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Tuesday, November 23

As is customary, I've let the blog suffer for far too many days. Thankfully, I have a fair chunk of time with which to redress the balance. I have much to report, though I suspect very little of it is of more than passing interest. We'll see.

Monday 15th
I spent the evening at home with my piano and microphone. I was intending to make a lovely sweet recording of some new songs I've been writing for a new musical. If we drop the adjectives, there's no doubt that I achieved something. A recording was made. I quite enjoyed the process, though I suffered from red-light syndrome. This is the process of being suddenly unable to play a single note accurately so long as something is recording you. Having said that, I also discovered that a big disadvantage of trying to record something that one's just written is that you have absolutely no experience of playing it accurately. It was only as I got to the tail end of a near-perfect recording of one song that I remembered that I had no idea how it ended.

Anyway, my recording session was pretty successful, though I gave up on the fourth of the songs, finding it too hard to get my head around it. I don't like to record too late, partly because it can annoy the neighbours, partly because I don't play well when tired, and partly because, when it's late at night, I tend to whisper and play quietly - this doesn't make sense when you're recording something that's meant to be witty and exuberant.

Tuesday 16th
Following a day in the office, I headed off to my rehearsal for Guys and Dolls. I didn't even bother taking my music in with me. I've long held the opinion that music is best learned without the benefit of looking at the sheet. I've not got a photographic memory, but with certain bits of the music, I have found myself mentally scanning an image of the sheet music to remember it... it seems to work. Anyway, I spent the rehearsal looking at the rehearsal schedule that is to consume my life for the next 3 months. It's busy. Oh... it's busy!

After the rehearsal, which was surprisingly brief, I headed home to record the last song. I am not going to be in as many of the musical numbers in Guys and Dolls as the chorus, and my part is a non-singing part (well, I sing, but I don't have my own solo singing line), so I was feeling the need to do some hardcore singing. I recorded a song called No Questions Asked, the title for which was suggested by my co-writer. This song is for three men, so I sang all three. Now who gets a solo? Me! Three times!

The aim of these recordings was to demonstrate what I've done so far. My co-writer is a lot less hands-on that my previous musical collaborator. I'm doing the writing and using the co-writer for background research, ideas, inspiration and feedback. Since I was heading to Edinburgh on Thursday, I was hoping to show the first ten minutes' worth of music to the lady in question in order to gather some momentum and get some reaction to where I've been going on my own.

Wednesday 17th
This was a most unusual day. I spent it chasing The Musical!. The previous weekend I had pretty much come to the conclusion that the show would not play again. Having said that, I was juggling the possibility of doing it in Glasgow in March 2005. This juggling was dependent on whether my musical other-half really wanted to do it and whether we were thinking of doing the show in earnest again at all. Although I'd reached a point where I thought I was finally solvent and moving on from producing costly vanity projects, things changed. Actually, they'd changed the previous evening, after a call with the Australian Connection.

Glasgow is definitely going to happen. We're in the final contractual stages now. Friday 18th and Saturday 19th March 2005.

Melbourne has turned from a probably-not to a definite-maybe. We're looking at numbers now. I've asked for the time off work. We've checked out flights. It's looking do-able. We'd have to work really hard, but it could be an amazing project.

So if we're going to do Glasgow and Melbourne, surely we need more of a run up? We may as well do another show in the North West... and Newcastle... and maybe some more in Scotland.

Oh dear!

Oh dear, oh dear!

Anyway, on the Wednesday, I headed off to Sunderland to watch the gig at The Royalty. This was a notable occasion. The audience had dwindled to nearly single figures. This used to be an excitable and large crowd. The promoter had no choice. He had to pull out of running the show in future. One cannot afford to be paying a headliner fee when you end up with a show that you run for free because it's not going to be very good. Therefore, the Sunderland comedy show is now going to be run differently. It should be interesting to see what it turns into. Sadly, I'll get little chance to go along, what with two sets of rehearsals to attend over the next few months.

