Tour of Britain 2014 – Stage 8 (London)

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-56

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-23

A good day yesterday at the Tour of Britain watching first the time trial, and later a 10 lap circuit race around town. Lots of opportunities for photos, and I took them!

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-28

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-40

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-43

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-45

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-52

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-60

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-75

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-92

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-98

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-104

Tour of Britain 2014 - Stage 8 - London-106

For all my photos, head over to Flickr.

And for something a little different, here are some of my photos along with some audio from the race. I’d recommend listening either with really good speakers, or via headphones.

Tour of Britain photos and sound from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

A Streetcar Named Desire

Desire
The corner of Royal and Desire in New Orleans. There really was a streetcar that ran along Desire…

It seems that this has been one of the hot tickets of the season, which just makes it bit odd that I managed to buy a pair of tickets for a Saturday night a couple of weeks ago, purely by logging onto the Young Vic’s website after the reviews came out when I idly though I might go. I guess that other people cancel going to even the most popular shows, so it’s always worth checking (Yes – this is how I got to Kate Bush too – try checking around 11am if you’re after tickets for that). Anyway, enough of the smugness, what about the play?

Well it was fantastic.

I first saw A Streetcard Named Desire years ago – sometime in the eighties or nineties. Try as I might, I can’t remember who played Blanche, although I’m sure it was a starry West End cast. (Where’s the equivalent of IMDB for plays?)

This time around we have Gillian Anderson as a terrific Blanche Dubois, arriving to stay at her younger sister’s home in New Orleans. She totter slowly onto the stage trailing her baggage and wearing large sunglasses. This can’t be the right place.

Her sister Stella (Vanessa Kirby) isn’t home at first, and she hasn’t mentioned to Stanley (Ben Foster) that her older sister was coming to stay.

The heat of the summer is making people angsty. Blanche expects more than she’s getting. Stanley doesn’t trust her.

The play is given a contemporary setting – a cordless phone, and cans rather than bottles of beer and (Diet) Coke. But it doesn’t really matter. It all still holds true nearly 70 years after Tennessee Williams wrote it. And the design is fascinating, with a stage that is in constant motion, slowly revolving while the audience watches in the round. For the most part this works, with the direction meaning that you naturally flick around to different parts of the set for different scenes. But occassionally your vision is blocked at a crucial scene by a door. Or you can’t fail to notice that they’ve had to speed it up so that actors can enter and leave on cue.

But it’s all about the performances really. Anderson is superb, not overdoing the alcoholism, although you can see it in her eyes, and her manner. She gets the laughs, and the sadness. Life has not gone as she’d planned. But she knows how to work men, or at least she thinks she does. Her seduction of a paperboy, from a 21st century perspective, is quite shocking.

Foster’s Stanley is still macho, but somehow not quite as much of a bruiser as I’ve seen him before. I’m pretty certain he must have bulked up though, since he played Lance Armstrong in the forthcoming Stephen Frears film about the man. The lines about him not being a “Polack” seems very relevant in today’s society too.

Stella just can’t help herself, and forgives the violence that sometimes erupts – seemingly across the whole neighbourhood. There is definitely pent up sexual tension here. And you can see why the 1951 film was so heavily censored.

Overall the performances are exceptional, and I loved it.

This is the last week to try to catch it in person, or go see the NT Live showing tomorrow!

Wildlife Sound Recording Course

I spent last weekend near Reepham in Norfolk learning some of the basics of sound recording.

Regular readers to this blog will know that I’ve tinkered loosely with audio in the past. I’ve owned a Zoom H2 for a number of years, and in particular I’ve tinkered around with some binaural recordings.

But while the H2 is a fun device, it has its difficulties. Because the microphone is built into it, you get a lot of handling noise. And I now know that the pre-amps aren’t great on it. I did recently upgrade to the new Zoom H5, but I now know that this perhaps wasn’t my best buy, and I should have waited until after this course to look at something different.

The Zoom H5 comes with an X/Y stereo microhpone, and crucially also has a couple of XLR inputs. This latter is particularly important having come away from the weekend.

