Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back in Black

I think Blogger has been fixed. I seem to be able to post comments again which is a relief. In my absense you haven't missed much in my life. Over the last week or so I have:

1) Got my trailer shots for my current film done.
2) Been to a leaving do for a friend who's moving to Canada.
3) Been to a leaving do for friends who are moving to New York.
4) Got tickets for Metallica next spring.
5) Failed to get tickets for AC/DC next spring.
6) Baked ginger cake.
7) Made a massive quantity of beef stew.
8) Became 33 years old today.

Normal service should resume now.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nasty Comments

So Blogger has compulsorily "improved" Blogger by adding these comment boxes at the bottom of everyone's posts. Whether it's because I'm using Linux and Firefox or something else I don't know but I can't post comments on anyone else's blog (sorry Churlita and Booda Baby I did try today - again) and nor can I post comments on my own blog.

As commenting is one of the principle things that sets a blog apart from any other online publishing I feel this blog is a bit redundant until comments work again - without comments it just feels like screaming into the wind. If you are able to post comments please could leave one on this post saying what operating system and browser you're using as it might help me work out what's going on and how I might get some functionality back. Thanks all and sorry for the outage of intercourse (no sniggering at the back).


Monday, October 20, 2008

When Too Much Choice is a Bad Thing

On Saturday morning, as T was curled up in bed grumbling with a headache brought on by one too many glasses of fizzy pop the previous night, I decided to take myself off for breakfast. As is my wont I ended up at The Breakfast Club, a cafe with trendy pretensions in Soho. It may be faux scruffy chic but it does do the best fry-up in those parts and reliably so. I was delighted to see, upon my arrival, that only one couple stood between me and the counter. It did however take me ten minutes to get served. The reason for this was that said couple, well half of the couple at any rate, were ordering by the following method, "We'd like a Full Monty breakfast but can I have a bagel not bread and can I have poached eggs and can I swap the sausage for another piece of bacon and don't make the eggs too runny and can I have this yogurt smoothie but can I have banana rather than yogurt?" and on and on. The poor guy entering the order on the gizmo that tells the kitchen what to cook seemed almost at the end of his tether by the time they finished up. "She's so particular" said the, until this moment, silent party in the couple. Particular? Ye gods and little fishes that's not particular that's insane.

We are all aware, I imagine, of the idea that the customer should get what he or she wants, that the customer is right and that the role of the server and establishment is merely to serve. The idea above all that more choice is always better. But is it I ask myself? I had much opportunity to ponder this question and asked it of myself many times as I stood in line behind this prattling half-wit. No, I decided, sometimes more choice is not better.

It is not always better for several reasons. Firstly it is rude. If it takes you ten minutes to order breakfast how long must it take you to do anything important and how many hungry people must you make wait whilst you do? This is the same rudeness as those who like to order eight coffees in tiny coffee shops at rush hour, just as the queue is already stretching out of the door. It shows an astonishing level of arrogance and a total inability to behave sociably to those around you. "Do unto others" and so on.

The second reason why choice isn't always better is because you probably don't know best. When I see someone in, say an award-winning coffee shop, telling the barista that they'd like "An extra hot cappuccino with extra foam" I think ill of them. Are they seriously doing this because they know how to create a better tasting cup of coffee than someone who makes coffee for a living and who has carved out, through hard work, a serious reputation for them self? No. They do it because they are a pseud and they think it shows they are sophisticated. This is not the case. The sophisticate is the person who takes the trouble to find the best people at any given task and goes to them and allows them to work their magic. To return to Saturday's example, I appreciate that a basic fry-up is not an extravagant work of gastronomic sophistication but it is easy to screw up, it is a dish that requires balance to work well, and some pimply trustafarian with a whole host of imagined allergies and intolerances which are actually just fey fickleness does not know better than a battle hardened short order cook how best this might be achieved. In short it is insulting to crafts-people. In even shorter short, why do these people keep finding the few remaining places where there are people who care about how things should be done and then mock these good people with their imbecility?

If you want to choose from 87000 possible coffee combinations to make your soya moccha frappuccino individual then Starbucks would seem to be ideal and their billboards now advertise this feature of their operation. If, on the other hand, you would rather have a good cup of coffee then ask a barista in a proper coffee shop to make you a cappuccino or latte or flat white and let them do their magic.

