October 2007

Jack o' Lanterns 2008

by Suw on October 29, 2007

This year's carvings:

My witch and cat familiar.

Kev's Jack Skellington.
I love carving pumpkins. This year we got a proper carving set with tiny saws, a plastic 'drill' and all sorts. Made it much, much easier than trying to do it with a kitchen knife. Probably safer, too.
Me working on transferring the hand-drawn design:

Gutting the pumkin:

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

One tooth none the richer

by Suw on October 22, 2007

It's been a while since I've whined about my wisdom tooth, but it's that time again. It's been shifting about since April last year, on and off, with a series of minor infections, aches, and general unpleasantness. The other day I caught a look at it in the mirror, and frankly, it's just sitting there, rotting. So last week I went to see my dentist down in Dorset, to plead with him to remove it. When he looked at it last, a few years ago, he took an x-ray which showed that it was embedded too deeply to easily remove, and would need to be pulverised by ultrasound under general anaesthetic. Yeah, that didn't sound fun to me either.
Now, however, it's a different kettle of fish, as it's surfaced considerably, with only a small corner still hidden in the back of my jaw. So, it's time. I can't say that I've ever looked forward to having a tooth pulled out, but in all honesty, I am looking forward to November 15th, when a local anaesthetic and probably quite a bit of tugging will hopefully result in me being one tooth the poorer.
It also gives me a good excuse to take a few days off, as it's going to hurt like hell and I'm sure I'm not going to want to do much the day after. I can't wait.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Regular readers will know that I'm what you might call a bit of a fan of Mr Neil, so it should come as no surprise to discover that I've been rather looking forward to Stardust, the film version of Mr Neil's book of the same name. It's been a while since I last read the book – it's currently packed away in a box in my parents' loft, along with about 75% of all my belongings – but like all Mr Neil's work, it's a book of which I have fond memories.
Unlike the awful mess that has been made of another of my favourite books, The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, I never much worried about what the film makers would do to Stardust. Mr Neil was involved, and occasionally gave us snippets of news, so it always felt like the film was in good hands and that the only thing we need do was to sit back and await the day.
Well, the day turned out, in fact, to be a night: Last night. Tom, MrA*, Phil Gyford (whose name I've seen around for ages, but had never met before – seemed like a lovely chap), and I met up at the Odeon Leicester Square and went in for a not-quite-full 8.25pm showing.
OK, so herewith the short review: It's wonderful. Truly, truly wonderful. If you are hesitant about going, then don't be, just go. If you hadn't considered going, then take my word for it and go. And if for any bizarre reason you'd written it off as yet another crappy fantasy film that's not worth your hard earnt readies, then put that thought behind you and go. Because this is a film that will warm the cockles of your heart. It'll make you laugh, make you smile, make you giggle, and make you feel all warm and fuzzy, when it's over you'll wish that it was just beginning.
Now for the long review (and I'll try not to give you any spoilers, but if you're concerned, stop reading now and just go see the film).
Tristan Thorn (the fabulous Charlie Cox) is 18, works in a shop and is hopelessly in love with the beautiful, but shallow, Victoria (Sienna Miller). But Victoria, who never seems to get herself out of her nightie, has got her eye on the more dashing Humphrey, who's more well spoken, gives her roses in comparison to Tristan's rather tatty daffodils, and who is better than Tristan at everything. Especially fencing.
Tristan, in an effort to woo Victoria, takes her on a candlelit picnic, spending all the money he's saved on a bottle of champagne. She's duly impressed by the champers, but drops the bombshell that she's expecting Humphrey to to propose to her on her birthday, in seven days time, with the ring that he's going all the way to Ipswich to buy. Poor Tristan vows that he would go to London – London! – in order to buy a ring good enough for Victoria. He would go to Paris! He would go to the Arctic to kill a polar bear and give her the head! Together, they see a star, falling from the sky and, ever the romantic, vows to find the fallen star and give it to Victoria as a token of his love for her. She gives him a week – until her birthday – to retrieve the star.