Following the show we went back into Newcastle and to a bar called Popolo's. We found a booth with three young ladies in it and asked if we could share. When they said that we could, we bundled in around them, imprisoning the poor lasses in the corner of the booth - this wasn't an intentional ploy, but it happened. They kept themselves to themselves and we were there for chat and our own company, not to harrass young ladies. However, one of our party turned out to know them and so they were strangers no longer. Hooray - instant party.

Leaving the bar relatively late, I dropped a friend home and then returned to my own home in order to transfer my recordings to CD. This sounds easier than it was - not the dropping off, that was easy. The process of transferring a recording to CD should be easy. I have a digital recorder and CDs are digital. The recorder even has the facility to transfer to CD... however, I don't have the right kit. Previously, I've used a computer to get the sound out of the recorder and then transferred from the computer direct to CD. Sadly, the computer I used is out of commission at the moment. So, I had to borrow a laptop from the office to achieve this. The laptop made a horrible crackling noise when connected to both its power and the recorder (at least the noise was on the recording). This is not surprising. Laptop power supplies are quite nasty for recordings and are made worse when the laptop is connected to another powered device - say a recorder. So, the solution should have been to run the laptop on its batteries while recording. But no. That would have been too easy. This laptop had a battery life of about 2 minutes - this is no exaggeration. So I had to make do with the poor recording sound. I also had to redo the recording a couple of times because the sound skipped. This took me late into the night. I had gigs in Scotland the following day and I was up late listening to the sound of my own voice and playing on a CD that I was desperate to get made before I went to bed.

The CD was made. It sounded ok-ish.

Thursday 18th
Spent the day at work, occasionally listening to the CD I'd made the night before. I left the office at around 4pm, rushing to be in Scotland for the two gigs that I was booked to perform at. The first required me to attend for 7pm. I made it on time. I was at the foot of the Forth Bridge, in South Queensferry. We were in a lovely arts centre. The hall was great. I had a lovely sound check, unfettered by any interruptions from early-comers. Audiences can spoil sound checks. They didn't spoil this one. Oh no. In fact, we sound checked for much longer than necessary. We sound checked so hard, that I broke a string on my guitar. Luckily, I'd packed my additional spare strings. This was lucky because the string that broke was one that I had no other spares of (except in the new pack of strings). I had time to restring the guitar, retune it, re-soundcheck... the audience never came, in fact. We gave up the gig at about 8.45pm. They weren't coming. Luckily, I still got paid.

I was due to open the South Queensferry gig and then close a different gig in Edinburgh city centre. Given that we had a comedy crew in South Queensferry, we all headed into Edinburgh. I assumed that the headliner from the South Queensferry gig would replace me in closing the Edinburgh gig - I didn't mind. Performing is the important bit, not one's billing. As we drove into town, I explained to him about Blaized Carmey, this curious character that has been buzzing the comedy community for the last few months. I explained that I would be going to see Blaized's show on Monday 22nd. Describing Blaized can make one sound like a nutter. I really had no idea what was going to happen on Monday, but I wanted to know what all the fuss had been about. The guy I was talking to could see my point, though he's very good natured and would have attempted to, even if I were raving.

Anyway, we arrived in town and the act I'd transported decided to bail. Fair enough. The venue that I was due to do the comedy in was going to be a weird one. As it turned out, it was weird AND wonderful. The audience were simultaneously quite short of attention span and attentive. I went up there with gay abandon, grabbed their attention and gave them 25 minutes of Ashley gold, of which they appreciated maybe 15 minutes! I made them applaud hard at the end of my set and left the stage. There's a trick I've discovered for making the audience applaud hard. My last song ends on a long chord (repeatedly strummed on the guitar). They know it's the last song because I tell them that it is. They start clapping during the last chord. As they clap, I make the chord louder, this makes them clap harder (they think they're enjoying it more, or something like that). I can keep that going as long as I want. I decided to make sure that they worked for me at the end of that set. I had given a lot to them. Fair's fair!

