Feels like Summer

Suddenly it feels like summer – and not a UK one – here this weekend. Temperatures are up to 26°C and beyond although it’s not, as the Huffington Post are keen to point out, an “Indian Summer”. It certainly seemed like one this afternoon. Gorgeous sunshine and everybody wearing the light colourful clothes they thought would be getting packed away for another year. So why am I now suffering from a cold? The girl behind the counter at Waterstone’s told me everyone is down with one at the moment. Including her flatmate who (believe it or not) is a was last year’s student rep for MMU PhD Students. Hmm. Who says cities are anonymous? Everyone is so friendly around here. It does feel a little like a “University village” at times.

While in Waterstone’s I finally bought a copy of Jennifer Egan’s “A Visit from the Goon Squad” which I started to tear through straight away as I ate homemade tomato soup in the lovely bookshop café. I have read quite a few rave reviews of the book but they do seem to be justified rather than being just hype. I couldn’t resist taking a sneaky look ahead at what may be the deepest (and conversely, the most amusing) use of PowerPoint slides that I have come across. Believe me, I have seen (and put together) a fair few PowerPoint shows over the last four years! So it’s wonderful to see some of the familiar “SmartArt Graphics” being used by Egan to convey intricate relationships, family connections, and heartaches. Interesting too to realise that PowerPoint’s designers have influenced this particular artistic usage by providing graphics that, after all, were always intended to aid compact and illustrative data representations. Yet while Iggy Pop and (Edinburgh-born) Ricky Gardiner are credited for the use of lyrics in the book’s front pages, I can’t see any mention of Microsoft. Well, maybe they thought it was worth it!

Thursday was the last day of MMU induction activities and, after too much free wine, I found myself talking (briefly) to an installation artist associated with the Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design about New Media. MIRIAD research students were also involved in the week’s induction activities although they are far more concerned with practise and “studio time” than us “library time” HLSS folks. Although he uses digital objects, sounds, and YouTube videos within his work – as well as making use of Open Source technologies – this guy said quite matter-of-factly (and almost as though he has heard too much hyperbole on the topic): “New Media. The way I see it, it’s just another medium, isn’t it?” He may incorporate or make use of it if it seems appropriate, or if it lends something to what he wishes to represent. However, New Media are primarily like any other possible means by which to convey: tools that join the “old media” kit of paints, clay, analogue recordings, and so on. I suppose it makes sense that an artist would have a particularly interesting slant on NM (and indeed, participation).

The modest little CD by Rory Charles. I'm not sure if it has a title...

Speaking of which. The reason I am blogging (well, apart from the fact I am hiding away with my Lemsips in a bid to protect my flatmates from this bug) is that I want to tell you about a wonderful busker I heard performing at St. Anne’s Square. A guy called Rory Charles, who stopped me – and a crowd of others – in our tracks this afternoon. Impressive vocals and a delicate but strong guitar style. I won’t attempt a review except to say that if you like Neil Young or Damien Rice you will probably like him. Here are some of the “sounds” he has made available on the SoundCloud site. Also: a picture of the album that I bought from his assistant. Sorry if it looks a little like an eBay listing photo. I sadly didn’t have my camera with me earlier on. Hope you will appreciate the link!

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