And don't, for Christ's sake, take ten minutes over it.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008


I've decided that I want to do some painting again. I haven't used a brush in anger for far too long and I've been thinking of a methodology I could use to generate some composition with which I can then allocate some colour and texture. It's all very rough but here are some sketches I did this afternoon and a page of colour swatches culled from my stash of magazine pages collected over the years. I think this is going to be fun.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

I Get Mail

Most of the time my job isn't anywhere near as show-businessy as people tend to assume. Most of my days are spent in front of computer or wandering around the studio briefing other artists or in meetings with our clients. There's no red carpet, no limo and no fancy frocks. I do love it though in spite of what I may think about going on set.

Every once in a while I get reminded that films still have something magical about them. At the end of last week a letter landed on my desk at work. It was addressed to me at the right company but had been addressed to Pinewood Studios. Some kind soul at Pinewood had obviously looked up the company I work for's address and forwarded it on. It's a miracle it got to me at all, I would have thought that they'd be very intolerant of incorrectly addressed mail at Pinewood but apparently not.

I opened the envelope and another envelope, two plain postcards and a letter fell out. The letter was incredibly sweet. It was from a guy who had visited the location shoot of Wolf Man (the film I'm currently working on) and he'd got the autographs of the director and most of the cast whilst there. Whether he had won some sort of competition to visit the set I don't know. He'd subsequently decided that he was going to try and gather as many signatures of people who had worked on the film as possible and hence the letter to me. I am amazed he went as low down the credits as me and he must have written dozens of these letters. The letter was very individual and hand-written; it must have taken hours, probably days, to write to everyone involved.

So I broke out my fountain pen and scrawled my signature on one of the cards and wrote a little note back answering a couple of the questions he'd asked. It felt really bizarre. I understand the completist urge that some people have, particularly when it comes to collecting something but this was a level of commitment I hadn't banked upon. I did feel a little bit famous just for a moment too, even though I'm clearly nothing of the sort. It was rather nice actually.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Photographing Florence

Sorry for the absence of posts this week. I've had a horrible cold from which I'm only just emerging. My eyes are still very sore but at least I'm not pouring snot everywhere. The whole thing rather knocked me for six I'm afraid. As a child I was quite asthmatic, a condition that I fortunately grew out of in adolescence. The only time it rears its ugly head these days is when I get a cold and it goes straight for my chest and I start wheezing like someone who's just climbed twenty flights of stairs. So I've spent most of this week very out of breath and consequently too light headed and dizzy for anything requiring concentration. OK apologies over.

So the photos. I noticed that Booda Baby wanted photos from Santa Croce and there were none. What can I say? Well there are a couple of things, one a circumstance of the day and the other an arbitrary decision I made before we travelled. The on the day problem was that half of Santa Croce's interior was under tarpaulin so we couldn't see any of the Donatello sculpture in there. It wasn't tarped in a way that would have made for an interesting photo either unfortunately. The other reason I didn't take any pictures of that, or of most of the other well-known landmarks, was because I decided to look around me as we mooched around and if I could count 10 people shooting the same photo I was about to take then I stopped. This is partly snobby daftness on my own part but there is a rationale too.

As we were looking through our photos T told me about her grandfather who took countless slides whenever the family went on holiday. He would then show them to anyone who would sit still for long enough to be subjected to them. In the 70s, 80s and early 90s when he was taking them it made sense to really document things. If there was a sculpture or a building that was especially beautiful then recording it for yourself seems sensible, there may be no book featuring it. Today I think that the situation is rather different. If you look on Flickr, Google Images or any of the other repositories of online images there will be countless shots of any famous monument you can think of. Many will be taken by professional photographers who could clear a space or are willing to get up early enough that their pictures will capture the object in the best manner possible. I didn't think it was worth my while trying to compete with them. Florence must be amongst the most documented places on earth: a search on Flickr for "Santa Croce Florence Firenze" yields nearly 3,300 images and I felt that if I were to take a picture it should only be when I really felt I saw something differently rather than just to document something because it was there and beautiful. I hope this makes sense?

Looking back through my pictures I think these 5 are my favourites, they're the ones that speak most to me about our experience of being in the city rather than recording what we saw.

Reading in the Piazza della Signora

Looking Down the Arno

In the Grand Hotel Villa Medici

Film in the Piazza Santo Spirito

Sitting and Drinking Outside Santo Spirito at Night

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