Anyway, I left the stage, imagining that my work had been done. I was then roped into singing over karaoke backing tracks for a further hour as the evening degenerated. I left just before it got really weird and just after I'd been paid. It made sense at the time.

What about the CD I'd been up until all hours making? Well, I played it to my collaborator, who'd attended the Edinburgh city centre gig. We snuck out to her car to listen to it. Twice. She seemed almost non-plussed. This was a bit of an anti-climax. Especially since I'd worked hard to write the stuff, then to record it, then to make it into a CD. Having said that, I had high expectations for the reaction I was going to get. I suspect that she'll find that the songs grow on her. I live in hope that she'll react well in the future, but it was a bit of a disappointment for her not to be jumping up and down in joy. However, we've not worked together before, so perhaps her expectations of a demo-recording were different and perhaps the jumping for joy doesn't happen. Not to worry.

I got home very late. Not terribly late. I've done terribly late and it's not pretty. Just very late. That's more acceptable.

Friday 19th
This was a relatively humdrum day in comparison to other parts of the week. I went to work. I left work and went to my rehearsal - South Pacific. I was given the line to sing in There is nothing like a dame that I've always wanted to sing. I hope that I'm still charged with that responsibility when it comes to the final production. I'm a sucker for a bass solo. I was the guy who was up for weeks when I got to start Wouldn't it be Loverly in My Fair Lady. I'll never forget the feeling of plucking my note out of the accompaniment, stepping forward slightly and going "It's rather dull in tahn, I think I'll take me to Paree".

I grabbed some food on the way home and gave myself an early night. Well, early-ish.

Saturday 20th
Waking up remarkably late on the 20th, I had time to discover that my internet connection appeared to be down. See, there's a reason I've not been blogging until now - my internet ain't been working. I grabbed some late lunch and a shower and then headed into town. I walked into town, with the aim of meeting a friend for a coffee.

Instead of coffee, we went to a pub. I had a pint, my friend a whiskey (with the E, since it was Irish) and I witnessed an hilarious event - a pint of Guinness was knocked off its perch on top of a partition between a seating area and the fruit machine. I noticed it while it was in mid fall - a black cloud of liquid first, followed by the glass. It was almost in slow motion. I saw them hang in the air before time and gravity regained control and they landed, splat, on a woman whose initial shock turned into intense (and hilarious) anger, argument and nagging. I felt sorry for her, but I was also amused. Maybe that makes me a bad person. It was just funny. What was funnier is that neither her husband nor the fellow who knocked the pint on her were able to see why she was so annoyed. They just waited her anger out. It's a comedy basic, which I describe as "Oooh, that must have hurt, I'm glad it didn't happen to me". Ah, the amusement.

Anyway, the pub visit was soon over and we found a cafe for more refreshment. Then we found Popolo's. Second visit for me in the same week - bonus! Then it was time to make a decision, shall I go home and be a wuss? or shall I go with this friend of mine to a gig in Sunderland.

The film Finding Nemo wasn't going to watch itself. I went home. Like a wuss. The film was ok. I had higher hopes, but it was engaging enough. It didn't have enough big laughs for me.

I decided to have a look at my internet connection before going to bed. It turned out that the machine, through which my internet passes, was no longer functioning. I had some spare parts, but the spares didn't quite work. This was frustrating. I actually managed to get the machine part-functioning, but I needed to change some settings on something, and I'd forgotten the password which I'd set about 18 months previously. There was nothing I could do. I actually had a basic connection to the internet, but I couldn't use it. Grrrr.

I had a look at another faulty computer in my collection and that was behaving strangely too.

I had a look at the CD player I'd got for my digital recorder - wondering if I could break the run of bad luck by making this work. It didn't.

A hat trick of computing failures. Very annoying. Before I knew it, it was 2am and I had wasted the tail end of the night running round after dusty machinery. I turned everything off and went to bed.