The course is run by a company called Wildeye, and I first stumbled across it some years ago. Every year, I’d promise myself that I’d sign up, and every year, as the dates got closer, the course would have filled anyway. So finally this year, I signed up a few months ahead of time.

The really great thing about the course is that you have some of the best in the business teaching it. It’s led by Chris Watson and Jez riley French. Chris Watson has recorded everything – working on television, radio, and feature films. He’s released audio on CD, and he’s produced installation pieces. Jez riley French is essentially a sound artist, using field recordings as his compositions. He also builds and sells his own contact microphones and hydrophones.

On the first evening of the course, everyone in the room went around talking about what they did and how they used sound. Some were at the very creative end – sometimes working in other mediums and looking to improve their sound skills. Others worked in different facets of audio. Some had a bit of experience, others didn’t. It was a really interesting mix of people.

Chris had set up a great four speaker surround system in the room where we heard most of our talks. Multi-channel audio is obviously a really interesting area, and something he’s working in more and more. The difficulty right now is distributing that audio. While the BBC has carried out experiments with multi-channel audio, regular broadcast radio is not capable of broadcasting in more than stereo, and sadly cost constraints mean that most broadcasters are counting their bits – bits cost money – and looking to drop rates rather than increase them. Experiments with things like DAB+ might be interesting.

[Multi-Channel Note: I was particularly thinking of a Radio 4 broadcast of Pinocchio from Christmas 2012, when I referred to the BBC's multi-channel experiment, but I've just seen that Radio 3 has been broadcasting this year's Proms in 4 channel surround! I feel that I should have known this. And interestingly, while none of my computers have more than stereo soundcards, using Google's Chromecast might theoretically be a workaround - however since I was "casting" my laptop to the TV, it was my laptop's stereo-only soundcard that the TV used. Incidentally, although Pinocchio was offered in 5.1 as a download as well as stereo via broadcast, it was actually made in 22.1 sound. I know because last year I stood in a room with that many speakers listening to an excerpt! The 5.1 version was actually a downmix.]

We began with a talk from Chris about what he tries to achieve with sound. He breaks audio into three types:

– Atmosphere (in film, the Wild Track) – used to convey general background. It forms the basic function of allow you to edit other sound over the top of it without the listener noticing the edits. There should be a minimal dynamic range in the audio.

– Habitat – this has a broader dynamic range with some very loud and quiet bits. It engages the listener.

– Species – this needn’t be an animal, but it’s a featured sound. More often than not with animal sounds, it’ll be mono. It could also be elemental effects like thunder or rain.

Jez talked about some of things he did. He had some amazing contact microphone audio that he’d recorded in Italy on teleferica wires. These are the wires that villagers used to use to send firewood down from the mountain forests to the village (He has a double album of this coming).

Then we got into some of the technical specifics of different kinds of microphones, their directions, and even looking at specialist kit like parabolic reflectors which can isolate single sounds from a distance by being accurately pointed.

We got into some specifics about different makes and models of microphones to get. And we also got into recorders. On Sunday I realised how true this all was when I used the same set-up and compared Jez’s recorder with his microphones, and mine with the same kind of mics. Chalk and cheese.

We did field trips to nearby woodlands – although we had to skirt one place where they were holding a Viking re-enactment. And I made lots of not-especially-good recordings.

I did find myself with Chris’s awesome DPA 4060 omni-directional mics (~£650) attached to a coathanger. These are really designed as lavelier mics – you see them on newsreaders. But they’re fantastic at recording soundscapes. Chris mentioned that he has a soundscape of Newcastle coming up on the radio soon, and he was able to wear these unobtrusively to capture the sound.

We also played with bat detectors, as the hall we were staying in was surrounded by bats. These are incredible and you could hear their sonar as they flew across above us in the twilight. The location was great for wildlife – even though a nearby campsite did spill sound over. Chris put out his gorgeous multi-channel microphone overnight in a nearby copse, hoping to capture owls and the dawn chorus. Running a long cable back to the hall meant that those who got up at 5am could listen to the sounds without disturbing the wildlife (I confess I didn’t get up).

