Friday, 29 April 2011

Visiting Tollymore Forest Park

At the foot of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland sits the traditional seaside resort of Newcastle and nearby, the Tollymore Forest Park. On the Easter bank Holiday Monday this is where we headed on a family day out.

River Shimna Panorama

It seemed everyone in Northern Ireland was planning on heading to the coast on the same day so it came as no surprise that we were stuck in a queue on the roads approaching bottlenecks on the way to the Tollymore Forest Park but eventually we made it, paid the £4.40 car entrance fee and joined the parade of hundreds of other cars that once parked sprawled over the tarmac and grass all around the front of the grounds to the park. It was a little worrying that there seemed to be more cars and people then trees on this day in this forest park but after a picnic lunch we headed out onto one of the trails to see what we would find. We just stuck to the red path as we were planning on heading on into Newcastle afterwards so didn't want to be too long.

The red trail passes down a scenic garden path lined with colourful bushes and trees.

Colourful Lined Path

Pink Flowers

At the bottom of this path there is the Shimna River.

Tranquil River Shimna

River Shimna small waterfall

We walked along the path upstream admiring the small waterfalls and pools before eventually crossing a bridge to the other side where there were more views of the river and it's scenic paths to be had.

Rock Lined River

Old Mill by the River

Crazy River Shimna

At the other side of the river was a walk through a section of managed evergreen forest and very tall trees they were, looking up really meant bending your head back...

Trees Reaching for the Sky

We carried on along the path avoiding large groups of people until we reached a shallow lake.

Tollymore Forest Lake

This was the point where I started to notice the lack of wildlife in this forest park. It might just have been the amount of people and dogs present that had scared all the creatures into hiding but take the lake for instance... there were more dogs swimming in the lake then ducks. The reflections of the trees on the water (where the water was not disturbed by pesky dogs) was rather memorising.

Reflection of a tree on the lake

We then crossed back across the river looking back down into the river from the bridge.

River Shimna Rock

Just over the bridge were some some young trees where bluebells were scattered the forest floor.

Bluebells under the trees

What goes up much come down and we'd already had the down so it was time to go back up. A lengthy hill followed, filled again with people and a worrying amount of canines.

This grassy hill was a mess that was peppered by the remains of hard boiled eggs presumably from some Easter egg roll. The dogs were all sniffing and in some cases trying to eat the eggy remains, some a little old and some seemingly being freshly created... as we reached the top of the hill, there were some parents with their teenage kids throwing hard boiled eggs at one another and to their dogs. Must be some 'dog person' tradition or something, I just found it a real inconvenience trying to dodge dogs on the floor and cooked yolk and egg white whilst whistling through the air whilst slightly out of breath and I put my camera away for safe keeping!

Thankful, we reached the top we headed back to the makeshift car park.

Bank Holiday Cars at Tollymore

My mother-in-law was waiting for the four of us to return and after another chill and having to prevent a dog (admittedly a very cute one) from trying to join us in the car, we headed on to Newcastle - the one in County Down that is.

The forest park was very pretty and I'd love to go back at some point in the future to walk the rest of the trails but I think for my own sanity it'd have to be at a quite time and not on a bank holiday Monday.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

El Presidente's Film Festival - Japanese Night

I had never been to a Japanese themed evening before (besides having a meal at a Japanese restaurant) so last Saturday was a first. Inspired by the Belfast Film Festival events we'd been to, our friend decided he could probably improve on it and declared himself El Presidente of his creation. It isn't a public festival, the guests were just the usual bunch of us and the location the regular place. So it came to be that on Saturday night after watching the Crues put 4 past Distillery that afternoon, we headed to El Presidente's place for Japanese night.

Arty Chopsticks

On arrival with a box of beer under the arm, we loitered in the kitchen to see what delights were being rustled up. El Presidente (I think he'll appreciate this alias being kept up for future blogs) was busy cooking us a starter of Miso Soup and main course of  Teriyaki Chicken with Sushi rice and roasted vegetables.

Miso Soup

Teriyaki Chicken and chopsticks

This was all washed down with  flavoured Japanese teas and Coors Light (yeah I know, North American - we brought this along - lower in calories for the calorie counters amongst us, sure they probably drink it in Japan too!)

