Thursday, May 31, 2007

We Have First Stage Separation


Well it's taken longer than anticipated because of seized parts, crummy weather and other things taking up time but finally I now have a bicycle frame and some forks as separate elements. If the weather's nice tomorrow morning I might get some paint stripper and get the frame clean ready for sanding. Then I can decide whether to saw off the gear and rear brake cable guides to create a cleaner look.

Me With My Shiny New Toy

And here is me with my new favourite toy. In order to get the headset off I needed a spanner that would open to at least 40mm and this was all they had: the biggest adjustable spanner in the shop. I may call him Harold; he is my friend.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Strange And Comforting Thing

Here is a photo I took this morning as I was walking up One Tree Hill. From the top, next to an oak on the site of a tree where Queen Elizabeth the First took shelter in 1602 giving the area its name of Honor Oak, you can see across the city to Saint Paul's Cathedral. It is strange to think that if I stood on this spot 400 years ago I'd still be able to see it just as it is today. That is one of the reasons I love London so.

Me One Tree Hill

You can see Saint Paul's a little better in this blow up. It pleases me immensely that it is still unobscured by all subsequent developments. I can only imagine how impressive it must have looked when it dwarfed all buildings in the city.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

New York - Part The Third

Sunday we took extremely leisurely. We left the hotel late and went off to find brunch before exploring the West Village. I had the largest pile of pancakes, bacon, scrambled egg and maple syrup of the whole trip. I didn't think that the bacon/syrup combination would appeal but I ate it a few times a developed a bit of a penchant for it although no-one seems able to cook scrambled egg in New York, it's always too cooked.

Too Much Pancake

After failing to finish my breakfast - there were just too many pancakes, we wandered through the West Village past Le Petit Puppy, a puppy shop. Pet shops like this are now illegal in the UK and have been for nearly 20 years but there were a couple we saw with tired little pups crammed into a window display. It's possible that the dogs were on rotation for window duty but they didn't seem happy and the experience upset both Tinseltroos and myself. Fortunately once we'd got beyond the village down to the river we saw many happy dogs out and about playing. We even stumbled across a specifically doggy playground.

Don't Leave Me

One of the best aspects of New York compared with London is what a dog-friendly city it is. T and I are mad-keen on dogs and one day intend to own a Tibetan Terrier whom we plan to name Sprocket, but that's a digression. The number of dogs on the streets of New York was a constant delight. I think we annoyed a few locals by asking to play with their dogs and quizzing them generally about their furry friend.

Near the River

After our walk we retreated back our favourite watering hole Fanelli's for a beer or two.

Inside Fanelli's

Fanelli's is the second oldest restaurant in New York apparently and it's wonderful. The burgers are superb, the beer very good and the waiting staff friendly. They began to recognise us eventually due to the frequency of our visits. From what I saw, bars in New York are generally full of either preppy types who seem too uptight to have fun or serious poseurs. What I liked about Fanelli's was how laid back it was - an atmosphere like a British pub, whilst still remaining a very New York cafe.

Looking at  the de Koonings

Monday was MoMA day and it didn't disappoint. It was a delight to see Les Demoiselles D'Avignon in its centenary year; it certainly lived up to the hype and one of the most amazing paintings it has ever been my pleasure to stand in front of. We were also able to catch the Jeff Wall show which is on tour. I'd seen it at Tate Modern last year but T hadn't so it was good to be offered a second chance and I wasn't about to turn down an opportunity to see one of the best shows of last year in London. The other delight of the MoMA was that it had floors devoted to design and architecture as well as fine art. The exhibit on 50 years of Helvetica, probably my favourite type-face, was lovely to see.


Jag Love

On Monday night we once again opened ourselves up to the wisdom of the concierge and asked for a table to be booked at a very American restaurant as it was our final night in the city. He got us a table at a superb restaurant on 10th Avenue called Cookshop. It billed itself as "modern American" which seemed to me very akin to the "modern British" school of taking some traditional national dishes and mixing them with influences of other cultures a little but with the focus on good quality ingredients. It was a delicious meal, I had a fish bisque, a New Jersey rabbit and an apricot baked alaska. This was washed down with a bottle of Napa Valley Semillon from Ruston Vines. Well worth tracking down the 2003 vintage.

New York Times

Consumption Appreciation

Tuesday post checking out was spent mooching around Soho until the shops opened so that Tinseltroos could go to Miss Sixty and get some jeans.

Plastic Legs

This was followed by more mooching, a final beer at Fanelli's to get out of the 87 degree heat and then at 4 o'clock we went back to Lombardi's for a late lunch to fortify us against having to eat any airport food.

