again, the screen at one end of the seating area is a comfortable distance without being too far away.

Watching from the back

There’s some fabulous sushi, tapas, and cakes on offer, a nosey at these being pleasantly interupted by the very-frequent request to borrow bottle openers. Its a bring-your-own drink kinda place, which adds to the informal, relaxed feeling, with people sharing a bottle and offering sups to those who haven’t brought anything. People mull, people sit, but people are nattering and listening, a fabulous example of socialising.

Looking at the cakes/watching the presentations

Mike Chitty’s excellent mediation on Big Society kicks the presentations off, a fine example of information and posing questions, some of which Mike offers answers, but sufficently leaves open ended for the viewer to absorb and consider. And this is something I notice: the presentations start, they really do carry along, and then end in what doesn’t feel like five minutes at all.

Throughout the evening not one of the presentations turns out to be weak, across the whole managing to engage on every level. The search for perfect delivery isn’t what I was here for. What I find is enthusiasm, a sense of fun, and a willingness to share. So often in the recent general election we saw politicians who struggled to muster a coherent idea, a coherent statment, and a coherent train of thought, all expressed with a zero level of true knowledge (ie. based on briefings) and devoid of enjoyment. No such issue here.

Back row boys

It would be so unfair to single out one as a favourite, but Mike Wallis ruminations on cake was a masterclass in capturing the audience with a familiar topic, and adding a slant that still made it fresh. Sacrificial cakes? A genius grab. His sheer enthusiasm for the analysis he showed was only bettered by his fantastic personal insights (on a cake collapsing: “just ice it!”).

(A special mention should also go to Nick Pickles, who suffered a technical fault at the start of his presentation, but wasted no time in talking through his music photography, using the screen as the canvas to show off his work, explaining the moments and the non-moments when taking shots, as well as the sheer luck a good picture can sometimes need to make it stand out.)

Every presentation was a fascinating example of the personal and the personal expression.

Wall downstairs at Temple Works

The make up of the presenters is strongly based around people who are quite active on Twitter, where the event seems to drum up most of its support. At the moment, the event does have an underground feel – or as I put it during the event, a sanguine Fight Club. But it reminds me of why I love Twitter, why I follow certain people – because they too manage to engage me every day on every level. Are Twitter and events like Bettakultcha the catalysts for intelligent, thoughtful, and committed people to come together and share?

Walking out into the pouring rain as events come to a close, I reflect briefly, on being holed away with that group of people, only a few of which I had met before, who all in their own way let the audience into their worlds. The gap between the second and third events was three months. If the fourth Bettakultcha is another three month away that’s a long wait for this man. Be rest assured, I’ll be there, and I might even step forth and do a presentation of my own. I hope I can be as clear and emotive as those I saw tonight.

Edible flowers

Calendulas on the veg patch

Apparently I showed a little flower knowledge recently by declaring you can eat the flowers of nasturtiums and calendulas. I’m was a little surprised that people didn’t seem more aware that there are a number of edible flowers out there. Is it down to our modern supermarket convenience buying habits, where buying flowers to eat isn’t, erm, convenient? Is it modern society has never really been in touch with eating flowers? Or is it, as someone put it to me a few months back, that eating flowers is just for “freaks”?

At the least those two flowers add colour to food, especially salads. Calendulas have minimal soft taste and texture, while nasturtiums have a peppery bite much like rocket (which goes to see way too quickly in our garden) . (You can pickle the seed pods of nasturtiums as well to make “poor man’s capers”, but this is almost akin to eating the pickled fruit of the plant, albeit tasty and easy given the copious pods a nasturtium plant can produce.)

Anyone with a veg plot will know of the complementary nature of these two plants as well, but that’s not why I am quickly penning this. These are two plants that come in a number of colours and growing natures, and are easy to get going from the smallest of patches. Buy a pack of seeds and have a go at growing them to nibble the petals.

Flick Kick Football

“Just off for a quick trip to the toilet.” Ominous words in this household. Let’s be up front about this. Reading on the loo is so last week (since all the levels of Angry Birds have been sorted). At the mo, a quick razz on Flick Football helps add some sense of fulfillment to one of humanity’s most passive activities! And being a game that is quite addictive, a quick razz turns more into a short session. A short session means daddy having some peace and quiet time being away from vital chores.

Part of an increasing trend Flick Football is a port of a popular Flash based game, this time over on Mousebreaker. The challenge? From a first person perspective you have to score a goal. Each attempt on goals places you in different scenarios, where you to have to ‘flick’ the ball into the goal, avoiding defenders and goalkeepers which start off stationary but become increasingly more active (and faster). To aid your task you can curl the ball. A shot that is just within the frame of the goal (ie. just inside the post) is considered a “skill shot”, which will give you an extra life. That’s it. Simples.

Flick Football has a lot of good things going for it. First it’s cheap, meaning more people are more likely to take a punt on it (witness Doodle God last weekend…). It has a great, well-suited visual style that is distinctive, like a 70s comic book. The gameplay is increasingly challenging, addictive, and gives a real feeling of compulsion. Add in that it is fast to load and have a quick razz on, the sort of game the iThing is most adept at, and you will find sneaking a quick game easy-peasy.

The control system is well suited to the iThing. The game is more accessible and playable here than its online brother – an example where the concept and device come together to bring out the best in each other. And don’t forget the reputation it is developing: it hasn’t needed a paid campaign to push it. People are talking about it, its popularity is spreading by word of mouth, and people are sharing their scores to increase the level of competition. It’s not meaningful and you won’t learn much from playing it, but it is a great diversion. These all make it a winner, but will also hopefully make it a massive hit.

I’m still crap at it though. 55, I found out in the pub twice this week, isn’t a very high score at all. Still, plenty more loo trips will sort that out, I hope.