Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Walk

I took a walk today down through The City, over the Millennium Bridge to the Tate Modern to have a look at the Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia retrospective. The show was as I expected: very interesting from an art historical standpoint but rather soulless. There's a couple of Duchamps I liked and some of the Man Ray photographs are delightful but overall the show was a little underwhelming. I thought I'd take a look at the Juan Muñoz also as I hadn't taken as long as I'd thought I might going around the main show. I was really surprised and impressed. There were several rooms full of body casts of a very small man in a suit in a variety of poses and amongst whom you could walk. It was a rather unsettling and wonderful experience. Here's a few photos from the walk and from the Muñoz show:

Saint Paul's Cathedral

Turbine Hall


Coffee and Cake

Bankside - The Tate Modern

Steps to Millennium Bridge

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Work In Progress

Here's a little sped up video of the most recent quick sketch I've done in Colors on the homebrew DS card. I love this little application.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Tiny Art

This is a quick little post to mention the joy of a lovely piece of free software for any who have a Nintendo DS and homebrew card. It's called Colors and it's from a lovely website name if ever there was one. The software leverages the DS's portability and it's pressure sensitive touch screen to make the perfect tiny pocket sketch book. It takes a little getting used to because the screen is so small but it's really quite delightful to have these tiny little jewel like painting sketches appear in front of you as you scribble away.

One of the other nice features is that the program stores each brushstroke as you make it resulting in an animation playback facility where you can watch the whole painting being drawn from scratch. It's quite instructive to see how I work. I had always thought that I obsessed over a single detail until I liked it before moving onto the next but from watching the few sketches that I've done I seem to flit about the image from place to place tweaking things as they catch my eye. I really didn't think I worked like that.

Here's a couple of sketches I did yesterday and if I can work out how to make a movie of the process of painting one I'll try and upload that too at some point:

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Monday, March 24, 2008

The Easter Break

Storm Brewing Over The City, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

I never thought it could happen. I've just had four consecutive days off work. Apart from the revolting weather, which has seen a permanent mixture of very high winds, rain, snow , sleet and hail, I've had a lovely time. Poor Tinseltroos had to work on Friday so I amused myself with a brisk walk down to the Hayward Gallery to see the Alexander Rodchenko exhibition there. From there I walked along the South bank of the Thames eastward, practically to Rotherhithe. There, in one of my favourite pubs, The Angel, I met Tommy Dog for a couple of beers, some pub grub and a good natter. We chewed the fat for a couple of hours then he headed south back to Camberwell and I took a protracted route over Tower Bridge and through the city back to Schossadlerflug.

On Saturday Tinseltroos and I had breakfast in Soho and then T did some serious no holds barred dress shopping whilst I looked on in amazement. Well actually I parked myself in a sofa in the shop and read the Vogue which happened to be there whilst T did her thing. She got two delightful dresses and she will look gorgeeous in both (less so if sh wears them both at once). This was her reward for all the overtime she's been putting in recently and she really earned it.

On Saturday Evening I walked up to Camden to a friend's birthday drinks. I wore my newish tweed suit. Partially this was for reasons of sartorial elegance and contrariness and partly it was because it was bloody cold and heavy wool clothing seemed the most practical choice. The bar selected for the event was OK-ish but incredibly expensive and half the bar-staff were pretty clueless. To advertise yourself as a cocktail bar and not know how to mix a Manhattan is pretty inexcusable. It is one of the classics.

On Sunday T and I started the day with huevos rancheros. Having been warmed on the inside by breakfast we wrapped ourselves up once more into spheres of wool and fleece and walked up to Primrose Hill and back. We stopped for a sandwich on our journey home before I cooked a store cupboard spectacular when we got home as all the shops were shut. I did manage to finish up three almost empty bags of pasta which makes the kitchen neater if nothing else.

Today we've mostly mooched about. I played some guitar. I've made a new tone on my Line 6 box of noises thing so I was keen to try out my repertoire through it. I can now declare myself happy and may even record something with it if I get some time this week. I've also read a little, programmed a little and scribbled a little. In a few minutes I'll probably start cooking dinner which will be vegetarian shepherd's pie again. I feel really quite rested and can conceive of the idea of work without bursting into tears again.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cake or Death?

