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"Write something worth reading or do something worth writing" A blog by Amy Willis, a multimedia journalist based in London

Young Musician of Wales final

By Amy Willis, Cardiff Evening News – Hwyl Arts Supplement

The winner of this year’s Young Musician of Wales final, 17-year-old cellist Steffan Morris, from Neath, displayed the most passionate performance of the evening.

As he played his first piece, Alone by Giovanni Sollima, his almost had his eyes closed throughout the entirety of the performance, clearly trying to feel the music as he played. His fingers whizzed along the strings with faultless speed as his foot tapped the pace. At the end of the piece he opened his eyes and squinted up at the cheering crowd. The bemused rabbit-caught-in-the-headlights look on his face showed just how much he had become caught up in the moment.
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Turkish delight but lacks atmosphere

With a menu bursting with delicacies from Mediterranean sea bream to mixed-meat grill, the three Turkish brothers who run Bosphorus in Cardiff Bay definitely prove there is more to Turkish cuisine than kebabs.

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In the fast lane – Hyundai i800 review

There is no denying the eight-seat Hyundai i800 people-carrier adds a touch of class to the traditional idea of an affordable family car.

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TV review

Snog Marry Avoid, 8.30pm, BBC three

FASHION programmes usually involve make-overs but Snog Marry Avoid, an extreme fashion programme that verges on the obscene, is about make-unders.

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Costing the Earth: Totally Uncool, Radio Four

By Amy Willis, Cardiff Evening News

Costing the Earth: Totally Uncool, Radio Four, 1.30pm- 2pm, Feb 5
THE RHYTHMIC hum of an air conditioning unit is a typical background noise in most office environments, but as Tom Heap investigates, this gentle drone is becoming a stealth weapon of mass destruction for the climate.

He reveals one canister of hydrofluorocarbon gases (HFCs), used to cool the water in air conditioning systems, generates the same amount of carbon as 10 years driving a car. The alternative is natural gases as found in domestic fridges but due to American industry these are proving difficult to implement.

Supermarket chiller cabinets also pose a depressing thought as an Asda spokesman explains how supermarkets could add chiller cabinet doors but choose not to as it becomes a purchase hurdle for consumers.

The programme highlights a chilling point. That gentle drone could be a ticking clock in terms of global warming and it is only now being brought to our attention.

Material World, Radio Four, 4.30pm- 4.45pm, Feb 5
The quest to launch a hotair balloon with a telescope strapped to it by two brothers, one a scientist and the other a filmmaker, made the potential of this programme rather promising if not slightly amusing.

But although the brothers, Mark and Paul Devlin, tried hard to promote both the research, funded partly by Cardiff University, and the documentary, they could not reveal too much on the programme making the listening a little dull.

Research from the project will be released soon. At this point we might be able to get a little more excited as an insight into how the galaxy is comprised and how stars are born is anticipated. The documentary Blast! will be released on dvd in the next few weeks.

Filed under: blog posts, Reviews,

Attraction of Onlookers Art

National Museum Wales, next to Cardiff City Hall in Cathays, showing until 22nd February 2009, free of charge,
3*(out of 5)

Marking the 40-year anniversary of the catastrophic Welsh mining disaster in Aberfan, where almost an entire generation of children died when a landslide engulfed Pantglas Junior School, the Attraction of Onlookers exhibition aims to capture the present day character of a community haunted by the past but poised for the future.

American artist Shimon Attie created the piece of contemporary video art by asking villagers, some of whom were survivors of the landslide disaster, to pose in a stance that signified their everyday life. These images were then displayed as rotating 3D moments-of-stillness on cinematic screens in the museum, these included a young mother pushing a buggy, a boxer mid-punch, and a retired miner using an oxygen mask to help him breathe.

a retired collier

Attraction of Onlookers: a retired collier

The piece was mesmerising once the context had been understood. However, the National Museum has done the artwork an injustice through disorganised signage and inappropriate placing of Attie’s documentary which provided context and gave impact to the piece.

As a result of the poor signage, the viewers were first directed into an unrelated room that contained a separate piece of video art about the Helsinki protests. Only if they ventured further would they reach Attie’s work, and if they did this, a lack of understanding (and seating) meant few stayed longer than a couple of minutes. Had there been signposts towards Attie’s documentary first, they would have realised the full meaning of the artwork and appreciated what Attie was trying to show -residents of a small Welsh village ready to move towards the future and liberate themselves from their tragic past.

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Shaolin Monks Wheel Of Life

The world-renowned Shaolin Monks performed their Wheel Of Life show this week at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall.

As Cardiff families found their seats and awaited the start of the performance, a musky incense smell filled the air. A loud recorded voice, explaining the story of the monks and their beliefs in the Wheel Of Life, marked the start of the show.

The hall dimmed. Through the incense smoke, the monks emerged, entering through the audience in a ritualistic slow march with the elder monks leading the way. As they climbed up onto the stage, they bowed to the Budda carefully painted on the backdrop and sat cross-legged meditating through the show’s back-story.

Five young monks, aged maybe only six or seven, started the move sequences by flying across the stage in phenomenal acrobatics and demonstrating their incredible flexibility. This drew excited gasps from one youngster in the audience who could not help shouting out “wow” from his seat. Later the young monks also demonstrated their perseverance through five-minute-long headstands and upward splits at either side of the stage.

The elder monks were next, demonstrating the speed and the cleanness of their moves in what looked like the drunken monkey and praying mantis style (see below video clips).

Above: drunken monkey style, below: praying mantis style

Afterwards, especially for audience members with little specific kung-fu knowledge, they demonstrated bare-foot walking over razor blades – proven to be sharp through the ferocious slicing of a melon, followed by a monk-nail sandwich which made the audience squeal with anticipated pain. A Chinese dragon dance with music strummed gently on stage, was performed for those more interested in the artistic element of the Chinese culture.

Almaas Yusuf, 22, a Wing Chung Kung-Fu enthusiast, said: “I wasn’t so sure about the stunts with a super-natural edge to them, like the shattering of spears, but it was impressive to see some very complex kung-fu moves being performed without flaw.”

When asked if he would come again he said: “Maybe, although I do think this show focused on the artistic and spiritual side of kung-fu.”

Two day earlier, the monks gave a taster performance to the media (see video clip below) to encourage a huge audience. Sadly on the evening, the hall was only half packed – perhaps people were unaware of the show or maybe there are not many martial arts enthusiasts in Cardiff.

All round it is a fantastic show to watch if you have some martial arts knowledge but for those just looking for entertainment, the show is perhaps lacking some theatrical components. A basic kung-fu knowledge makes it easier to appreciate the complexity, training and hard work which goes into accomplishing the flexibility and technique required for the move sequences. However, the monks did to some seem bored by the show – perhaps because they have repeated the same routine so many times or perhaps because the element of realism is foregone in place of commercialisation.

Out of five, the show gets two stars for entertainment and four stars for martial arts technique.

It is also worth noting that the view from the upper side-stalls in St David’s Hall is not particularly good and it made you feel slightly disconnected from the atmosphere of the show.

The monk’s public relations officer has not return emails asking for comment.

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