For Those About To Eat

The cab back through rush-hour was pretty exciting with our cabbie diving down the back streets of Queens to try and beat the rush and he got us to JFK with plenty of time to spare.

Journey to the airport

After a bit of a panic at check-in when we found that our flight had been cancelled we were allocated to another flight that took off at almost the time we'd been supposed to leave anyway so all was good. I slept from the coast of Canada to due south of Iceland and we landed back at Heathrow, safe and sound at 9 a.m. BST.

Fly in Lady Penelope


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Friday, May 25, 2007

DS Cosy

Cosy III, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Look what Tinseltroos has crocheted for me. So pretty.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New York - Part The Second

On the Friday morning we pootled around Soho and its environs taking a peek inside some of the shops. We met up with Lucretia for lunch prior to his jetting home to Maine that night. Ama was a very pleasant Itialian restaurant which Tinseltroos is modelling here:


The proprietor treated us to a lengthy diatribe on the failings of his employees who had apparently telephoned him thirty minutes before to say they were sick and couldn't come to work; he suspected this to be a fib and since the weather was a balmy 80 degrees I tend to agree.

Friday evening saw us visit the New York offices of a former employer so we could a) Take advantage of their lovely roof-terrace with views like this:

View from Framestore NY's Roof

and b) go out for the evening with several former colleagues for pizza at the remarkable Lombardi's Pizzeria:

FS Dinner

Lombardi's claims to be the oldest pizzeria in New York and I love New York style pizza. The consistency seems like a very light dough which has been thoroughly beaten flat meaning that once cooked it is slightly thicker than an Italian pizza base but not as bready as more deep-pan pizzas. They also had pitchers of Yuengling and Sam Adams beer which was the perfect accompaniment. Following dinner we went out for a few drinks till our jet-lag would finally leave us alone no more. Here is my Perfect Manhattan in Manhattan:

A Perfect Manhattan in Manhattan

On Saturday we had breakfast in an old style New York restaurant called Prime Burger. The swing out tables and bar-top dining combined with the staff and pleasingly mechanical till made me feel as if I'd just stepped into a Damon Runyon story. They did a good bacon and scrambled egg too. Next we took a ride in the fastest elevator I've ever been in up the Rockefeller Center to take in the New York skyline. Whilst not a high as the Empire State, the Rockefeller grants you wonderful views of the Empire State which I'd rather have that a view of The Rock. The vista laid our before us was predictably astonishing. Until you get above the roof line it is hard to grasp just how big New York City is. London apparently has a greater population but that's spread over a greater area and much of it is suburb, the part you'd actually call city-like is pretty contained. In New York it extends for miles. Amazing.


After The Rock (not Alcatraz) we went up to The Guggenheim. It was disappointing truth be told. Half the gallery is closed to allow for renovation, the entire exterior is shrouded in tarpaulin meaning little of Frank Lloyd Wright's design can be seen and the visiting exhibition of neo-impressionism and divisionism was full of some of the nastiest paintings I've seen. I've never liked Seurat and to have room after room filled with him and his acolytes did not cheer me or Tinseltroos. I liked this photo I took of the entrance to The Guggenheim though:

Looking At Art

From there we walked to the Frick Collection. Henry Clay Frick was an industrialist who had a fortune so vast he decided to build a replica of a French palace on Fifth Avenue. The building itself is a skillful pastiche but is not of much interest beyond that. What is of interest is Frick's art collection that he filled the place with. He has Holbein's portrait of Thomas More, there are Rembrandts, Vermeers, Piero della Francescas and a collection of deliciously naughty Bouchers. If the building feels a touch ersatz the art more than makes up for it.

We did one more gallery, the International Center of Photography. Having thumbed through a copy of Time Out New York I'd found that the gallery had an exhibition of the work of Stephen Shore, one of my favourite photographers, and so we decided to stop by. In addition to the Shore, which was the biggest selection of prints I've seen together in one place there was another show on African America portraiture. Whilst this could have been very tokenistic, the theme of the show was how photography had allowed images of prominent African Americans to be widely disseminated and thus how photography formed part of the political struggle for equality. The photographs chosen were incredible as were the stories of those portrayed. A very impressive show.

Here is a napping courier I photographed on our wanders through Midtown. I only include this photo because I like it:

Napping Courier

Having had enough of culture we head back to Soho through the East Village stopping off for a spot of lunch. Inspired as I was by Stephen Shore, here is my pastiche of a famous Shore picture of a half eaten McDonald's meal in 1973:

Tasty Burger

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

This I Am Happy With

Your Score: Cary Grant

You scored 14% Tough, 19% Roguish, 0% Friendly, and 66% Charming!

