Issue 224
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Our legal team needs you to know that what we have just invented has absolutely nothing to do with the global summer athletics competition that takes place every four years. Nor does it have anything to do with its winter alternative. The working title of our new Birmingham-based comp never included any word beginning with 'O' and ending in 'lympics'. We really can't emphasise that enough. So, without further ado may we introduce The 2018 Vortex... Games. A nostalgic-slash-futuristic-slash-just plain brilliant new contest that we implore you to recreate with a pal, at Resorts World's smile-making, adult-friendly playground: Vortex.   
PAC-MAN AIR HOCKEY — Katy Drohan, deputy editor: "As I Choose Birmingham has a grand total of two members of staff, I have to compete against my boss. No choice. So, do I: a) let him win or, b) play at my natural, full-throttle competitive best. I opt for 'b)' and we open The Vortex Games with Pac-Man air hockey, and my editor boldly announcing that he's "never lost at air hockey" in his life. I promptly thrash him at this chaotic, heart-pounding version of the old classic and he immediately starts reframing the story. Apparently, it's "not real air hockey" thanks to the multi-puck twist that drops midway through the game. He can claim that it's not real air hockey, and even keep his 100% air hockey record, but I'm 1-0 up in the Vortex Games and already starting to worry about my annual review."

BASKETBALL —  Tom Cullen, editor: "I don't know what that was, but it definitely wasn't air hockey. No purist would call that air hockey. No bother, I drag Katy to the basketball nets talking trash like Wesley Snipes in White Men Can't Jump and set about sinking 20 baskets to her seven. Nothing but net, guys. Nothing but net." (1-1)

SPACE INVADERS: — Katy: "If there were points for enthusiasm, I'd be really deserving of them when it comes to Space Invaders. But this is an elite sporting contest, and Tom is better at destroying enemy spaceships than I am. He just is. And he's still saying 'nothing but net' to no one in particular — I need to up my game." (1-2)

LET'S BOUNCE — Katy: "This is one of the most cheerful and utterly moreish games we've ever played. Like something hauled from a Tokyo arcade hall, it dings and dongs at you as you lob 20 ping pong balls at 45 coloured tiles. Hit one and the tile will darken. As the ball bounces around wildly it can knock out a dozen lights or more at a time. But towards the end of your game, of course, it becomes all about precision, to hit the lights that remain lit. Charming, right? Unlike Tom's language when I won this one and levelled the scores." (2-2)

OMNI ARENA — Tom: "There's a countless choice of games on Vortex's Virtual Reality Omni Arena, but I simply asked for 'the game that would make me feel least sick.' The outcome was a one-on-one battle where you need to run (like, actual legwork!) around a virtual arena picking up futuristic weapons and blowing your opponent to kingdom-come. Crikey VR has come on a bit since I last played it. Zero motion sickness and it turns out I'm quite good with guns that haven't been invented yet. Katy, it turns out, is complete garbage and I tell her so. Because that's the kind of boss I am. 3-2 to me and I buy myself a celebratory milkshake." 

MARIO KART — Tom: "I played a lot of Mario Kart as a kid and I see this as a real opportunity to put this little competition to bed. I opt safe on character selection (Toad) and dominate the race from start to finish. Well, start to almost finish. With Katy hot on my heels and armed with a red shell the photographer decides to explain how these shells work. Literally, with the finish line in sight, I am sent spinning and Katy pips me at the post. The photographer has worked his last day for the company and we have to go to a decider. I let Katy choose the game because I'm a caring boss." (3-3)

DOWN THE CLOWN — Katy: "Fun fact about Tom: he's genuinely, jump-inducingly scared of clowns. So when he did the gentlemanly thing and let me pick the final game, you might say it was pretty underhand of me to opt for one which consists of twelve clowns staring through your soul. Or you might say that Tom's motivation to knock them over, given his fear, would work to his advantage. Either way, the results of this particular round will forever stay between editor and deputy. Let's just say, I was quickly buying Tom cocktails in an attempt to keep my job, and he doesn't like clowns even more now."
We have it on top authority that Vortex is growing — so probably join us for the even bigger comp that'll be taking place in 2019. Open til 8pm Sunday to Thursday, and until 10pm Saturdays. Load credit on to a Vortex Card once you get there.