The soup was OK, I think they maybe should have renamed the packet 'Salty Soup' but I quite liked it anyway. Our main course was delicious, we all sat with our chop sticks and made it through the entire dish without resorting to forks. We were all quite proud of because although we can all use chop sticks there is always usually one. This 'feat' was aided, I have to admit, by the lovely rice and our hosts' cooking, this rice is different to your usual long grain or Basmati in that it tends to clump and stick together somewhat even though it's light and fluffy. El Presidente had also cut the veg and chicken into chopstick sized pieces so that was also handy. Saying that I can't remember anyone leaving even one grain of rice. Mains nomed, it was time for dessert.

El Presidente's girlfriend the Primera Dama, had also been busy in the shop and the kitchen and brought with her the dessert which was two varieties of Mochi and also pancakes with fruity yoghurt dips.


Mochi and Pancakes

And yes we are this childish sometimes...

Unfortunately placed Mochi

I'd never seen Mochi before and they were rather odd, nice but odd, the texture was the main thing - kinda soft and sticky but yet almost like jelly when it was cut or torn in two. As far as the pancakes went, I thought I didn't like pancakes but it turns out I just hate Crepes and actually like pancakes... darn you mislabelling peoples of the past! They were all delicious and I think as we were chatting and listening to some Japanese themed music, we pretty much finished the whole lot off... very glad we went to the gym the next day!

Dinner over it was into the living room and set up was a table filled with all sorts of Japanese themed things ready for some valiant attempts at origami and Japanese language themed fun:

Japanese night table

The evening was spent with innocent and rude origami intermixed with innocent and a not so innocent phrase book followed by watching the 1986 film - Laputa: Castle in the Sky - in Japanese with English subtitles turned on. The origami was good fun, with the two sided origami paper the things you make really do look more like what they're supposed to represent. The wee jumping frog was a pretty straight forward as was the penguin that I was rather proud of.

Cold Origami Penguin

I then got a little adventurous and attempted a Star Wars X-Wing but sadly I went wrong somewhere. On about the 4th repeat of the first several pages of approximately 14 (about half an hour) I must have got a fold wrong and it didn't come together correctly so it was a big flop.


Norngirl made a friendly frog and a bat. Primera Dama made a rose and a frog but the best of the night went to El Presidente and my sister-in-law who, after my sister-in-law had finished her breasts, both took to the complex task of paper man parts. Apparently a phallus and testes are tricky to make in paper but with great persistence they managed to pull it off.

Rude Origami

The film was good, a bright and colourful fantasy movie though we were baffled as to why kids so young were living by themselves but sure... floating castles in the sky... it's easy enough to put questionable social welfare to one side for a while.

After the movie was over we gave the dubbed English version a quick watch for a scene and it was worrying how different they were. For instance; between the two the bad guys personality changed and instead of 3 minutes, his English language dubbed version was only willing to give them 1 minute - inpatient much! So life lesson learnt: watch movies in the language they were made.

Time caught up with us and that was the end of our lovely Japanese themed evening and a fun dander into little pieces of Japanese culture it was too. Can't wait for the next instalment of El Presidente's festival now - up next is Joss Whedon night.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Awesome Day in New York at MSG

The evening of Awesome Day in NYC was our first ever trip to a live NHL game. The game was Boston Bruins at New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden - the final score didn't turn out the way we had hoped but it was still a brilliant experience.

Our feet were more than a little tired from all the walking we had done earlier on awesome day at the American Natural History Museum and so it came as some great relief when we collected our pre-booked tickets at the collection point and made our way up escalators into the stands. On the way up the escalators, of which there were quite a few because the main arena of Madison Square Garden is actually directly on top of a smaller venue (there was some circus show going on in there at the time) we were handed some free posters celebrating the 85th Anniversary season.

Free posters in hand and liking it so far, we made it to the concourse of the level where we were sitting. As a long time NHL fan I really wanted my first live-in-person NHL game to be special so I'd broken the bank a little more than I normally would look to pay for a sporting event to sit in the 200s. Before we made it into stand we found our way to one of the many beer stalls to get a refreshing beverage and were very happy to find Brooklyn Beer on sale.