You are the epitome of charm and style, the smooth operator who steals the show with your sophisticated wit and quiet confidence. You are able to catch any woman you want just by flashing that disarming smile. When you walk into a room, the women are instantly intrigued and even the men are impressed. When you find yourself in trouble, you are easily able to charm your way out of it, or convince others to help you. You're seen as dashing, suave and romantic. Your co-stars include Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, and Joan Fontaine, stylish women who know a class act when they see it.

Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the
Classic Dames Test.

Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

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Friday, May 18, 2007

New York - Part The First

We did so much in New York that I'm going to have to break this down into a few posts I think. Chronological order is dull but will serve me well here. Let me back up a little and explain before I go into detail that I am probably the worst travelled person on the planet. I have been abroad five times prior to this trip and I've flown on two of those holidays, both within the EU. The idea of a) going to another continent and b) flying reasonably long-haul to do so was completely alien to me, and I was quite nervous if I'm honest.

Once we'd got to Heathrow and handed over our luggage we sought breakfast and found a Chez Gerard which served us a very good scrambled egg on toast. A top tip if you're stuck in Heathrow as most of the other places to eat aren't too enticing. After having our shoes X-rayed about 17 times and putting all my worldly goods into a plastic tray and then taking them out again another 127 times we were deemed not to pose a security threat to anyone and were allowed to board. We flew Virgin as their seats are a teeny bit bigger than BA (which helps if you're over 6 foot) and they have edible food and excellent entertainment. You have hundreds of movies, TV shows, music and radio to choose from. I managed to fit in several episodes of "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue", "Blackadder" as well as documentary on Led Zeppelin and as we finally made landfall into North America I was listening to "Voodoo Chile" by Jimi Hendrix which seemed pretty apt to me. This is what I was looking at whilst Jimi was chopping down the sides of mountains wth the edge of his hand:

The Coast of Canada

Once we'd landed and immigrated we got a taxi to our hotel. The thing which I don't think I'd fully appreciated is what the sensory overload (combined with jet-lag) would feel like. I've only ever travelled in Europe before where cars, houses and so on look roughly similar; there are differences of course but they don't leap out at you. The US looks totally different, from the vehices on the street, to the concrete of the roads and the buildings which line them and on and on and on. For the first two days it was a complete head-rush as the filters in my brain which say things like, "Oh yes, that's a Ford Focus" or "There's a 19th Century terrace" at a subconscious level obviously no longer worked so my eyes, ears and nose were feeding my brain completely new and unprecedented data all the time. I actually felt quite dazed and confused for a while until my brain began to "learn" what The US looked like.

We met up with my chum Lucretia Racquel Arabella and his girlfriend Zifogel on the Wednesday night for cocktails until we had to bail in order to get some jet-lag, bad-craziness sleep at about eleven.

The following morning I had my first experience of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup which I found surprisingly moreish. We don't, in general, mix sweet and savoury much in the UK so I was a little trepidatious about the whole thing but since I had the same thing on 3 further mornings I think we can count it a success. After breakfast we took a wander into Tribeca to find the fire station from "Ghostbusters", probably my favourite comedy film. It's now a working fire station again but I think you can tell by the inane grin on my face how much this bit of fanboydom meant to me:

Me and The <span class=

We then went on to walk from our hotel in Soho up to The Metropolitan Museum of Art which is halfway up Central Park - a pretty lengthy hike. It was worth it as the exhibits there were incredibly beautiful and it was lovely to see an art gallery and museum combined, something else we don't really do here much. Here's a selection of my favourite photos I took there:

Temple of <span class=

Temple of <span class=

Statuary in The Met

Statuary in The Met

Our second Ghostbusters homage took us past the New York Public Library where the film opens. I had my iPod loaded up with The Bus Boys' "Cleaning Up The Town" and, as I ran down the steps, Tinseltroos captured the moment for posterity. I'm sure posterity is very grateful.

Me Escaping The Ghosts

Wednesday was also our anniversary and so we spoke to the concierge about finding us a good restaurant for dinner. I casually mentioned it would have to be veggie friendly for Tinseltroos and she rather took me at my word. We were booked into Pure Food and Wine, a vegan, raw restaurant where they have no oven or hob and only use pickling and dehydrators to treat the food. Despite our slight misgivings we had an excellent dinner, my main course consisting of portobello mushrooms steeped in lapsang souchong, pickled beetroot, capers and a raw potato salad. I think the potatoes had been soaked in something for a long while as though they were crunchy there was no hint of the starchiness you'd normally expect from a raw spud. We washed our dinner down with a lovely Kiwi Pinot Noir (they're so hot right now) and from there took a cab home to bed. What a lovely day.

