Friday, February 29, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I can distinctly remember the thrill of capturing a moment on film (nowadays I guess it would be on screen) for the first time - when I was given a (sadly soon to be obsolete) Polaroid camera at the age of nine. The instant gratification of this format was particularly inspiring, and I can recall enlisting members of my family, often with various soft toys or long-suffering pets in tow, to pose for me around the house. Restricted by the cost of film for this type of camera, I soon moved on to the classic long thin 110 model - I think I had two of these - which served me well on family holidays and the like for the next few years. When my Nana died, I inherited her 126 Kodak Instamatic, which made a satisfyingly mechanical clunk when you took a picture, and required a separate disposable flashcube. Although this was in many ways a more retro model that either of my 110s, I loved the chunky shape and solid feel of it, and best of all, the cute square prints that also had a wonderfully vivid quality, much like the 'lomo' style, that is currently experiencing something of a renaissance. On my 18th birthday, my brother bought me a Nikon compact - my first 35mm model - which was my main camera for over ten years, and took some fantastic shots. I'd rarely go out without my little Nikon, and as a result have an unrivalled record of my times among my peers - earning me the title 'archivist of things you actually would never want archived' on a Facebook group of ex-theatre colleagues recently.
It wasn't until my mid-twenties that I discovered 'proper' photography, when I was given a second-hand Olympus OM10 SLR as a birthday present. Already a a prolific picture-taker, I now had the power to not only capture a moment on film, but to really get creative with my shots - and it was like a little light switching on inside me when I realised the possibilities. Last year I had to finally replace my trusty Nikon point-and-shoot (still handy for taking on nights out, and when you don't have time to faff about with focusing and metering and such), forcing me kicking and screaming into the digital age, I chose a Canon Powershot as it looked and felt the most like a 'real' camera out of the wide variety of models on offer. Whilst I have grown to appreciate the immediacy and money-saving aspect of digital photography, I really miss the thrill of taking in a film to get developed, never quite knowing what to expect. Many times have I sat laughing to myself on a bench outside Boots as I flicked through the evidence of a drunken weekend, prompting memories which would have otherwise been lost. Which is why I will keep the OM10 going, even though I now also have a digital SLR - a Nikon D40x. It's quite refreshing to be able to go back to the mechanical simplicity of a film SLR after tackling the seemingly endless functions and intimidatingly huge potential of its digital counterpart.
I hope that my nephew, Isaac, will have as much fun with photography as I have over the years - from his initial enthusiasm and impressive dexterity (for a three-year-old) last night, I would say there is a fair chance he'll take to it with the same gusto. Like his exhibitionist auntie, Isaac also enjoys posing in front of the camera - which I maintain is all part of the process of learning to take better pictures. And that's not just me trying to justify my propensity to pose (honest) - feeling comfortable on both sides of the lens allows one to empathise with the subject, and helps build a well-rounded relationship with the camera that can prove invaluable, especially in people photography. Already I am researching 'My First Digital Camera' options, (even though the boy's birthday is not until September) and am amazed at the choices on offer. As the excellent BBC4 series, The Genius of Photography recently demonstrated, we've come a long way since the first permanent photograph was made back in the early nineteenth century, and it's good to know that amongst all the technology and inventions available to today's generation, the good old fashioned (even in its advanced era) camera still has the power to excite and inspire.