Sunday 21st
Waking up late again - such is my way on weekends - I set out of the house, a man on a mission. I needed to buy new shoes. I find that the Clarks shop in Royal Quays manages to sell shoes that fit me (ish) without putting a ludicrous price on them. After trying on a few pairs (well, three), and remembering the rule that one's foot takes on any available size in the shop, but returns to its usual and larger shape outside of the shop, I selected a pair of shoes that were inexpensive and to my liking, and paid for them. They cost me just over £20. Not bad really. Having worn them for a couple of days at the time of writing, I can confirm that they really really hurt. They'll be fine, probably.

Anyway, I couldn't resist a trip to the naughty DVD shop. That's the shop where one can naughtily buy DVDs, rather than buy naughty DVDs. I bought the third series of the League of Gentlemen for a tenner. Not bad at all.

Then off to the supermarket. I had decided to make a pizza. I haven't made one in a while - as I was to discover when I got to the actual making of it. While there, I decided to make a mushroom soup too. I bought a bunch of other ingredients for the following week's consumption. It was not an expensive trip.

Getting home, I set about food preparation. I like cooking and, although I was a suitable sous-chef the previous weekend, I haven't done much in the way of cooking this year at all. At home, the nearest I've come to cooking has been boiling up some pasta or cutting a sandwich or two. So, I had fun in the kitchen.

The pizza was not a disaster. Sadly, the dough didn't work very well. I think that it was simply too cold. I could have used warmer water (it felt warm enough at the time), but the dough felt cold when I kneaded it and it didn't come together very well, or rise that well either. I think it could have been a hell of a lot worse, though. The soup was pretty good (there's some in the freezer for later too) and the tomato sauce for the pizza was one of my finest creations, containing quite a lot of garlic - I've not done it with garlic before, but I liked the idea of garlicification.

Following my culinary creations it was time to continue being a domestic goddess and deal with the laundry that I've been neglecting for quite some time. So, I ironed while watching my League of Gentlemen DVD. I must have done 2 hours' ironing. The rest of the DVD was also watched, including some of the extras.

Then bed again. I had packed some clothes for the following day. I was due to make a trip to London. As I'd mentioned, I was going to see this play relating to Blaized Carmey.

Monday 22nd
I woke up at a time which looked definitely wrong. Either the clock was lying, my eyes were deceiving me, or I only had 5 minutes to get dressed and into the car.

5 minutes later I was speeding to the office. I had a half day at work before heading off to London. I made my train in plenty of time and, as I am at the moment sitting with a laptop on a train writing this, so I sat on that train with the laptop doing some "work". The work in question relates to Incredible Productions. I entered all the financial transactions that I've made as a stand-up/production company into a database. I'm trying to keep good accounts so that I can see what things are really costing for my own purposes and so that I can tell the tax man what I've been up to. For instance, if you exclude the cost of equipment, The Musical! only actually cost £500 to produce. That's pretty good. My most successful Edinburgh show, Rehab's for Quitters only cost me £9.40. Anyway, I now have everything logged and I feel legal. I did have to spend a lot of time entering data and then checking sums to work out why things didn't add up to the other records that I had. It passed the time. I feel financially responsible now. There's been a lot of money spent this year, though. A lot.

I arrived in London a few minutes late and headed off to Camden to meet a friend and see the show. I'll write about the show separately.

Following the show and post-show chatting, we headed around Camden looking for food and drink before giving up and heading back to Highgate for food and drink. A few minutes later it was time for an extended session of eating Indian takeaway and drinking beer. This diet is just not working! Chatting late into the night meant that I didn't get a whole lot of sleep. I've had tougher nights out, though. It was worth travelling to London for the company. It didn't feel like a 300 mile trip for a night out. Not at all. It might sound like I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not. I do so much travelling and spend so many nights away from the house, that a few hours on a train with my laptop and the time passing by quickly feels like no effort. Finding myself in a different (but familiar) city with friends who don't live close by is no surprise, and since the company and entertainment were good, it felt like a good use of my time and effort.