A nearby disused station has steam trains running on a couple of hundred metres of track. On the Sunday morning we were able to do things like put contact microphones on the track and record the train passing by.

There was also a steam traction engine that made a very rhythmic sound. I have to do something interesting with those sounds.

The final afternoon was spent reviewing some of the audio, hearing about more kit recommendations and suggestions (I have a long Christmas list), and answering other questions we might have.

I came away with another of Chris’s CDs (I already own one), a pair of Jez’s contact microphones, and a lot of exciting ideas of things to do. I’d like to come up with some interesting pairings of audio and photography.

I heard some amazing audio while I was there including the teleferica sounds as well as some incredible Yoik singing – the traditional song of the Sami people who live in the far north of places like Norway and Finland.

And I’m going to take a day-trip to Kielder Forest to hear Hrafn: Conversations with Odin a sound installation within the darkened forest itself taking place in late October.

It really was a quite inspiring weekend.

The [Insert Your Name Here] Arena

Earlier today I got an email advertising an upcoming gig with Sting and Paul Simon. Tickets are going on sale soon for the event taking place at the Phones 4U Arena.

Phones 4U Arena? That’s a new one to me. I realised pretty quickly that it probably wasn’t new, and was just a recent sponsorship deal. But as much as I scanned the email, there was no mention of a city.

It turns out it’s in Manchester. But then the arena in Manchester has been through a few names. It was called the NYNEX Arena for a while, then for quite a long time it was the Manchester Evening News, or MEN Arena. After that longterm deal expired, seemingly a sponsor couldn’t be found. So it became the Manchester Arena. And then last year, it became the Phones 4U Arena.

Just trips off the tongue.

The problem is that since every arena in the country is sponsored in some capacity and marketing folk just have to bite the bullet and work in the location as well as the sponsor. So how about “The Phones 4U Manchester Arena”? That’d be fine wouldn’t it? We’d all know where it was.

And this isn’t just some kind of southern bias. In London we have Wembley Arena. Originally it was actually a swimming pool for the 1934 Empire Games. But from 1978 until earlier this year it was Wembley Arena. Given that it sits right outside Wembley Stadium, that was fine. But now it has a sponsor and is known as the SSE Arena. It really needs to be called the SSE Wembley Arena, but some marketing person won’t do that because the know the average visitor will just drop the “SSE” and carry on calling it “Wembley Arena”. Well I have news. They’re going to call it Wembley Arena anyway, because it’s the arena right outside Wembley Stadium.

I was confused by SSE because I was sure that was the name of something in Glasgow.

It is. There they have the SSE Hydro, which although sounding like a strangely sponsored spa to this Sassanach, is actually a brand new arena. It just shares sponsorship because SSE no doubt wants to “own” music venues (that’s the sort of language marketing people use about these sorts of things).

In the meantime, you might go to a gig at the O2. You probably mean the dome. The millennium place. The North Greenwich Arena as it was known during the Olympics (and which rival telecoms outfit EE still sometimes calls it). But not to be confused with the O2 Academy Brixton (aka Brixton Academy), the O2 Academy Islington (Wasn’t that the Carling Academy?) or the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire (aka the Shepherd’s Bush Empire), or one of a dozen or so other Academies or ABCs up and down the country also called the O2.

Perhaps your gig of choice is in Hammersmith. Originally the Gaumont Palace, it became the Hammersmith Odeon, then Labbatt’s Apollo, the Carling Apollo Hammersmith, the HMV Apollo Hammersmith, the Eventim Apollo, and for quite a lot of time the Hammersmith Apollo. Eventim Apollo is the current name, because Eventim means such a lot to UK consumers (they’re a German ticketing company).

Anyway, however much I may dislike naming rights, I understand it’s part of the venue industry. But please try to include the location of the venue in your fancy new name. Because otherwise I may dismiss your gig as being irrelevant to me because it’s in a distant city when in fact it’s just up the road (although in Wembley’s case, it can be both in the same city and distant).