A selection of my OM10 shots: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowstar/sets/72157600364795694/
Some photos from my pre-digital, point-and-shoot era: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowstar/sets/72157594561981195/
My first foray into compact digital photography: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowstar/sets/72157600238724322/
A recent set taken on the Nikon D40x DSLR: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowstar/sets/72157603558215940/
Monday, February 25, 2008
One of the things I love most about living in Brighton is the sheer volume and variety of activities on offer. You could, if you wanted, go out every weekend of the year and do something completely different - whether you're into live music, theatre, clubbing, eating, comedy, sport, drinking, or all of the above - there is no excuse for ever exclaiming "I'm bored!" in this town. As someone who feels largely indifferent towards conventional 'club' music, but does love to dance, I have particularly benefitted from the rise in alternative club nights in the last few years, especially since the relaxed licensing laws paved the way for non-traditional club venues to host such affairs. This means that I no longer have to brave the chav-infested seafront club strip in order to have a boogie on a Saturday night, and what's more, I get to dance to music that I would actually listen to at home. Many of these new club nights also give us vintage clothing lovers a chance to don our retro frocks without feeling out of place. Notable examples of such events include girly jive-fest Born Bad, cheesetastic We Luv Pop, oldie but goodie Dynamite Boogaloo, Brighton's answer to Lost Vagueness Boutique Theatre and sleazy electro disco It Came From the Sea, to name but a few. On Saturday, I took some friends along to Vive La Fip, one of several club nights now on offer at Brighton's premier arts centre Komedia.
A celebration of cult French radio station Fip, Vive La Fip is possibly the only place (other than my flat) where you could dance to ska, samba, disco, chanson, jazz, soul and rock in one evening. And it's not only the music that's eclectic - the elegantly clad punters range in age from 20-something to 50-something, happily intermingling on the dancefloor - united by a collective enthusiasm for the outstanding music. First heard in Brighton over ten years ago, many people presumed that they were picking up Fip's signal from across the channel, when in fact it was being illegally re-broadcast by a local resident, allegedly from somewhere in the Hanover area. The station's ever-growing army of listeners were left distraught when the pirate operation was finally discovered and thwarted by industry regulators Ofcom. But Fip lives on in Brighton - for those, like me, who listen via the internet - and once a month at Vive La Fip. Hosted in the intimate Studio Bar, with a comfortable balance of seating and dancefloor space, my only gripe about the night is the enforcement of plastic glasses, which seems ridiculous given the unusually refined and relaxed air of the proceedings. I do object to being made to drink from a plastic cup (especially when enjoying a rather fine pint of Dark Star ale) at my age, and it does diminish the otherwise sophisticated milieu somewhat. Let's hope that Komedia come to their senses and allow proper glassware in future, or I shall be tempted to bring my own tankard next time, I'm not joking!
Listen to Fip Online
Friday, February 22, 2008
It should be said that making breakfast in bed for oneself does lessen the pampering factor rather, what with having to actually get out from under the duvet in order to prepare said feast, but let's face it, the chances of it happening any other way in our house are slim. I do get the occasional cup of tea delivered to my bedside on days when Mr M has to be up before me, or has been prematurely awoken by his bladder or an obstinate ginger cat - and even this is a most welcome indulgence. I'll admit to feeling slightly disappointed that it doesn't happen more often, especially since a precedent was set right at the beginning of our relationship - when I was brought not only breakfast, but the weekend papers (for which he had actually got dressed and gone out to the shops) - the first time I stayed over at his place. You could call this being lured in under false pretences, but I'm not one to complain (much). These days I am content to be spoiled a couple of times a year - on birthdays and anniversaries - and to find other ways to treat myself in the meantime. So whilst I do write about all those things here - music, food, books, socialising, travel - breakfast in bed remains the ultimate aspirational indulgence - the motivational icing on the metaphorical blog-cake.