We had a charity raffle and cake sale at work yesterday. I decided to try my hand at a receipt I hadn't done before as I usually do a ginger cake but fancied a change. I plumped for a chocolate cake and then hit the internet looking for the perfect one. Strangely putting terms like "best chocolate cake" into Google returns more than one result, which is a logical impossibility but there we are. I finally settled on this receipt, which claimed the lofty status of "Ultimate Chocolate Cake". Well I could hardly refuse, now could I? Here are a few photos of the construction:

Chocolate Cake Ingredients Mixing Pan

This is the pan I melted my own bodyweight in dark chocolate in.

Chocolate Cake Just Out of the Oven

The cake as it appeared, naked straight from the oven. This was getting on for midnight so I had to let it cool overnight before making the ganache after breakfast on the following morning. It ended up looking like this:

Chocolate Cake Covered in Ganache

I ended up, after having licked the spoon I used to mix the ganache, like this:

Sleepy Me WIth Ganache Around My Mouth

At 32 years of age you'd have thought I'd be able to eat without smearing my food all around my mouth wouldn't you? You'd be wrong.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Booda Baby tagged me with a meme. Having looked up the words "meme" and "tagged" I believe I have been invited to respond to the small challenge listed below and to write a six word memoir. It is a small challenge in terms of the amount of copy it requires me to write, it is somewhat more onerous when one considers what needs to be fitted into those six words. I have actually given this some serious thought and most of my better ideas came in at an irritatingly, just too chubby, seven words. You may, if you wish, read my answer below. The rules are also listed below. I have issues with authority so I am only going to address parts 1, 2 and 3. If anyone else wishes to play along then please feel free but I wouldn't want to impose.

Here are the rules:

1. Write your own six-word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you'd like.
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post.
4. Tag five more blogs with links.
5. And don't forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

Here is my 6 word memoir:

Always knows where his tea is.

This I think says a good deal about my character and my attitudes. I have always been a fairly measured person, I don't get ruffled easily and I have only lost my temper a couple of times that I can remember. Knowing where one's tea is helps with this. There are very few situations that cannot be defused with a cup of tea and a moment of quiet reflection.

I am also a very English person in many ways. I love cricket, tweed, films with David Niven or Terry-Thomas in them, warm beer, and of course tea. A life without tea would scarcely be worth living. The gentle stimulation of the mind that it affords allows one to dream and to think beautiful thoughts. Or it can act as a powerful restorative after a day's exertion. My point is that tea, and the ideas and emotions with which it is associated, are deeply integrated into my psyche. I am a tea person. I like coffee, but I am a tea person. A tea and cake person. A tea and cake served on a nice piece of Staffordshire china person.

There is also a pseudish and snobby element to tea. What sort of tea to drink? How to prepare it? These are the kinds of questions that appeal to the snob/connoisseur in me. I like the ritual of brewing loose leaf tea. I delight in warming the teapot, measuring out the tea, pouring in the water, setting out the cups (or mugs) and those few quiet moments of contemplation while the tea brews just enough ease the troubled mind. It's the same pleasure I take in putting on a suit, or cleaning shoes or shaving. There is a sense of ritual, a process which cannot be rushed; it will take as long as it needs. I think as I am inclined to race around during the day because I always feel the need to achieve, I equally need these pauses that brewing up a pot of tea affords to keep me level-headed and sane.

So there you have it. Tea defines who I am and aids me in remaining that way. It is a crutch and a facilitator. And thus Atrocity always knows where his tea is.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Slow News Week

Apologies for the complete silence for a week. There has been plenty of work to occupy my time and the weather here has been foul, wet and very windy, meaning that when not at work I have pretty much been hibernating at home.

I have been working on a little project of my own over the weekend but I don't have anything pretty to show for it yet and you don't want to read a protracted write-up of several hours programming believe me. I did make a apple and pear crumble last night as poor Tinseltroos had to work yesterday. Tonight I'm the one working late and who's had some not good work-related news so I shall certainly be helping to finish the crumble off. It's the best emotionally supportive comfort food. That's all I have now. Perhaps if I get a bit of my mojo back tomorrow I'll have a little more to say.

Sleep well all.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Better Than it Should Be

The Rain Against the Window, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Here's the Post Unrelated Photo of the Day - the view out of Schossadlerflug on Sunday afternoon. Now onto the matter in hand...

I made a salad for dinner last night. T and I had been out for burgers for lunch and so felt guilt-tripped into having something healthy for dinner and salad seemed like a good idea. This ended up being tastier than I'd thought so I'm writing it up as much for the benefit of my sieve like memory as for anything else.