When Are Casio, Timex or Rolex Making a Smartwatch?

Not a smartwatch

Another day, another over-excited consumer goods release. Most others use trade shows. Apple does its own thing. It works for them. Fine.

I can’t comment on the phone updates as I’ve not really seen anything that interesting or novel in any phone I’ve seen announced recently. Certainly nothing to make me think that my Nexus 5 is dated (it’s only a year old, so it shouldn’t be).

But watches are an interesting area, and so far, nobody seems to have done it right.

First of all, it needs to be acknowledged that most watches are worn as jewellery of some description. Otherwise everyone would be owning cheap and functional Casios. And jewellery is very much in the eye of the beholder.

Do I prefer digital numbers of analogue hands? The Swiss or Japanese movement of a well engineered piece of marvellousness? What kind of watch looks good on my wrist? For some, it’s a chunky diver’s watch; for others the slim minimalism of small ladies’ watch.

And all of these devices do one thing really well.

They tell the time.

We need to know the time because we live our lives by it. We start work, school or college at set times; have appointments to meet at set times; films to see at set times; matches to watch or play in at set times; TV shows to catch at set times (OK – we have PVRs and OTT too).

A personal timepiece isn’t just useful – it’s essential.

Now it’s true, I’m amazed at the dominance of the “slab” in phones. We used to have a phone market where some preferred the dinky minimalism of Motorola Razr, while others preferred the functionality of keyboard-touting Blackberry. Now most phones look the same – between 4 and 5 inches of flatness – and getting bigger. The last set of gloves I bought were size Large, so I can handle one of them. But a 5 inch screen can’t be right for everyone can it? We just have to “personalise” them by choosing different cases. All smartphones are basically the same.

In the world of watches though – a single device, or even two, isn’t enough.

Have you seen how many models Casio, Timex, Rolex, Omega et al offer? Hundreds! We’re not back in the Ford Model-T era when you could have any colour as long as it was black.

So there is no right answer as to which watch looks right to any individual. And it’d take a massive cultural shift to get us to all adopt a watch from just a small number of devices. It may have happened with phones, but I can’t see it with watches.

If I was Google or Apple, I’d be working with watch manufacturers – both high-end and mass-market – and getting them to embed the appropriate technology into their devices. Why on earth should a computer manufacturer be remotely good at producing jewelry? I don’t want an Apple or LG watch any more than I want Apple or LG trainers, or shirts, or jeans.

So here is what I want from a smartwatch:

– It has to be able to tell the time. At all times. Without me having to do anything to see the time.
– The date would be nice too.
– The battery needs to last at least a week, not “nearly a day”. My current Casio battery lasts about three years. That’s 26,000 hours – not just short of 24. The charging mechanism needs to be painless.
– If it has health applications like step counters and heart rate monitors, then they need to work when I’m actually exercising.
– Accelerometers and barometers are lovely.
– It must have decent battery life.
– Most of the watches I’ve seen so far seem to be doing the connectivity, and notifications, so that’s fine.
– It needs to be available in a wide range of styles. I mean really wide. Not just size A or B, with a choice of straps, but hundreds of models to suit me, my lifestyle and my personal choices.
– Did I mention the battery? That’s really important.

By the way, in case all this seems unduly negative, it shouldn’t be. I really do want a smartwatch. I think the functionality is very exciting. A watch is a convenient form factor to glance at for information. I’m not so convinced I need to interact greatly via a watch, but to read a text, get an email subject header or similar seems fine. And for monitoring health, fitness tracking and the like, a watch is essential.

But engineering the watch isn’t the hard part. Well, aside from battery life anyway.

It’s the design. And to be honest, I’d leave that to the professionals. I want to be able to walk up to a Swatch counter (no doubt in an airport), choose a watch and be offered either the iOS or Android Wear version. That should be that.

[An aside: I note that nobody expects Google or Apple to actually build consumer cars for their in-car entertainment systems Android Auto and CarPlay. You're going to get them offered in Fords or Toyotas - ideally as an option like choosing alloy wheels or metallic paint. Even Google's self-driving cars are retrofitted cars made by actual car manufacturers. Just because watches seem easy compared with cars, they're not.]

