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Monday, November 01, 2004

Adventures in Regeneration, Part 1

And so to the Excel Centre, a business-friendly bridge between the City of London and the proposed Thames Gateway, itself a proposed city of 10 million people springing up on brownfield sites between now and 2021: we'll see. In the week, Excel houses some unhappy folk commuting in and out on the DLR; but at the weekend? Life in all its richness is under this roof.

At one end of the centre was the chance to 'turn fear into power - experience the firewalk'. A suprisingly large and articulate-looking group of people had probably paid out quite a lot to go on a cultish weekend of enhancing their self esteem. It was a high security affair, complete with feelgood late 80s rave music, exhortations from gurus and at least one punch-up. I'm not sure how the firewalk bit went: usually the hours spent standing around in wet grass beforehand allows the gullible to do a quick stride over the hot coals and think their self-esteem or team-building got them there (click here to find out more). This was indoors, yet I heard no ambulance sirens.

In the middle of the conference centre was the London Dental Showcase 2004. Basically, it does what it says on the tin, or on the toothpaste tube. Could I feign enough interest to pick up a free sample of Colgate? Not with my British teeth I couldn't.

Finally a wander round the London Expo. If you've not been to one of these before, it's basically a sci-fi memorabilia trade fair with 'resting' sci-fi actors selling autographs. Clearly there's some thought goes into this, with a veritable Versailles Treaty going on to ensure a balance of power between Buffy, Trekkies, Bond and Babylon 5. The first time I stumbled across it, it was fun, with Reggie Bannister getting an ecstatic reception when he introduced the Bubba Ho-Tep trailer. This time it seemed a more dour affair, with the emphasis firmly on flogging autographs.

Thankfully Ernie Hudson was on hand to chat about Oz - 'a real intense show; always glad when filming it was over'. Whereas British fans of Em City grumbled about needing to come home from a nightclub or nightshift in order to catch the start of the show - don't get me started on scheduling - Hudson was suprised his prison got on terrestrial TV here at all. But for me the star performance was a talk by Andrew Divoff, whose films I'm largely unfamiliar with but who I warmed to instantly.

Weathering the dumb questions about 'where do you get your ideas from' and 'what's it like working with Harrison Ford', he gamely told us something about his working life and how, as a simple proletarian like his mother, nothing pleases him more than hanging out with the stuntmen and on-set carpenters. Divoff's instincts for the underdog lead him to support community art projects and appear in a low budget Reservoir Dogs tribute called Sharkskin 6. What a guy to spend a Saturday afternoon with in Docklands.

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My brief explanation of Fathers4Justice and their rhetoric appears here. My review of Shinya Tsukamoto's Vital can be found here.

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