1) Cook some quinoa, about 2oz per person is good. I added a teaspoon of vegetable stock powder to the water to give the quinoa some sort of flavour.

2) Finely dice a handful of stilton cheese, two cored and peeled pears and five or six spring onions.

3) When the quinoa is cooked and drained mix all the ingredients together.

4) Add a couple of teaspoons of runny honey and a slug of cider vinegar.

5) Mix well and season to taste.

6) Serve on a bed of baby gem lettuce.


Monday, March 10, 2008

The Greatest Show On Earth

Everyone needs an annual TV event that goes on for at least three hours that they can get gently drunk in front of, giggle at and enjoy as a social experience with their buddies. For some it will be Eurovision, for me and Tinseltroos it is Crufts. The self-styled "largest dog show in the world" is televised annually on the BBC (good old licence fee) and delights us for a couple of reasons. Firstly, and obviously, there are hundreds of beautiful dogs to admire. The bonus treat are the people at the show. I will try and categorise a few of them as best I can:

1) The mad old dear

The mad old dear has been breeding miniature daschunds in her village of Little Crudbury since 1911. She enters sixteen hundred dog shows a year and her current champion "Grosvenor Bitey Paws Champion Fluffy Weasel" whose pet name is Woofy has been in competition at Crufts again this year. She is delighted to have Woofy placed Best of Breed, though Woofy doesn't seem all that concerned himself.

2) The frumpy middle aged lesbian in a waistcoat

Mary trains her dog to dance with her. The shame of the hackneyed routines she devises is nothing compared to the shame of the dog's ability to dance far better than she can. The sight of a woman in her late forties cavorting in a silver sequined outfit along side an immaculately groomed collie to Europe's "The Final Countdown" will sear itself onto the frontal lobes of any who accidentally catch a glimpse.

3) The Sergeant Major

Slightly scary this one. Breeds something very British, probably a spaniel of some sort and shows a fanatical zeal in trying to create the perfect specimen; a desire you cannot help but feel he would apply to the human race if that German fellow hadn't spoiled eugenics for everyone in the 1930s. Best avoided.

4) The Confused Normal Person

A rarity. Occasionally there is a regular punter, who happens to like dogs and perhaps has trained a dog to do an agility course who turns up to do their thing and finds that they just don't fit in with the rest of the personality disorders parading around with their prides and joy tucked under their arms.

So last night Tinseltroos, Sisoftroos and myself got rather tipsy on perry and watched the whole bananas spectacle unfold before our scarcely comprehending eyes. We "awwwwed" at the beautiful dogs, cheered the Flyball events, sniggered at the judges commenting favourably on the "open bitches obedience" section and howled with laughter at the dancing dogs and their owners. A good time was had by all.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008


Well who'd have guessed? This is the first weekend (excluding Christmas) that I've had both days off from work since October last year. I am writing this with a new haircut and having had a long walk out to beyond Buckingham Palace this morning. The route I take would be much quicker if I didn't have to do a huge detour around the grounds of the palace. Sadly one suspects that Her Maj wouldn't take too kindly to ramblers and the razor-wired fences act as a further deterrent.

I'm now back at home watching England lose in the rugby. T has plans to take photos tomorrow so I had best go and dust off the tripod and associated paraphernalia.

I promised to write up the details of the rest of my week but I got sidetracked by work (again). On Wednesday night a few friends and I went to see the Royal Philharmonic perform Shostakovich's 7th Symphony at The Royal Festival Hall (this is turning into quite a regal post isn't it?). Following a moment of panic where we received a phone-call from one of our number who'd gone to the Barbican, having convinced himself that was the venue, we all made it to our seats on time. Shostakovich's 7th is, I think, my favourite piece of classical music. It's a huge piece, taking an hour and quarter to perform but the range of emotion that runs through the piece easily holds your attention. I remember the first time I heard it was the last year I studied music at school, so I'd have been about fourteen. The small excerpt we heard so grabbed me that I told my parents that night over dinner. So glad were they that their long-haired, spotty, heavy metal loving offspring had declared an interest in something they could relate to that they immediately went out and got it on CD. I have loved it ever since and listen to it frequently.