Photograph courtesy of Romantic Home on Flickr
Disclaimer: This post is by no means intended as a hint.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Lost came along during something of a hiatus in what I think of as chewing gum for the eyes, and I remember being excited by the classy trailers featuring scantily clad beautiful people on a stunning tropical beach, and the promise of dark fantasy adventures. Season 1 was pretty good, good enough for me to stay home especially to watch it once a week, but by the end of Season 2 I was getting bored of the repetitive storylines and lack of fresh blood. Thankfully, Season 3 managed to claw its way back to being the cutting edge drama we'd all hoped for. This was partly down to the introduction of a whole new set of characters, including the fantastically hammy Bond-style Russian baddie Mikhail (pictured above) - complete with clichéd villainous eye-patch - who I find strangely attractive in a sexy-ugly kind of way. And I was starting to get bored of oggling at the pectorally perfect and ever-brooding Sawyer, so it was good to have an eye-candy alternative. All the original protagonists seemed to go through some sort of significant personal development or life-changing epiphany, making them generally more likeable as a result. I almost regret carving through the whole series so quickly, but it was such compelling viewing that it was impossible not to, and for me to say that, it must be good. The ending was cleverly enigmatic - resolving certain issues, but leaving enough in the air to guarantee your attention for another series. I believe Series 4 is currently showing on Sky One, but I shall have to wait a good few months before it comes out on DVD to get my fix. Meanwhile, my week of lowbrow indoor entertainment continues this evening with the latest series of Smallville, the first disc of which should be waiting on the doormat when I get home.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
(Picture courtesy of Gino Ginelli on Flickr)
Thursday, February 14, 2008
As a sixth-form drama student in Lewes, I was a regular visitor to the now sadly defunct Gardner Arts Centre, just up the road on the Sussex University campus in Falmer. I can clearly recall falling asleep on more than one occasion during some highly pretentious and dreary 'physical theatre' performances; usually involving lots of grunting and wailing; and subsequently struggling to find enough to say in the required post-theatre trip essay. Now and then there would be something good enough to keep my attention, and stop me from losing faith entirely in the so-called 'performance art' genre, in fact my second ever date with the now husband was to see an excellent Northern Stage production of Animal Farm which we both enjoyed, he being even more cynical than me. The only times I've seen such things in recent years have been at Edniburgh festival, when more often than not, I would again be disappointed at the cringe-making no-irony-intended archness of it all. But I still haven't given up hope of finding the odd gem in amongst a slew of ostentatious tripe, and was intrigued by the hype surrounding Irish dance company Fabulous Beast, whose latest production, James Son of James, in the absence of the Gardner, would be finding a home at the more central mainstream venue of The Dome. So I bought two tickets for me and the boy, hoping to bring back happy memories of our early courtship, and to make a change from our seemingly habitual gig-going excursions. Fabulous Beast calls itself a dance company, and the cast members are clearly talented dancers, but the moments of movement were few and far between - the production instead being punctuated by tedious, drawn-out scenes of stilted dialogue and sometimes painful singing. The story itself was predictable and sparse, maybe enough to fill a short festival-length piece of 45 mins, but too much to stretch over nearly two hours with no interval. The only bit I really enjoyed was I suppose the closest thing to a chorus number in this kind of show - a beautifully choreographed wedding scene in which the whole cast showed off their dance skills with an array of styles, from salsa to jive. But this only served to make the rest of the performance more of an anti-climax, and we both left feeling distinctly underwhelmed. I have a feeling it might be a good long while before I will be able to persuade 'him indoors' along to anything remotely similar in future. Back to gigs next week, then.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Whether justified or not, the British have a reputation for having bad teeth, and considering the cost of dentistry in the
There is a growing dental tourism industry, particularly in Hungary and Poland, both of which now have entire towns built on incoming foreign dentistry trade. So I started looking at the options, reading about the possible pitfalls, asking around for recommendations, when I was forwarded an email from a friend about a forthcoming consultation happening with a Hungarian dentist in
Monday, February 11, 2008
My poor bicycle, I call her Hedwig, has been sat in the hallway looking a bit sad for the last six months, since we were both damaged in an accident that resulted in a broken jaw and smashed up teeth for me, and a blown tyre and a few scratches for her. I finally got round to taking her in to get fixed at the weekend, with a view to getting back on the saddle in the next few weeks. Now that the weather is improving and the evenings are getting lighter again, cycling to work is becoming a more enticing prospect, and I think I am about ready to tackle the psychological challenge. So I dropped Hedwig off at G-Whizz, a great little second-hand bike and repair shop down in
A long overdue girlie night ensued on Saturday evening, with a trip to the Hanbury in
Thursday, February 07, 2008
One of the best things about Shortbus is the soundtrack; compiled from a relatively obscure assemblage of musicians; the songs often feel integral to the story, rather than simply accompanying it. The most predominant name on the soundtrack is Scott Matthew, who actually appears in the film as part of the house band at the 'Shortbus' club after which the film is titled. His emotive voice beautifully echoes the characters' bruised souls, reflecting moments of hope and despair with an impressive vocal range. In the absence of any other commercially available material, I have listened to the six Scott Matthew tracks from the Shortbus soundtrack relentlessly over the last few months, eagerly anticipating the release of his first solo album, due this March. My heart literally leapt when I saw on his myspace that there would be one UK date on the pre-album tour. It would mean going up to London, but my god, it would be worth it! The gig was last night, at Bush Hall a tiny Edwardian dancehall in W12 - all flaky ceilings and faded glory - but perfect for an intimate gig such as this - I can only imagine that St George's Church in Kemp Town could have been better.