House Style

I had to laugh at the weekend when Danny Baker pulled apart a trailer that adopted that most over-used radio production style of having alternate lines with some kind of digital/distanced effect. You know what I mean. And if you listen to this short clip, you’ll know what Baker is getting at.

The SEO of Titles

I’ve moaned for a long time about the lack of imagination in television programme titles – particularly in one-off documentaries. The producers’ theory seems to state that if you don’t adopt the “Ronseal” approach, then nobody will know what your programme is about. We browse EPGs rather than use the Radio Times or newspaper television supplements. So we need to understand very quickly what a programme is about.

Channel 4 is especially good at this. In the next day or so alone we have:

Worst Place to be a Pilot
Dogs: Their Secret Lives
Roayl Marines Commando School
The Gypsy Matchmaker
Sarah Beeny’s Double Your House For Half The Money

And with series 2 in production, most famously, or infamously, since it only got its final title close to transmission: Benefits Street.

The downside is that I won’t even bother trying any of those programmes. I already know from the title that I’m not interested. The titles say what the programme is, but they’ve removed a level of creativity. They might be brilliant. But the titles have put me off.

With search functionality becoming increasingly important, they’re the television equivalent of those Mail Online headlines that tell you vast amounts of the story before you get there. Current example headlines:

“Newlyweds’ terror as severe turbulence on easyJet honeymoon leaves one steward unconscious and another with ‘broken hip’ after they were flung at plane ceiling”
“Are YOU less tech savvy than a 5-year-old? Take this quiz to see if you’re among the 25% of adults who would struggle with the new computer curriculum”
“Mother ordered to remove her truanting son’s X-box and cigarettes and send him to school after 13-year-old turns up for just 40 days in seven months of classes”
“‘There’s an asteroid with our name on it’: Brian Cox warns a space rock could wipe out humanity (if robots don’t get there first)”

No sub-editor would dare let any of those go into the paper.

(And no – I’m not going to include links)

But this now extends to books – non-fiction anyway. I religiously watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the show has plenty of authors coming in as guests. And their books are always of the form:

[Mildly Imaginative Title]:[Elevator pitch on what the book's about]

So, the last few episodes have featured:

“City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death, and the Search for Truth in Tehran”
“The Todd Glass Situation: A Bunch of Lies about My Personal Life and a Bunch of True Stories about My 30-Year Career in Stand-Up Comedy”
“The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier”
“Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things”
“Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War”

Honestly – I didn’t edit that list. They’re just all the same. The only books this isn’t true for are those that are so famous, the title doesn’t matter – e.g. the Hilary Clinton book. Who cares what that’s called? We just know she had a book out.

I suppose this format is adopted because I want to convey to the average reader that my book is about life in Tehran or whatever, but these titles are really aimed to reach readers via searches on Amazon or Google. The more curious will probably have found out about the book in the media, or seen it in a bookshop.

I do understand why producers, editors, publishers and their like do these things. It’s just all a bit dull and unimaginative.

Cyclists’ Traits

Hyperlapse Bike Commute from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

[A hyperlapse of my ride home from work on my Brompton. Made taping an iPod Touch to the handlebars of my bike]

It’s a relatively common thing to categorise cyclists into different “tribes.” But after many years cycling, including cycling as part of my regular commute for the last few years, I’ve decided that people are less members of particular “tribes” than they share common traits with one another.

I’ve tried (not altogether seriously) to identify some of those traits among those you see cycling in the rush hour, and present this as a scholarly work, and a not at all derogatory look at my fellow cyclists.

I should also note that I fall into several of these camps.

Nobody is perfect:

The Roller - the person who rolls very casually past a line of waiting cyclists and straight out across a red light seemingly without a care in the world. They’re not going fast. They’re just rolling.

The Jaunty Helmet – Without getting into the rights and wrongs of helmets, one thing I do know is that if you’re going to wear one, you need to wear it properly, otherwise it’s no more useful than any other hat. I’m talking about people – and they tend to women – who wear the helmet way back with the peak somewhere on the crown of their head. That helmet simply isn’t going to protect you properly.

