Sunday, April 27, 2008

Springtime in The City

Had a pretty good weekend though it got off to a very melancholic start. We awoke, on Saturday, to the news that Humphrey Lyttleton, jazz trumpeter, radio presenter and national treasure had died, aged 86. Humph was known to most of my generation and those a little older as the compere of "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue", the self-described antidote to panel-games. It was his razor sharp wit and curmudgeonly persona that endeared him to a nation along side his ability to deliver the filthiest of double entendres without sniggering in the slightest. We listened to a couple of episodes of ISIHAC from my archive as a memorial.

After a late breakfast we walked, in the beautiful spring sunshine, through Clerkenwell and down to the Barbican. We'd picked the nicest day of the year to sit in a darkened room and watch a documentary about Helvetica, the typeface that this blog would be laid out in if I had the option. In spite of missing out on our vitamin D it was worth the sunlight deprivation as it was an enlightening and entertaining film. Tinseltroos left hating Helvetica; I think my love for it will never die but then I am an unreconstructed modernist at heart. Following the film we wandered back into Holborn for a drink with G, our third partner in typography. We put the world to rights and then T and I spent a quiet evening reading and playing music.

Today I was going to go to Lord's for my first cricket match of the so-called summer but as Tinseltroos and I had breakfast in Soho the heavens opened and I decided that a day's rain interrupted cricket was not what I wanted so I came back home as poor T went into work.

I actually managed a fairly productive day. I baked some no-knead bread (I'd started it last night) and I also cooked a courgette and mint soup to be ready for T's supper. I read both prose and comic book. I am really enjoying Warren Ellis' "Transmetropolitan" series at the moment alongside the chapter detailing April and May 1972 in Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72". I played some guitar as the rain beat against the window and listened to a couple of radio shows. All in a good weekend.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Ahoy The Sloop Inn

StIves_Z9219XL, originally uploaded by Ennor.

I'm so close to being done on the part of Hellboy 2 I'm responsible for I can almost taste it. I'm helping out on another sequence for now but as soon as the final shot is approved and leaves the building I am planning on putting in for a week's holiday at the the earliest possible moment. Poor Tinseltroos still has much to do so she will have to wait until June before she can take any time off which means I shall have to find something to do by myself.

My plan is to get out of London just for a couple of days to stare at something in the distance. My current plan is to go to St. Ives in Cornwall, an area I like very much, particularly The Sloop Inn, pictured above. I think I'll try and go down on Sunday afternoon and come back on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. That way I can still have some time to do a few Londonish things I never seem to find time to do, like visit the Sir John Soane museum which is so close to Schossadlerflug that it is embarrassing that I have still yet to visit.

I also plan on doing a little work on my own arty projects and probably some guitaring. I have a few ideas for a couple of pieces of music but I need a day or two to rough them out on the computer and advance them further than just bubbling around in my noggin. I think that, and some cooking for and taking care of a worked-to-the-bone Tinseltroos should fill a week without feeling rushed or stressed.

It all sounds great to me but we just need to get that last shot finalled...

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Black Ships Ate The Sky

I'm always intrigued by what I like and what I do not and why. My tastes are fairly eclectic and reasonably catholic though I would be a liar if I said I could appreciate the qualities in anything.

One of Tinseltroos' favourite bands is Current 93, a band who have tried most genres in their long career with, to my ears at least, highly variable degrees of success. At present they seem to be in a rather "post rock" mode. Post rock is a rather unhelpful name as it implies that rock is now defunct, which it isn't, and that post rock is a natural successor, which it isn't. I prefer the term "prog punk", i.e. a type of music played by people who would like to play complex prog rock but only have enough skill to play punk. The end result is usually a band with an unnecessary number of guitarists (four at one stage last night - that's more than The Eagles ever managed) and assorted stringed instruments, pianos and keyboards. A simple riff pattern will start quietly and slowly and then get louder and a wee bit faster, but never to a tempo that could be misconstrued as exciting, over the course of about seven minutes until the song is done. The singer, David Tibet in this case, will "sing" over the top of this mass of sloppy sound generally on the subject of black ships (likes his Homer obviously) and skies. This went on for nearly two hours, which was a bit much I felt.

There were some good parts to the evening though. Marc Almond did three of songs with longtime Current 93 collaborator, Michael Cashmore. The first song was transcendentally wonderful and is apparently on Current 93's last album. He then did a couple of songs of the poetry of Eric Stenbock set to Cashmore's music. Stenbock is a terrible poet, and I mean "terrible" in both its common usage sense and its true definition: this is poetry so bad that it makes the skin crawl. Almond's performance was lovely and it's a shame that such talent had to be wasted on this sub-McGonagall twaddle.