A striking figure by virtue of his eccentric attire and untamed facial hair, an evidently jet-lagged Scott Matthew shuffles onto the stage in a manner that could easily be mistaken for pretentious aloofness, but soon transpires to be genuine awkward shyness. He looks, and sings, like someone who has experienced life's ups and downs perhaps a little more than most, and has taken it all rather to heart. My skin
Sadly I wasn't allowed to take photographs during the show, although this did mean that I had a totally undiluted gig experience for once. I couldn't resist taking one quick snap of the stage just before the performance though (see above), complete with a bottle of red wine which was then duly devoured during the set – only serving to endear this charming man to me even more.
Scott Matthew's self-titled debut album is OUT NOW on Glitterhouse Records: www.glitterhouserecords.co.uk
Scott Matthew on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2zXhAjYock
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Now that I have seemingly mastered the art of the perfect crêpe, I intend not to limit their consumption to a once a year ritual, but to celebrate this simple yet versatile meal on a regular basis. I also think some ongoing research into further uses for advocaat would be more than justified.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Sunday, February 03, 2008
I never understand why so many people decide to detox by giving up booze right after Christmas. January is the most boring, cold and brassic month of the year, so staying sober just seems foolish to me. Much better to save one's dry month (if you must have one at all) until summer, when there's plenty else to do, and everything seems more fun to start with. So I was most perturbed when 'him indoors' announced on New Year's Day that he would be abstaining for the next four weeks. This may have made him feel very virtuous and wholesome, but it actually meant that I ended up drinking twice as much, since I find it almost impossible not to polish off a bottle of wine once opened. It felt like a long month for both of us, so I was most relieved when 1st February rolled around and I could gleefully thrust a beer into his hand and welcome him back to the land of the lush with open arms. This glad occasion also happened to coincide with a busy weekend of socialising that kicked off with the Concorde 2 21st birthday party on Friday and rolled into Damien's birthday on Saturday. The Concorde celebrations were most disappointing, and felt more like a sixth form leaver's ball than a swish corporate function at a top live music venue. I didn't even manage to get any decent photographs (except this one below). But Ant's euphoric reunion with beer thankfully distracted him from getting too agitated at the awfulness of it all, and we actually both enjoyed having a bit of a scathe before staggering back up the hill.
Son of Robot at Concorde 2
Saturday's far preferable jollities involved a session in the Regency, which always seems to lead to much singing and campery, followed by Ookey Ook at the Engine Room. I finally got to have a decent boogie (after several abortive attempts in the last few weeks) along to exactly my kind of music, and although the Engine Room unfortunately does smell pretty bad (I don't even want to consider of what), it has a certain seedy charm and is only a short walk from the Regency, a major bonus in such blustery weather as we are currently experiencing. Ookey Ook is a monthly night put on there by the same people who do Born Bad at Komedia, and they play similar sort of 50s/60s swing, soul, ska etc, but it's less girlie-centric. I'm not sure what time we stayed until, but I knew it was time to leave when the boys started doing a three-way pole dance that involved some rather disturbing mutual bum-slapping. See how much better life is under the influence of alcohol...