(Sorry for the picture quality btw, you're not allowed to use a camera with zoom at the game so the MSG photos are courtesy of my phone's camera)

Now with beer in hand we made our way into the stand and found our seats which had a good view of the ice, close enough at least to see the finer details of the skills on show. Before the game had started I nipped to the toilets and on my way back ventured into one of the club shops and bought a programme and a giant foam hand – I've told you all many times before – we are big kids – but unlike a lot of the kids there, we'd never had a big foam hand. So there we were with beer, a giant foam hand and surrounded by a crowd as eager to have fun as we were made for a great atmosphere.

I wasn't sure before hand if I would warm to the New York Rangers, we'd bought some official merchandise for the event from K-Mart prior to the game but ever since I started watching the NHL which was only achieved through staying up late into the night into the early hours before then going to high school and sixth form totally shattered - my team were the Dallas Stars and I didn't care too much for the Eastern Conference at that time. Back then in the first season Channel5 (a terrestrial TV station in the UK) bought the NHL broadcasting rights I discovered the show “NHL on Five” hosted by Todd Macklin and Jonathan Gould. It was always after midnight and the games would go on into the early hours but I luckily had a TV in my room. The top teams of the season tended to get shown the most and Dallas were one of them. Whenever they were on I was wanting them to win as I have some distant relatives who live out in Texas (this being my only link to the USA) and more importantly at the time, I liked their goal-tender Ed Belfour + even more importantly their shirts were the closest in the league at the time to that of my beloved Leeds United. That season they went on to win the Stanley Cup finals for the very first time and that was me hooked. For my 18th Birthday, I didn't ask for anything but a replica Dallas Stars jersey and my dad, bless his cotton socks, managed to track one down.

To be honest I'd never really warmed to the Eastern Conference teams back then and even worse, with having a name like Rangers and playing in the colours they do, I was never likely to have a soft spot for them. That is because of the relation to Scottish Football and in Scottish football there are two teams I dislike – Rangers and Celtic. For anyone who can't stand the ridiculous feuds and history of Northern Ireland, having to hear about these two Glasgow sides is like having to put up with our local tribal politicians – the fact the local press here would also rather report on those 2 sides above the local league is also a major annoyance. Hopefully one day that will all be history but for now it's still a fact that hearing their names is enough to make me turn over the TV. So with the New York Rangers it was my own psychological baggage from back home that was making me feel apprehensive, as it turns out, I should have left that baggage on the other side of the Atlantic because thankfully it didn't take long for me to realise the error of my thoughts.

The game began and it was clear the only similarities besides the name and shirt colour was the fans passion for their team, in NYC – Rangers are just a hockey franchise, no Scottish football connotations should be attached.

Rather than describing the game, here are all the highlights, basically the Rangers went 1 up then the Bruins brought it back to 1-1, Seguin for the Boston Bruins then scored a brilliant goal before they got lucky with their 3rd, the Rangers then managed to pull it back to 3-2.

In the last few minutes it became a nail biter and I was happy when my favourite thing in ice hockey happened when the Rangers pulled the goalie to get a 6th skater on the ice - unfortunately it didn't pay off and sadly they were unable to level it and take the game to overtime. The Bruins kinda deserved the win but it was very even and it could so easily have gone either way - in fact the Rangers could so easily have won it if they'd have been able to convert their shot advantage into goals. Callahan and Lundqvist impressed me the most for the Rangers, Thomas for the Bruins and he was really the difference that sealed the win on the night.

My general impressions were that the consistency of skill and speed of the game was higher than the UK Elite league, the margin for error a lot smaller, the intensity much higher and the tactics more pronounced. The sad thing really is the size of the arenas, with so much demand for so few seats the prices for NHL games are a little on the expensive side and I think next time we go it'll be into the cheaper seats... all the same atmosphere but with more change left over for the beer :)

Although the Rangers lost, they won us over and that night both Norngirl and I became fans.