The other surprise of the night was Baby Dee. Her brand of music can be described as slightly vaudevillian, slightly post-rock (it gets everywhere these days it seems) and was at times entrancing and spellbinding. Playing both the piano and harp with equal adeptness her vocal style always feels like it is an almost painful release of energy and emotion. A real gem.

All things considered it was a very mixed evening. Had Current 93 played for an hour less than they did I think I would not feel so negatively about the performance. I can take a little post-rock, I even actively like some Sigur Rós but two hours of the same song was a little much for me. According to Tibet, this will be their last performance for "a long time". I am hoping that next time they will have found another musical genre that better suits their talents.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution

Guitarist magazine has as its main feature this month an article on new acts in what it is terming the "Classic Rock" genre. Now to me "Classic Rock" has horrid connotations of bad dad rock a la Bachman-Turner Overdrive. What they really mean is "Proper Rock": sweaty, leather clad, power chord toting, Gibson guitar into Marshall stack wielding rock and roll. I am, as no one will be surprised to hear, more than a little partial to this type of thing.

To find new bands of this ilk delighted me as, fond as I am of much current music, there isn't much that tickles my highly sensitive rock pleasure centres. And so your brave correspondent with naught but an iTunes account and a rainy afternoon set out to pluck the finest apples from the tree of new "Proper Rock". If you are fond of a bit of AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy or Black Sabbath, and I know some of you are, you'd do well to give the following acts a listen. If you can run to an iTunes download or two I've also listed my favourite track from each artist. I bought a couple from each to test the water. I will be buying real CDs of whole albums worth of a lot of this on Monday:

Airborne - Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast
The Answer - Sweet Emotion
Stone Gods - Burn The Witch
The Sword - Freya
Black Stone Cherry - We Are Kings
Glyder - Gambler's Blues
For those about to rock, we salute you.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

I For One Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

There is a new thing in Schossadlerflug. A friend of ours, who currently has a bad back and a new book deal decided that what her life needed was less vacuuming and more future. To that end she bought a Roomba, a small robotic vacuum cleaner. Tinseltroos, who has been working serious overtime of late and is in a self-present state of mind was not about to let that slide and so took herself off to John Lewis yesterday and returned with a Roomba of our own.

The Roomba, or Murphy as it is now known, sits in the hall in its Roomba hutch waiting expectantly for one or other of us to tickle it behind its robotic ear and press the "clean" button. On that command it chirrups happily and then blunders around the flat bumping into things. At present I do not fear imminent take-over by our heavily-armed robotic nemeses as the Roomba is clearly far too stupid. It tried to shut itself in the bedroom repeatedly by knocking out the wedge that keeps the door open five times. That said, for a wee machine it does a good job and once you've removed things like boot laces off the floor it gets along just fine. There was a moment on its first sortie last night where it attempted to eat one of Tinseltroos' piratey boots and we had to perform open Roomba surgery to disentangle the laces from its innards.

I can tell that I'm going to have an ongoing series of existential crises with this thing. For example I already feel guilty about switching it on to clean the living room as we left for work this morning. Poor little guy, all alone in the flat, with nothing in its life apart from cleaning for ungrateful humans. I feel quite wretched that we'll get home where it will have happily peeped to unlistening ears to announce that it has found its little house and is going to have a quiet charge for a bit. I feel wretched and I shouldn't. God I hate this inability I have not to form meaningful relationships with pieces of technology. I'm certain that the Roomba does not feel the same way but then we've all been in those unrequited affection situations haven't we?

If I get home and the floor is clean and the Roomba is sat it its hutch quietly like an obedient spaniel I shall probably cry. If, on the other hand, I find the flat empty with only a sprinkling of saw-dust to hint at the previous existence of my guitars there will be trouble. If I also find a fat little Roomba sat on the sofa, complaining about how full it is, watching our TV and drinking my scotch then there'll be hell to pay.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Quick post on a tasty treat I made yesterday. I'd worked pretty late and had plenty of chores I wanted to get done at home meaning that I didn't want to spend too long in the kitchen. That said, having worked for about 12 hours without a break I did feel like treating myself a little. So I cracked open a beer and this is what I did:
  1. Preheat the grill to "pretty hot".
  2. In a bowl mix some plain yoghurt, curry powder, ground cumin and ground coriander seeds.
  3. Slather some strips of chicken in the yoghurt mixture and lay out on a grill pan.
  4. Grill the chicken for 15 minutes, turning after 10 or so.
  5. Meanwhile cut a couple of bread rolls in half. Soft, non-crusty bread is best for this receipt.
  6. Slice up some tomato and crisp lettuce.
  7. When the chicken's done, season it and assemble it with the salad into a sandwich. A squirt of lemon juice might be nice too.
This was mighty tasty and looking back through the ingredients and method probably quite healthy too, and those two qualities don't intersect often. Done from scratch in 20 minutes and most of that was waiting for the chicken to cook.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Living in the Future