Tuesday 23rd
Woke up. Got tube into town. Got on train. Turned on this computer. Completed some accounting I'd forgotten to include the previous day. Started writing this blog. It took a couple of hours. Other stuff is still to happen.

What's with the Blaized Carmey thing then?
Oh dear.

Oh dear oh dear.

A few months ago, a character appeared on the Chortle Chortle Comedy Forums. These forums are inhabited by denizens of the comedy world, sometimes under their own names and sometimes with silly pseudonyms. Blaized has always claimed to be an old man and has, from time to time, written copious amounts of text on any subject of his choosing. He writes in a childlike, naive mode with plentiful spelling and "pronunciation" mistakes (since it's written, it's not quite about pronunciation - he writes phonetically these errors). For example, he might say about me:

I lick Aslee, he's my fiend

This is clearly not the work of someone who is getting stuff wrong. He's using wordplay and he's using it for great comic effect.

Blaized claimed to be putting on his play The Great Spider Welch at the Underbelly this Fringe. He called it Twinky Bartem's Underbelly - undoubtedly referring to Ed Bartlam - one of the organisers of the venue. I was at the venue a lot but didn't see any sign of him. I assumed that he'd not been there. Having said, that, this character seems to know a fair bit about The Musical!, having referred to things relating to the show that people in the know would be aware of, but which you'd not know from just having seen my literature on it.

So who the hell is he? I've emailed him and he's refused to drop the act by email.

He organised a show "The Universal Language - of the animals" on Monday 22nd November. He'd started out by asking for volunteers to be in the cast. The description of this show was that it would star the cast and him, Mr Blaized Carmey. Was this to be the final moment of revelation? Would we find out who was playing Blaized? It's clear that this person know the world of comedy and how to get people wound up. It was also clear that people were curious about his identity.

As far as we knew, the cast were recruited and sent scripts without having met Blaized. The theatre, which is the same venue that Chris and I used for our London previews of The Musical!, claimed not to have met Blaized. They claimed that he had passed them envelopes of cash under the door and only communicated by email and letter. So everyone claims that this mystery wrapped in an enigma called Blaized was yet to be discovered.

Travelling all the way to London for a 1 hour fringe-style show with an under-rehearsed cast, just to find out who Blaized Carmey is was quite an effort. I didn't even know if there would be a show. I didn't know if the whole thing was a wind-up. I wasn't certain that Blaized would turn up. It was really going to be a waste of time and money. I can think of any number of more valuable activities. But I had to go. I wanted to be a part of this. Blaized has entertained and amused me, and he's been attentive enough for me to want to be attentive in return.

The part of Blaized in his show was played by Dan Mersh of The Trap. This was interesting for me. I already linked Blaized with The Trap since his website was set up by Chris Limb, who is, I believe, the brother of one of the members of The Trap (they're a great sketch comedy group). I wondered whether Dan was Blaized.

The show went ahead. A voice over, sounding like Dan, said that Blaized was in the audience but would meet us later. Noone materialised after the show to put us out of our misery. The audience comprised various people from the London comedy community. We all watched the efforts of the cast and were occasionally raised to laughter, except for the folks from the theatre, who were frequently brought to unbridled mirth.

And then...? Well, the cast claimed ignorance of Blaized. Well, some did. They had a lovely cover story about Blaized being too ill to attend, after a flu jab. They claimed that they had a suitcase full of props and costumes left for them and that they just put the show together over the weekend without Blaized's help. They volunteered this cover story in full without being prompted. It's a lie. It's all lies.

Dan claimed to have met Blaized and that he's an old man. He was also aiding the deception.

There was no big reveal.

It was very frustrating.

Aaagh.

But I was there to be frustrated. I'm still amused.

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