The Track Starter – A bit like the kid who walked to school and didn’t want to stand on the cracks in the pavement, this is the man (and it is a man) who doesn’t want to put his feet down anywhere along his commute. He might do a very good trackstand at the traffic lights, but more annoyingly, he slows right down on cycle paths when coming towards a red light so as to maintain some momentum – but not too much. In turn he prevents others from getting to the advance stop line for cyclists behind him.

The Wannabe Pro – There really is no need for full team strip to get to work. As a rule, you won’t see anyone other than school kids wearing their Chelsea or Arsenal kits on the school bus.

The Darkness – Come on. It really isn’t hard to put a couple of LEDs on your bike if you’re cycling after dark.

The Suicidal – Why are you going up the inside of a bus or van that is indicating left? You do know that’s how most cycling accidents happen?

The Low Rider – I don’t mean the cool kids who mosey around on their unique steeds. I’m talking about people who don’t seem to realise that it’s easier and more comfortable if you raise the saddle a bit.

The Queue Jumper – There’s a line of cyclists waiting in a cycling lane at a stop sign, and along comes this guy (or gal) and just spins along to the front – cycling in the opposite cycle lane to do so. Because they’re more important than you. Get it? They need to be somewhere while you don’t.

The Queue Jumper Who Is Slow – It’s one thing if you’re Speedy Gonzalez and you’re just trying to get past a group of slow commuters. But if you’re one of the slower commuters, why are you queue jumping? We’re British. We’re supposed to do queues properly.

The Speedy Folder – Just because I’m on a Brompton, it doesn’t mean that I can’t cycle faster than you.

The No-Signaler - It’s not just cars that need to know you’re turning left or right. Your fellow cyclists tend to find it handy, because it indicates you’re going to slow down and manoeuvre out.

The Light Jumper – Yes, yes. I know. Sometimes you do know that pedestrians find it intimidating if there’s a bike speeding by as they look at the Green Man.

The Campanologist – A bell is a necessary accessory for city centre riding. Indeed something with a bit more welly might sometimes be desireable. But these folk love their bells so much they ring them all the time. If they see a pedestrian so much as look towards the road, they ring. If they overtake, they ring. If you are more than 5 nano-seconds slow getting away from a traffic light, they ring. And then they ring some more.

The Salmon – Going upstream. Yes, there should be more roads with two-way access for cyclists. The City of London has made great strides in this. But it’s still reckless – not just for cars, but other cyclists and pedestrians.

The Lighthouse – I get it. You do need to be seen after dark. But that industrial strength strobe you’ve affixed to the front of your bike is actually causing me temporary blindness. See also people who’s stroboscopic lights induce epilepsy in photo-sensitive individuals within a half-mile radius.

The First-Timer – Usually to be spotted sometime around the hottest day of the year. See also every other category.

The High-Vizzer – I must have missed the memo that said every cyclist on the planet must now wear the same garb as workers on building sites. Everyone wears high-viz now – lines of schoolkids on days out, drivers, and mostly cyclists. The problem I have with them is that it becomes assumed it’s essential to wear them. Check out the Netherlands. They don’t wear them. To my mind, if we’re going to suggest cyclists wear them (and on big schemes like the excellent Freewheel and Sky Rides, these vests get handed out a lot), then we should also be spray painting every car on the road in a dayglow colour.

The Weaver – To be fair, just about the only way to get around many central London roads.

The Undertaker – I’m about to turn left, but someone has decided it’s a good time to undertake me. Smart!

The Videographer – Has cameras all over his bike and helmet. I’m not saying he wants to get a viral YouTube hit based around some appalling piece of driving, but if there is some, he’s got it from several angles!

The Conversationalist – Seriously. We’re still commuting. The rules are – no talking.

The Good Lifer – Cycling is a way of life. I’m just dropping the kids off to school in my cargo bike first thing. Then it’s off to the organic food store to pick up some groceries.