Wednesday's performance was very good. The conductor seemed largely ineffectual as the exhortations he made had no effect upon the members of the orchestra who seemed quite content to take things at a pace that suited them. They carried this off with aplomb. I think I am still spoiled by last year's Prom performance by the Simon Bolivar Orchestra because every classical show I've been to since just hasn't had that same level of passion and enthusiasm. Wednesday's performance was firmly in the very professional category rather than sparks flying. Nonetheless the music is so potent that I had hairs standing on the back of my neck for large sections and there was a tear in my eye at the end of the first movement.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Now Listen All You People, Come Gather Round

It's been quite a hectic week so I'll break it down into a couple of posts. Monday was fairly uneventful but Tuesday was a day out of the office. Zounds!

A while back, when I was assured I'd be finished on Hellboy 2 by now, I agreed to do a talk about visual effects at a university up North. Even though I'm not actually yet done on Hellboy I was still determined to do the talk. There are a lot of industry people who were very nice to me when I was student and I feel I owe a debt and should give something back. I also like teaching when I get the chance.

I've done lectures before but I've been so busy for the last eighteen months to two years that I haven't visited anyone in a while. This meant that my talk needed completely re-writing to bring it up to the latest technology and put some more up to date films into it. Preparing this new talk was the main motivation for getting that new laptop when I did as I wanted to have a machine capable of playing the newer high-res video I wanted to show. I had spent several evenings running up to Monday night sorting material, producing slides to show and editing video to try and make as slick a fifty minute presentation as I could. I was quite pleased with this slide and the animation I did on it to introduce each element. I spent a whole evening with pieces of paper on the living room floor at home trying to design a flowchart where none of the lines crossed. It took a while but this is the result:

Tuesday morning came and I duly presented myself at St Pancras and took the train north. I went through the town where I latterly grew up, which is a dump, but the scenery improved after that and got properly lovely once we hit Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Train journeys when you are going there and back in a day and for something specific tend to take on a sense of stasis for me and so I sat staring out of the window for the whole journey once the countryside had become good, my mind pretty blank.

Upon my arrival I was snapped out of my reverie and whisked over the road from the station to the campus. I was given a whistle-stop tour, a brief moment to grab a sandwich and drink before I was ushered into the lecture theatre and set my laptop up, plugged it into the college's projector and got my trailers running for the students to have something to look at as we waited for the room to fill up. I got a pretty good crowd: all three years of their computer graphics degree, a few masters students and four members of staff. As we were five minutes late starting I had to take the talk at quite a pace and by the time I was done the whole fifty minutes had gone by in a blur. I get stage-fright when I perform "creatively" (music and such) but I have no nerves about giving speeches or talks. I just don't think I have much in the way of shame. Even so there is a largish dose of adrenaline that kicks in when I speak publicly and I was quite high by the time I was done.

After the talk a few students came to chat in the college coffee bar until it was time to put me back on a return train and I was just coming down off my natural high as we pulled out of the station. All in all a good day. The five and a half hours on trains went at a geologically slow pace but the three hours between getting off and getting back on the train went by in what seemed like a heart-beat. I got some good feedback from the talk and I now have up to date notes so with luck I'll get a few more invites to talk again soon.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

A Weekend of Two Parts

Part The First: Saturday

Spent all Saturday at work but Tinseltroos and I did sneak out for a delicious lunch at Andrew Edmunds, my and possibly our favourite restaurant. I had a completely delicious main course of mutton (a greatly underated meat) with aubergines, tomatoes, red onion and cous cous. That helped make the rest of the afternoon's work seem not so bad.

Part The Second: Sunday

We lay in quite late as both of us felt no inclination to go into work. Instead we had a leisurely breakfast and then went for a long walk through The City and over London Bridge to explore the South Bank. Here's a couple of photos we took of each other just near Hay's Wharf:

Me By T

T by Me

After this we walked as far as the Design Museum where I took this photo of a very small connoisseur of contemporary design before we went for lunch:

Early Adopter

I had a very disappointing and very expensive Beef Wellington which contained a tiny and overcooked piece of tough beef, a smidgin of cheap pate and the whole enterprise was covered in a acres of puff pastry to give the illusion of some substance. It was served with some good asparagus though. Finally we walked further east along past some of the old wharves which have now been turned into flats for rich bankers where we spied the scene below:

Wading in the Wharves

Normally this area is running water, the River Neckinger in fact, so wading like this impossible. I can't imagine how foul smelling his waders were after this little expedition.

Tomorrow I shall be away as I'm travelling and delivering a lecture at a university. I think I have all my notes and slides ready; now it's just a question if the lazy little buggers can be bothered to turn up. Previous experience of lecturing to students suggests probably not many will.

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