In 1991 my dad bought himself an Apple Macintosh Classic, a lovely little computer which is still in a box at my mum's until I can think of something fun to do with it. It was a spritely little beast back then with an 8 Mhz processor, a scarcely believeable 20 Mb hard drive and an entire megabyte of RAM. I thought this little bugger was the bee's knees.

I have just had my studio workstation upgraded today. The new slab of technology now keeping my feet toasty and warm is 3400 times faster than my dad's old Mac, has 16000 times as much memory and 15000 times as much hard disk space. I think if you'd told me that in 1991, my head would have gone pop. Many people seem to get blasé about the rate of development in technology but every new leap forward makes me catch my breath. These are exciting and weird times, Bubba.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Please Let the Crust Defy Gravity

Tinseltroos and I had an invitation to our friend Heg's for dinner last night. Heg had invited us and two other of her friends over as we'd expressed our interest in the pickled herring of her native Norway. I've always liked pickled herring and, via other Scandinavian friends, have had Danish and Swedish herring but Norway was a new one on me. As I didn't have to work on Saturday I asked Heg if I might make a pudding, she acquiesced and I set to reading through my cookery books on the lookout for something new. I decided, eventually, to do a tarte tatin which I have made many times before, but just to make it interesting for myself, I decided to make my own puff pastry. You can call this either bravery or plain foolishness as you please. I make a pretty decent shortcrust pastry but I have not tried puff pastry before. Before getting my hands covered in flour I consulted youTube for any helpful tutorials and found this one, by the wonderful Ms. Glaze who also writes this blog. She is a professional chef and therefore rather intimidatingly competent. Nonetheless I was adamant I would have a go. Here's a photo of the pastry after its final turn before it went back into the fridge to rest (again):

Preparing Puff Pastry

The rest of the tarte tatin preparation was very straightforward and once the pastry was rolled out and had covered the apples and caramel there was nothing to do but put it into the oven and then let it cook. I think I returned to peep through the oven door window about once every two minutes so worried was I that it would sit there, unmoving, and cook into an unappealing pastry brick. The gods must have been on my side as it did rise and actually looked quite presentable when it came out. Tinseltroos wondered what the little yelps of glee coming from the kitchen were. This was the cause:

Tart Tatin Just Out of the Oven

After allowing it to cool for a couple of minutes it was ready to turn out and, ta da - the finished dish:

Tart Tatin

We had a lovely evening of Norwegian ham, elk sausage, pickled herring with boiled egg and rye bread. Tinseltroos looked disgustedly at the plate of sausage and egg. As a vegetarian who finds eggs creepy this was probably her worst nightmare on a plate. She seemed happy enough with her cheese and mushrooms though. After dinner came my pudding which seemed to go down well and following food came a couple of vodka martinis to finish the night off. Normally I am resolutely a gin man, especially in a martini, but Heg had tracked down a bottle of 42 Below, a vodka from New Zealand which was actually delicious. Probably the nicest vodka I've had. They have an irritatingly faux hip website here if you're interested. And so we said our goodbyes, wandered down the canal tow path back into Bethnal Green, got on the tube and trundled home.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Sketch Poly 2

Sketch Poly 2, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Another procedural scribble. It'll all make sense in the end, I promise.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sketch Poly Mona Lisa

Sketch Poly Mona Lisa, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

I've been working on an arty programming project for a little while and this piece is one of the waypoints on the way to a greater goal of which I'll probably write more later. What's going on here is a demo of some code I've written to "sketch" any four sided shape in as natural a way as I can create an algorithm for. In this piece what happens is that I randomly generate a four sided polygon, randomly determine how fat the line should be, how scruffy and messy the penmanship and finally how finely spaced the lines should be. The code then selects a colour from an image that serves as a palette (in this case the Mona Lisa - hence the title) and then begins to sketch polygon after polygon until you tell it to stop. I let this run for about 15 minutes. I'm rather fond of it and I plan to make some "paintings" with this technique over the coming days.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Lucky Me

Yesterday after work I'd arranged to meet Tommy Dog for a cheeky couple of pints and a catch-up in The George pub just over London Bridge. When the current version of The George was built (1677) St Paul's Cathedral had only just begun construction and the only bridge over the Thames was London Bridge. Which is, of course, why The George is where it is: it was a coaching inn until such things became obsolete as the industrial revolution inexorably made transport quicker.