The Builder’s Bum – You probably want to rethink your cycling attire, especially for those behind you. This doesn’t just apply to men either…

The Shifter – Why shouldn’t I use my Brompton to transport me, a duvet and a couple of new pillows from John Lewis to home?

The Florist – I want to make a statement with my bicycle. And that statement is flowers!

The Carbonista – I did 30 laps of Richmond Park on this beauty before I headed into town for work.

The Too Cool For School – Look at me. Now look at yourself. We are not the same.

The Lost Boys (and Girls) – Quite possibly on a Boris Bike or similar, and almost certainly a tourist. They just want to find the nearest dock to Covent Garden piazza. Those maps that started appearing alongside bike hire docks a couple of years ago really are very useful.

The Interloper – Probably not riding a bicycle at all. But they’re using the bike lane for their scooter, or electric thingy that behaves a bit like a Segway. They’re usually going slower than everyone else.

The Chicken Player – There’s loads of room for me to overtake without hitting an oncoming cyclist – it’s just that everyone else needs to slow down to avoid a collision!

The Corner Cutter – Turning left at the lights, but bored of waiting for them to turn green? Just hop up onto the kurb, down the other side, and away you go. Watch out for pedestrians!

The Professional – Not Body and Doyle haring up in Ford Capri Mark III, but the last bastions of the cycle courier. To be honest, they tend to be flying around in the middle of day rather than joining the ranks of the 9-5ers.

As I say, these are just a few of the traits you will find. There are many many others…

Playing With Hyperlapse

Hyperlapse Test from Adam Bowie on Vimeo.

Instagram has released a new app called Hyperlapse. It’s iOS only at the moment (I tried it with an iPod Touch). And there’s an argument whether it’s actually “hyperlapse” in that it’s really stabilising and smoothing video. Microsoft has an awesome test video which shows a far more sophisticated approach and it’s well worth checking out.

But in the meantime we have this.

No sound, and I’m not sure it’s the best example I could have shot. I’ll try some more.

Medea

Medea at the National is a superb new production of Euripes’ classic tale – first performed in 431 BC. Medea (Helen McCrory) has separated from her husband Jason (Danny Sapani), and been banished to some far flung part of Greece with her two sons. Jason is to marry the daughter of Creon, King of Corinth. She’s mad with rage and wants revenge.

It’s just a question of what she’ll do to get her revenge – and how far it’ll take her.

From the opening scene where we see Medea howling and screaming in the woods, we can see that all is not well with her. And it’s the beautiful shifts in mood and tone that give rise to a schizophrenic Medea. She is sometimes calm, but something will anger her and her blood boils up.

It’s all beautifully played by McCrory who puts everything into her part. It must be an incredibly demanding piece to perform night after night. The play may only run 90 minutes, but by the end McCrory looks completely drained.

The chorus are a fascinating part of this story – part essential to Greek theatre, but part watching audience. As Medea’s revenge, and madness begin to take shape, the chorus begins to be culpable. Why did they not stop Medea doing what she was going to do? We can sometimes look at ourselves today and say the same thing. A tragedy in slow motion being watched under our own gaze.

There’s a dance element to this production, with the chorus and others bringing some abstract movement to the piece. The strange jerkiness in some of their movements was odd, but perhaps indicative of the mixed up world we were in.

The set is a terrific rundown 70s building – concrete and open – with a room above it that acts primarily as the setting for the wedding of Jason and Glauce. Through the back are the looming woods where Medea goes to find peace from her inner anguish.

I also loved the music by Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp, but then I’m a big Goldfrapp fan anyway. However, it definitely added to the atmosphere and it worked well with the dance elements of the play.

In the shocking final act – this play may be getting on for 2,500 years old, but I won’t be the one to spoil it for you – a woman next to me put her hands over her face as though in a horror film.

This is all about McCrory and her tour-de-force.

Medea is on at the Olivier until 4 September when it’ll be broadcast to cinemas as part of NTLive. And there’s a great piece in The Guardian with McCrory and Diana Rigg relating how they each play(ed) the part.