I do feel a sell out to have two NHL sides I now follow but I'm convincing myself it's OK by the fact one is Western Conference and the other Eastern... they can both win their respective conferences and then I'll worry about who wins the Stanley Cup final if it ever comes to it :) - I can dream, lol.

With the powers of retrospect brought to me by typing this post so long after the event, I can reveal that since our visit, the New York Rangers managed to sneak into the playoffs after winning their last game and with Carolina Hurricanes losing. Dallas, sadly, were not able to beat Minnesota Wild on the last day of the regular season in order to do the same. The Rangers were not able to overcome a strong Washington Capitals side, beaten 4-1 overall though the playoff series score probably flattered the Capitals given they were more than lucky on a few occasions. It was probably a fair representation for although Lundquist can get the team out of sticky situations quite often it doesn't help much when you're not scoring very often. The main trouble from the games we saw this season seemed to be a lack of fire power, especially when Callahan was out injured for two spells due to broken bones after putting his body on the line blocking shots. Hopefully given some maturity from the younger players, a wise draft pick or two combined with being able to keep together the core of what has been a very hard working team, the Rangers can build on this season to make a bigger impact next season. Same really for the Stars. A few decent players flourishing or brought in could really be the spark that helps them at least settle higher into those play-off spots and have a better chance of making it further in the finals.

I know it's all corporate and I do find it sad that the sides are franchises and not always guaranteed to be in the cities they claim to represent but I was very impressed by it all and my first NHL game was all I had hoped it would be having seen so many games on TV. I really hope I am lucky enough to see another game in person the future, in the mean time I'll be making the most of the free ESPN stuff we get with our TV package and looking forward to seeing plenty more of the Rangers from afar.

Walking out of Madison Square Garden we were still in good spirits though a little disappointed in the result but we knew they'd given it a good try and that's all you can ask for really. We headed on to the nearby Macy's to pick up a few presents for family back home before heading back to the hotel to sample the rooftop bar and have a night cap.

Manhattan Nightscape

With the twinkling lights of the city around us and the memories of a really brilliant day, we knew Awesome day had lived up to it's billing and it's something we'd both love to try again... and who knows, maybe next time the Rangers will cap it off with a win?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

That was a Busy Early April

This month has been crazily busy, it's odd but it seems to be a clockwork annual occurrence; during winter it seems we've time to burn and then as soon as spring comes around, everything happens all at once. *shakes fist towards the sun* With the turn in the weather came a pretty array of Daffodils that gave a welcome dusting of colour to the urban sprawl of Belfast. Though I hadn't chosen or bought my new camera at this point back on the 3rd April, I got busy taking pictures with my old camera anyway as I couldn't bare to miss some of these sights. That spring sun really gives a nice mix of sunlight and shadow to make for some nicely contrasting images + it turned out to be something to do whilst waiting an age for the next bus home after a trip to the gym.

Spring in Belfast

And here are all their flowery friends.

Belfast Daffodils

Nearby, a feathery new trinity was forming on top of St Anne's Cathedral... I knew those seagulls were up to something! 

The Holy Trinity

On Saturday the 9th I headed down to Lurgan to watch the Crues beat Portadown in the Irish Cup Semi Final, the win taking us to this years final and what we hope might be a repeat of the events of 2 years ago when the Crues lifted the trophy at Windsor and sent us delirious. This years final will be on the 7th May at Windsor again... this time though the odds will be smaller on us winning it. We have to play Linfield and for them it will be a home game final, never the less, we've beaten them on their own turf before and it should be a great game - I can't wait!

Crusaders celebrate reaching the 2011 Irish Cup Final

Back in Belfast, bright white clouds were gathering in lovely blue skies:

Clouds and trees by the Belfast Waterfront Hall

I'm not the only one who gets excited by some cool clouds in a blue sky. The Belfast Squiggle was even turned on by this.

Alien lamp aka the Belfast Squiggle

Down at floor level, next to the squiggle, the low evening sun was making anything and everything come to life - even the textures of the law courts' landscaped paving.

Textures on the street

Spring was certainly getting into full flow. The cherry blossom's around town were sending petals raining down on the wind and other tree's were just starting to open their buds, such as this one being guarded by a curious magpie.