To be continued...

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Your Starter For Ten

Weeza and Boudicca Lee both offered themselves up as subjects for interview so here are their questions:


1 - What single luxury would you take a desert island with you? It cannot be practical in any way.
2 - What would your final meal before your execution be?
3 - What is your favourite item of clothing?
4 - If you could repeal one law what would it be?
5 - How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? For extra credit show your working.

Boudicca Lee:

1 - What is the single best piece of non-fiction you've read?
2 - Tell me about a favourite smell or scent.
3 - Eggs: fried, poached, scrambled, soft-boiled or omlette? Why?
4 - Who would you have paint or photograph your portrait? Living or dead artists are fine; we have a time-travel device.
5 - When is your favourite time of the year?

Hope they're OK. Here are the rules which you must include in your response:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” And please, feel free to comment on my fabulousness, or whatever.
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

In almost the words of Mary Fendrich Hulman, "Ladies, start your engines..."


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

We Have Returned

IMG_0296.jpg, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Tinseltroos and I flew back from New York and eventually landed at Heathrow this morning. I have so much to write about which I'll make a start on tomorrow but for now here are the photos I took:

Click here.

I'll explain the whys and wherefores over the next few days.

And to my two lovely respondents to my request for interviewees I'll draw up your questions over the next couple of days. Watch this space...

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Monday, May 07, 2007


Across The Road, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Now I have a suitcase for the first time, I must fill it. Tinseltroos and I fly to New York on Wednesday morning. Blimey.

Blogging will therefore be light/non-existent for the next week or so.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Five Questions, Five Answers

I, possibly foolishly, acceded to Margaret's invitation to offer myself up for five questions of her choosing. This is more meme fun, but is more personally directed than most and it's interesting. In return for my answering these questions, I have to ask you, dear reader, if you would care to be asked five of my questions, which you must answer in a post on your blog and then offer the same interview service to those who leave comments for you. The rules are listed at the bottom. Here are Margaret's questions and my answers:

1. What reality TV show would you be on if you had to be on one?

I thought this would be tough since I watch so little TV, but according to wikipedia, and what higher authority is there?, "Pimp My Ride" is a reality TV show and is without doubt the show I'd like to be on. Partially for the insanity of the work done by West Coast Custom, partially for the amazing characters who work there like Big Dane and Mad Mike but mostly so I could run screaming out of my house and hug Xzibit whilst he laughs in his "hurgh hurgh hurgh" manner.

2. Newspapers, magazines, books, or the internets: which is your favorite media?

I still think I love books best. Newspapers are pretty much dead to me now. They are so poorly written in the UK that they aren't worthy of your attention and any articles of note will appear on the internet anyway. The net is wonderful and I couldn't live without it. The only reason books are still my favourite is the way that they age and show how they've been used by their owner(s). I also love the tangibility of a book, its heft, its physicality against your body as you read it, the different papers, bindings and smells. If I were not still partially trapped in a previous era the internet would win hands down but books still have a little magic, and sometimes a little magic is what I need.

3. If you had to give-up one of your 5 senses: which one and why?

Probably taste as, although I love food, I would still have smell which forms much of the "interesting" and complex elements of how we appreciate food and drink. It would be tough but it is (just) worse to consider losing any of the others. To lose hearing would mean no music, to lose sight would mean no art, smell would eliminate much of the sensual magic of the world as would the loss of touch - no caressing is too horrible to imagine.

4. If Ben & Jerry's were to name an ice cream flavor after you, what would it be?

There is a berry which grows in my favourite place on Earth called the bilberry. Bilberries are quite tart and slightly blueberry-ish in flavour. These combined with very dark chocolate chunks would be my flavour. It would be called "Atrociously Yours", naturally.

5. If you could start a new holiday:, what, when, and how would you celebrate?

Isambard Kingdom Brunel Day would be celebrated on his birthday, 9th April, every year. People would be encouraged to look at the engineering that surrounds them. Children would build bridges and learn mechanical principles and the media would look at how engineering has helped us and made our lives richer. The notion that people who tell you "It cannot be done" should be ignored would be valuable one to instill in the entire population.