Dirty Martini will shortly be righting a most egregious wrong, and opening in Birmingham. Yaay! As an apology for taking so long to get to Bennetts Hill (and because they're kinda into martinis), they're giving away a voucher for a free martini to each and every one of you if you enter your deets here. Double yaay! You'll also have a shot at two other prizes. For the city centre worky sorts amongst your number, how's about a cocktail masterclass for you plus five of your nearest and dearest colleagues? Or if you're coming into town there's a table package for you and five pals, including ten drinks, a bottle of premium spirits plus mixers and plenty of sharing platter foodie fodder. Whatever your bag, you can get that free martini once Dirty Martini has opened on April 21, right through until May 27. Nice, right?


It's a transatlantic tussle of the most excellent kind at The Herbert in Cov. The bestest and the biggest in Pop Art from both sides of what most definitely can't be described as a pond are on display, including an eight-metre-long fighter plane by James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup tin, and Joe Tilson’s 1968 screenprint, Cut Out and Send. Check out history-making British and American art from 1960 to 1975. Until June 3, entry is completely free. More


Remember when Steven Spielberg turned Digbeth into a dystopian nightmare and had car chases taking over the Jewellery Quarter? The movie he was shooting was Ready Player One and it goes on public release on March 29. But you're not a regular member of the public, you're a subscriber to I Choose Birmingham, and that means you can see it more a week earlier than THE REST OF THE WORLD. We spoke to our friends at Everyman Cinema, they spoke to their friends at Warner Bros. and lo, this is happening. On March 21, 96 seats only: Spielberg's adaptation of Ernest Cline's geekfest book follows Wade Watts on his search for an Easter egg in a virtual reality game, in a 2044 world wrecked by an energy crisis. Quite how the Hollywood honcho is going to bring the text to the big screen is beyond us, as Wade finds himself starring in 80s blockbuster movies and being immersed in retro video games. We're not going to lie, we're pretty proud that we landed this preview for you. Maybe don't hang about on booking tickets, eh?
Venue: Caffiened, 4 Gordon Road, Harborne, B17 9HB; Website
Choice: Chicken Club Sandwich (£6) Chooser: Manager, Ben

Doing the simple things right doesn't seem like the biggest of asks, and yet, how many not-quite-hot-enough coffees have you paid for this year? And how many sandwiches with nowhere near enough filling have you called lunch? Caffiened does coffee, toast and sandwiches. And it does all of them in a lovely feeling space, on crockery you want to put in your bag, really rather well. The base for the whole menu is the team's nightly baked sourdough, loaded exactly how you like. We had all the time for the fricassee of wild mushrooms and zesty avo smash by way of bread-toppers, but it was the chicken club that owner Ben was rightly keen we try. Brimming with smoked back bacon, smoked chicken, slow-roasted tomatoes, aioli and pea shoots, this was absolutely knife and fork territory, with the aioli/chicken combo being the most glorious part of this Harborne bruncheon. Barista Rory is buying up award-winning coffee like a catrillionaire, and when we visited, a delicate
North Star Burundian bean was his flavour of the week. For max flavourising do try whatever Rory's recommending without milk in the first instance.
Wine Freedom is going big on Spring Equinox at The Church on March 23. It's £30 in, which'll get you a guided tasting of six wines, food-type bites and great tuneage.
If you liked BHX’IT, PHORM are back with CIRCUS at Dig Brew Co. April 6, artwork and pizza is all we're saying for now.
The Heavy Beat Brass Band will be doing their New Orleansy thing from 6pm next Wednesday, if you're in the Resorts World vicinity. The deets.
In the world of Punjabi music, Diljit Dosanjh's a big deal. A big deal who is making his way to Birmingham Arena on May 19. Happy-making office sounds if you're looking for some new beatage too.
Little Blackwood Moseley opens April 1 fo' reals, but look out for soft openings and food samplings before that.

"I burned through all of my extra lives in a matter of minutes, and my two least-favorite words appeared on the screen: GAME OVER." 

Ernest Cline, 'Ready Player One'

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom CullenAndrew Lowry
PICTURES: Tom Bird — Vortex, Joe Tilson (Herbert) — © Joe Tilson. All rights reserved. DACS, 2018

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