Magpie in a budding tree

On the same day, further down the street, the clouds began to gather casting Chichester Street into it's shadow only to be plunged into sunlight again soon after.

Sudden Cloud on Chichester Street

The day after on the 12th April after work the clouds had massed into a big hazy layer but the Albert Clock was still leaning over to catch it's face reflected in the mirror of a nearby building's windows.

Albert Clock Reflection

On the 13th we were headed out for a meal at Muriels before going to the last of the Belfast Film Festival events we had booked for this year. Do click here to have a read of Norngirls post about Muriels and the movie on the boat on the Lagan. As Norngirl summed it up so well and I totally had the same opinion, there isn't much point me repeating it but here are a couple of photos, one of Norngirls desert at Muriels and the other of the reflection of the movie in the window of the boat.

Cupcake and Coffee

Meanwhile, whilst we were out and about most of this month. Back at home on the kitchen windowsill, a strange thing happened... a supermarket basil plant decided it liked the conditions so much that it started to flower. I can't say I've ever seen a flowering basil plant before so it was a very pleasant surprise.

Flowering Basil Plant

Hopefully the rest of the month will equally bring as many nice surprises.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The New Camera

My search for a new camera has come to an end and I'm now in possession of a device that can hopefully fill the void left by it's predecessor. It was a bit of a dilemma which I outlined a few weeks ago and just in case anyone is curious, here is what I went for:

Though still dreaming of interchangeable lenses, I once again went for a compact camera with a fixed lens. Sadly, both my bank balance and I just couldn't justify the cost of a DSLR/Compact system camera right now though thanks to everyone who passed on their advice :)

After a lot of research and choosing some minimum specifications for the budget I set myself, I ended up taking what I would consider a bit of a risk. That is, veering away from the industry leaders of Canon and Nikon and heading the way of a Sony. A Sony Cybershot DSC-HX5V to be precise. I did so largely because it met my minimum specs, and had decent reviews and the price was good. At £180, though closer to £200 with the extra battery that I've ordered too, it wasn't overly pricey in terms of my budget. It was a little disheartening as Amazon had it on sale a wee while back for £10 less but I think I can live with that.

I picked it up today and here are the pros and cons I've discovered so far:

Good points:

- It has the wide angle lens I was after – landscapes and city shots should be a lot better :)
- It is a lot smaller and lighter than my previous Canon.
- It has a function called 'Hand-held twilight' that has to be seen to be believed – the camera takes 6 shots in a burst and stitches them all together somehow creating an in focus, well lit image that doesn't have the loss of image quality experienced such as when using a high ISO, tripod and slow shutter speed to try to get a similar result. That function so far seems to do a decent job even when my eyes are struggling to do the same! Very impressed.
- The panorama sweep function is good fun.
- Shutter speed and processing speed is pretty fast.

Bad points:

- Manual mode is a little disappointing, only 2 F-stops and ISO settings are set away in a sub menu which seems awkward.
- If I were to use the HD video with stereo sound it'd be hard not to cover the microphone whilst holding the camera.
- There is a mirage of auto settings that I'll likely to not use too many of.
- It uses Lithium Ion batteries that are more expensive to get hold of compared to AAs. Also the recharging will take a lot longer.

So it seems as though I've bought a camera aimed more towards the auto fan which isn't exactly what I had wanted to go for - however, I think this camera will grow on me. I say that because although it isn't going to be as easy to get a shot how I want it, it is still likely to be possible in most scenarios given a few extra seconds or a bit of persistence. As I look at the list there, there are more good points then bad points so far.

On top of that with the likes of the 'hand-held twilight' it looks like this camera might open up a means to take night shots that, with my last camera, I would otherwise have given up on.

It might take a little getting used to but I think my research might have paid off. The real decider will be how good the photos turn out and for that, only time will tell but so far so good.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Awesome Day in NYC at the AMNH

Day 7 of our New York trip last November was pencilled into our itinerary as 'Awesome Day'. Although this sounds like the set up for a fall, with the amazing powers of retrospect (the most un-awesome powers a super hero can have) it turns out this day was my favourite day in New York, the memories from it will undoubtedly stick in my mind until it runs out of cells. The winning combination to make an awesome day was Norngirl, nature, science, sport, beer, food and a panoramic cityscape... *drool*.