It's a beautiful old building with many smallish rooms, nooks and crannies. They also have their own microbrewery which does produce a fine pint of bitter. After a couple of these Tommy and I had put the world to rights so he headed south, back to his bachelor pad, and I headed back over the river to wend my way home. As I walked past St Paul's it struck me that it's a pretty good life when you get to walk past one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in the world on your way home from the boozer.

I had an extra surprise waiting for me when I got home. Tinseltroos had, earlier in the day, asked if I would need anything when I got home in terms of dinner. My plan was to finish up the bacon I'd got at the weekend and fry that and an egg and make myself a sandwich to soak up the booze. Tinseltroos didn't buy me some bread, she baked me a loaf of bread. Imagine my delight when I got back to Schossadlerflug to find a freshly baked loaf of bread waiting. So I had my sandwich and took stock on how fortunate I am.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

My Idea of Perfection

My Idea of Perfection, originally uploaded by Mr Atrocity.

Haddock in lovely crispy batter? Check.
Delicious golden chips? Check.
Malt vinegar? Check.
Ketchup? Check.
Sea Salt? Check.
Black pepper? Check.
Cup of tea? Check.

Nom nom nom.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday Linkage

Three things that make me happy:

  1. Kittens falling over and being cute
  2. Stevie Ray Vaughan
  3. Jeff Beck
So here's a coupla videos then...


Leaving The Nest

Had a quite "work-stuff meets the outside world" related day today. The copies of issue 113 of Cinefex, the visual effects fanboy's magazine, finally hit London today. The reason I'm quite excited is that the tiger I helped make is on the cover. The actual cover image we re-rendered a couple of months ago just for Cinefex. I hesitate to say the extra weekend's work for one extra high resolution image was worth it given the stress it caused but Mittens (that's the name we gave the sabre-tooth whilst we were doing the film) does look pretty good, even though I say it myself. You can at least see the millions of hairs and all the detail we put into the teeth, eyes and so on. I've worked on films that have featured in the magazine but I've never done a cover before and it's quite a feather in a company's cap to be asked to do it so we're all secretly quite pleased, hidden behind the front of cynical apathy of course.

I also got the first final (a shot declared finished and ready to go into the film by the director) on Hellboy 2 today. It's one of the tricky ones too which makes it extra gratifying. The new trailer went up today and an older, edited version of the now finalled shot is in it. It's the aerial shot of the stone giant at about 1:41 in. The rest of the shots should get to final status quite quickly now we're hoping. It's been a lot of work to get these shots done but there's light at the end of the tunnel now and I think I quite like it. When you've been staring at the same thing for months you lose all critical faculties but given the size our little team I think we've done a pretty decent job. See what the punters make of it I suppose.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Nose Goblins

As I still seem to be on the final lap of my stint on Hellboy I've started e-mailing friends I haven't seen for weeks or months for a catch up. For a few weeks I may actually get a social life back so now would be the time to see people. This would also be the time that the inevitable post-frantic-work cold hits me. I always get them as I wind down either as a show winds down or just after I've finished. I felt fine yesterday morning, which I spent in a car to Pinewood and then my usual waiting for an hour and a half in the canteen for the meeting to be called. I am beginning to know all the staff in there now, that's how much time I've spent there. I have at least now got into the habit of taking a notebook with me so I can do some work on my own little projects. By the time I got back to the studio at around 3-ish I knew something wasn't right and by 5 my nose was a torrent of snot which did not let up for the rest of the day. I fled work at 6 on the dot, bought fish and chips on my way home and watched the Roma vs Manchester United match on the TV as I curled up on the sofa shivering under a blanket. Mercifully there doesn't seem to be any head ache associated with this cold and I feel much better this morning so hopefully it's only a minor annoyance.

I've also started work on a photo book. The service I use to print my pictures online has started offering 5 inch square prints for about 5p a print. What I'm doing is getting a print of every photo that's a candidate and arranging them and then holding the stack together with a bulldog clip so I can look through it as if it were a book. This makes it easy to swap, remove and add photos as I go. Booda Baby, very kindly, not only said some very complimentary things about my pictures but also pointed me at a photo competition run by and a few others. This is quite fortuitous as I was probably going to go with Blurb to print my book when it was done anyway so if I have a set of photos I'm happy with by the entry closing date I'll probably enter it. What the hell. The current selection also exists as a set on my flickr account for anyone who might be interested. All subject to change/lameassedness/procrastination of course.

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