For anyone who wishes to be asked questions by me, here are the rules:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.” And please, feel free to comment on my fabulousness, or whatever.
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

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From TIny Acorns

Holdsworth Championship

This is the state my bicycle was in when I got it. As I'm now on holiday for a month (working all those weekends adds up to quite a bit of TOIL after 8 months) I can start work on my projects. Today I've stripped part of the bike down, taken the wheels off, removed the rear brake and shawn it of gears and associated cabling. The frame now looks like this:


From here I need to get the rear drop-out un-bent as you can see:


Next I must remove the cranks and bottom bracket, plus the headset and forks before I can begin filing and sanding the frame clean ready for painting. Hopefully eBay will be able to furnish me with new hubs, saddle and Holdsworth decals for the painted frame... Let the fun, oil, grime and swearing begin.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Me And My Girlfriend Don't Wear No Shoes

It's a slightly strange time at the moment, in many ways it's a rather transitional phase in my life and yet the changes are ones I must allow to happen when it is time and cannot rush headlong into. As a naturally can-do, get-stuff-done type this is difficult. Now I'm done with Harry Potter (unless I end up working on No. 6 - ye gods) I have to begin work on another project. I am pretty much assigned to a small chunk of a large show for the next few months or so. After that it's all a bit vague but we'll see what transpires. I'm looking forward to tackling my new show as the chunk I'm working on is small enough to be done by a tiny team which will mean less bureaucracy and a greater variety of work for me to do; two things I felt were amiss with the last eighteen months. It's also a very pretty sequence and the director is known for having a good eye stylistically which gives me confidence.

All of that must come in June however. All of May is mine and Tinseltroos'. We can do what we like. The upside of working so many weekends for the last 8 months or so is that we have accrued enough TOIL to take a month off work and it cannot come soon enough. As well as holidaying in New York we also have the delightful task of finding a flat for us to live in together. My days living in a shared hose with friends are over, and I'm glad really. The times has come to get a "grown up" house and now is perfect. We're hoping to move into our place in late June so we'll be looking during May. I'm sure it should feel scarier than it does; as it stands it just feels like exactly the right thing to do.

I also have another couple of little projects to occupy my time. One is the previously mentioned bicycle project. Thanks to eBay I now have a 1978 Holdsworth Championship in a box in our back yard. It's present state is this:

It used to look like this 30 years ago:

And by June I'm hoping it will look like this:

First I need to get one of the rear drop-outs straightened and I need to clean all the old paintwork and rusty patches of before it can get enameled and the fun of rebuilding the chain line for fixed-gear, single-speed cycling can begin.

I also have my short film idea to work on. I'm storyboarding it at the moment, but the idea seems to be coalescing nicely now so I'll be able to begin shot-work in earnest pretty soon.

Things that are making me happy now are:
  1. The martinis at Two Floors. They make them just right and with Plymouth Gin (a personal favourite).
  2. The Proms booklet arrived so I can plan this summer's concert going.
  3. Lorenzo Villoresi's "Uomo". I smell nice.
  4. The sunshine and low twenties temperature in London now.
  5. The prospect of dinner with my beloved at my favourite restaurant tonight.
  6. The thought of re-reading "Three Men in a Boat" for the umpteenth time.
  7. The full-length portrait of Catherine Parr in the National Portrait Gallery.
  8. Greg Bear's "Blood Music" which I've just finished reading.
  9. All the trees now have rich green leaves on them.
By the way, the title of this post is inspired by Churlita's use of song lyrics for post headings, an idea I like so much I've unashamedly stolen it. There's a prize for the first person to guess the song and band...

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Nerd Humour

This will amuse only those who:

a) work in CG visual effects

b) know Soho intimately.

This probably amounts to three people who read this tripe. I'm posting it regardless.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Snakes Head Fritillaries

Snakes Head Fritillaries, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

A little over a year ago, when Tinseltroos and I were becoming fast friends but before we started going out she asked me to design a tattoo for her. By the time she had it done, we were a couple and the idea of putting her new partner's designs permanently on her body didn't seem like such a good one so she went for a pattern of her own.

Whilst I was working on my design she told me about these amazing and very rare flowers that grow, briefly, in the meadow of her college in Oxford. I fell in love with the pictures I saw and incorporated them into my design. Whilst she may not have them on her body, these little flowers mean a lot to me as they symbolise our nascent relationship and always transport me to the days when we were first courting.

I finally got to look at them in the flesh two weekends ago when we went up to Oxford specifically to see them. In a week we will be celebrating our first anniversary in New York. What a wonderful old world this is.

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