So what did we do? First of all we went for breakfast and I had another of what, still to this day, I would say is the nicest BLT I've ever had - washed down of course with unsweetened iced tea. *  (Austin's Café on 7th Avenue if anyone is curious). I don't even like breakfast generally but it turned out in New York City I did!

Once our taste buds had calmed down enough to let us focus on getting on the right subway line, we made our way uptown to the American Museum of Natural History and the connected Planetarium.

We had booked our tickets online for the entrance and shows before we'd even landed in the country and although there wasn't a queue to get in the day we were there it was still handy for us on the day. We went to a machine and it printed everything for us and we headed into the depths of a day in the museum. As we'd learnt on previous museum visits, head to the top and work down. So that's what we did - getting the lift to the 4th floor. Feeling like extras in Night at the Museum we began to walk around the bones of long lost creatures, imagining what they would have been like alive millions of years ago.

The AMNH is located to the west of Central Park and indeed looks over it, from the 4th floor there is very nice view:

Central Park and NYC Skyline from AMNH

The exhibits were great and time flew. before we knew it we'd finished looking around the relics of millions of years past and had to get with the present quick sharp. Our first 'show' was due to start and we had to make it to the butterfly house as soon as possible. Our map didn't feature the whereabouts of this and being self reliant we had a quick run around the lower floors before we found it. We handed over our tickets and entered a very warm butterfly conservatory. Inside, as you'd expect, were all sorts of butterflies, some were landing on peoples heads, others noming on some fruit and some pretending to be bats just hanging there from the ceiling.

Butterflies feeding on lemon slices

I didn't have any land on me but it was fun to try and take some photos of them in all their colourful flutterness. We didn't really stay or listen for the talk about them, just seeing was enough on this occasion - Butterflies might like the heat but in our not-suitable-for-tropical-temperatures attire, it was not the place to loiter too long. We passed through butterfly decontamination after being scanned over by the staff and nipped up in the lift the the next floor.

On the 3rd floor we found the hall of Pacific Peoples and at the end of this hall we found the big Easter Island head - just in time too before he was mobbed by a bunch of school kids. We got a quick sneaky photo with him whilst doing our best impressions of "you dum-dum!" - this is what happens when ejits, history and pop culture meet. Feeling now like the naughty monkey from Night at the Museum (whose species we couldn't find on display in the primates section and were too embarrassed to ask the staff about) we carried on around the exhibits on the 3rd floor. After reading and seeing more about Native American and South American peoples of old than I ever had before, we made a quick dash to a café on the 1st floor for some recuperation and replenishment of essential bodily fluids before our next show. The food was OK - nothing special though which was contrary to indications given by the price and quantity - I'll never complain about the prices in the Ulster Museum again!

Once we'd sipped soup worth it's weight in fools gold we just had time to nip into the section with all the meteors, gems and minerals. A degree in environmental science might not be much use in today's job market but I was certainly in my element in those rooms, I could have stayed in there for hours. Sadly I only had about 10 minutes. One day I'll be back to eye up all those pretty things properly!


With the gleam of sparkling minerals still twinkling in my mind's eye, we made the dash over to the planetarium for Whoopi Goldberg's voice to guide us through the cosmos. It was a great show, sending you through the depths known space. The shows are the same as those you'll find at the Armagh Planetarium for anyone looking for the same sort of thing closer to home in Northern Ireland.

Once we'd been brought back to Earth we carried on looking around the 2nd floor and the exhibits that all seemed oddly familiar as we'd already walked by most on our quest to find the butterflies earlier. We started by looking around the Hall of Planet Earth where I found what I'd always wanted to play with - an interactive exhibit involving Pangea.

Once Norngirl had managed to pull me away from the exhibit we found ourselves wandering the rest of the exhibits. Sadly the main entrance hall was off limits due to some corporate event so we didn't get to see the big dino or Robin Williams. sorry, Theodore Roosevelt on a horse.

We had dedicated several hours to looking around the museum but we were almost out of time and all we'd managed to really do was a whistle stop tour. Our second to last port of call was to the IMAX screen to watch a show all about the Hubble Telescope and we learnt lots about it we didn't know before. We finished up with a quick wander around the bottom of the planetarium, a trip to the toilet and a speedy visit to the gift shop for the token fridge magnet.

As far as museums go it was very good, a nice mix of hands on things and lots of nerdy eye candy with enough exhibits to keep you going for a fair while, let alone the shows and temporary exhibits. Due to being unable to do it all justice in one day, on the repeat visit list for sure - those minerals and gems will be ogled by me properly... I'm determined!

By this point in the day, even after trying our best to work from the top down, we had been on our feet a long time and we were starting to feel it. We wandered back to the adjoining subway line and headed back down town to our hotel to recover. The day might have been more than half way over but awesome day was only halfway through, an evening at Madison Square Garden with hockey and beer awaited us!

To be continued... [Part 2]

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Buffy Night at the Belfast Film Festival

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a must watch show for a lot of us who are now 20 somethings when we were growing up - the combination of apocalyptic supernatural danger, humour and a rather tasty cast was TV gold. So when the chance came up to indulge in some of the best of Buffy at the Black Box for the 2011 Belfast Film festival, we didn't need convincing to attend.

This was my second Belfast Film Festival event this year and the second at the same venue. The set up for this one was a little different to the first. Inside the Black Box the décor was the same as with the Rocky Horror event but there was a sign above the door which highlighted that we were heading into the Bronze - the hangout/bar of choice for the youth of Sunnydale or in this case the geekier side of Belfast.

The screen was 'dead centre' and the tables were all kitted out with bunny sweets and props for audience participation during the showing of the two Buffy episodes.

The first episode was 'Hush', a creepy episode from season 4 (that annoying series with the stupid Riley character and his pointless army men friends), an episode that was great for it's jumpy moments but most noteable for it's lack of dialog - the baddies take away everyones voices so that people can't scream when they rip out their hearts whilst they're still alive.

The second episode was the feature presentation so to speak. A firm fans favourite - Once More with Feeling aka Buffy the Musical - an episode from season 6.

Events got under way with an introduction to the night from our green faced, red horned host.

As I mentioned, 'Hush' was the first screening and it was even better up on the big screen than I remembered it from the small screen, saying that, the puke worthy beginning was even worse in big. Sloppy snogging noises... ewww. Anyways, the show was over very quickly but it was awesome and I was very much in the Scooby Gang frame of mind once again - like a time machine had taken me back a decade.

Between the showing of the dark, spooky, silent episode of 'Hush' and the contrasting bright, friendly, musical episode of 'Once More With Feeling' there was a Buffy quiz. One thing the episode hadn't done (that I could of done with) was to reset my brain to an earlier point when I would have known a few of the answers to the quiz. Thankfully, I was with two people who were not just relying on details from the shows they remembered from over a decade ago. The joy of DVD boxsets and the interwebs - combined with their inner geek - meant our team ended up in an 11 way tie break at the end of the night... d'oh! The tie break question was 'how many Churches are there in Sunnydale', we didn't win.

We all won though when it came to 'Once More With Feeling' - in a Rocky Horror type sing-a-long and with a list of audience participation events ranging from constantly yelling 'Shut up Dawn' at the screen when Dawn opened her mouth to throwing plastic cutlery at the screen when Buffy was does some training with Giles. The 'Shut up Dawn' had to be the most fun, after all Dawn was a really annoying character. Here is a full list we were provided with:

Letting off party poppers when Willow is successful in 'completing' Tara was a funny moment... especially when there was a premature popping somewhere behind us.

The sing along was fun too - I'm not one for singing myself as I know I can't sing in tune to save my life, but I know all the words to the soundtrack so gave it a bit of a go anyway... helped along by the room full of people also singing along.

We ended the show mimicking the 'Grr Argh' Mutant Enemy productions character (that became the famous ending post end theme tune to the show) with the paper versions provided - much fun!

It was great to see what really is a TV show up on a big screen, both episodes the organisers had picked really suited the cinema like showing. And like all good TV shows... this event has to be a cert for a rerun!


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