Meantime, in Faerie, the land on the other side of the wall for which Tristan's town of Wall is named, the King of Stormhold (Peter O'Toole) is dying. Traditionally, the princes should have assassinated each other, with the last one standing being able to claim the crown. But the trouble is, there are four left – Septimus, Primus, Tertius and Secundus. Well, three, after Septimus pushes Secundus off the King's bedchamber balcony. So the King resorts to magic – he bleaches the red out of the royal ruby and casts it into the sky – the heir that finds the ruby and restores the colour will be king. As the King dies, and his sons set off to find it.
But in falling to earth, the ruby knocks a star from the heavens, and so Tristan's quest and that of the royal heirs is intertwined… But then there are also the witches after the fallen star, and the missing princess and Captain Shakespeare…
I just popped over to Rotten Tomatoes to see what their reviews are, and out of curiosity I read some of the bad ones, and frankly, did these people see the same film I did? (No links – I frankly don't want to give them any Google juice at all.) Apparently, it was poorly cast… let's just review that a second. Robert de Niro as Captain Shakepeare, Claire Danes as Yvaine, Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia, Mark Heap as Tertius (aaaah, Spaced). Even Charlie Cox as Tristan was fabulous, and I'd never heard of him before.
Another charge was that Stardust had no plot. No plot? Er, hello? Were you asleep? It's got plenty of plot! And no, it doesn't have too much plot, either. It's got enough plot to keep you happy, with enough unexpected turns to keep you interested, but not so much twistiness that you get lots and confused.
My advice? Ignore the bad reviews. They were obviously watching a different movie.
Highlights, then. Michelle Pfeiffer plays evil witch Lamia, who has two sisters, Empusa and Mormo. They want the fallen star for themselves – it has the power to restore their youth and beauty. As it is, they have only the littlest bit left of the last one they caught, so Lamia uses it to recover her looks so that she can go out into the world to get the latest star to fall. Unfortunately, every time she uses her magical powers, it erodes her now good looks, exposing the ugly witch underneath. First to go are her hands, then her hair… and eventually, in one rather hysterically funny scene (probably more to me than most), she casts a spell and her boobs rather precipitously drop.
Robert de Niro plays Captain Shakespeare, the ruthless captain of a lightening-harvesting airship – a ship held aloft by a huge balloon. There's not much I can say about de Niro's performance that wouldn't totally give the game away, but he's fabulous.
Ricky Gervais does a guest turn too. To start with, I was really annoyed – it was Gervais doing Gervais, in a really annoying manner, but his come-uppance is one of the most satisfying moments of the film. Indeed, when Kev and I were walking round the park this morning, we saw a flock of seagulls (that is, a large group of white, sea-going birds, not the 80s band), and Kevin said “Oh look, a flock of Rickies!”
But Claire Danes and Charlie Cox really shine as Yvain and Tristan. They have a real chemistry together, and there are moments when Danes truly shines. As with all fantasy heroes, Tristan has to grow up, has to turn from the self-absorbed boy he was into the man he's destined to become, and Cox handles that transition very subtly. Mind you, he has some help, not least from a haircut that magically (as in, magic is done, not as in 'that was a continuity mistake') makes his hair longer, and the acquisition of a really rather lovely set of clothes.
Tristan Thorn
Indeed, when young Tristan got his new suit, Kev turned to me and whispered “I think I've just had an idea.” Hmm, I had the same idea, and it has to do with what he's going to wear one day in February next year.
Stardust is a really wonderful film. It's got a wry, but subtle sense of humour. It's got real warmth and heart. It's smart, and not scared of being intelligent. But more than that, it's fabulously romantic, the kind of romantic that we need more of – not soppy or schmaltzy, but proper fairytale romance, the sort that's a little bit dark in places, but has a true and faithful heart.
* I'm not sure I should call MrA “MrA” anymore, not after seeing the documentary on Steve Ditko, in which came to light that he did a cartoon called Mr. A, all about someone who saw things in rather too stark a black and white. Maybe it's back to T'Other.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

CnV weirdness

by Suw on October 15, 2007

I just noticed that the emails from Blogware informing me that a comment has gone into moderation have been caught in Gmail's spam trap, and that there is no easy way for me to look at any comment beyond the 50th most recent. I fear this means that some of you may have left comments that never appeared, and which never will appear now because they are lost somewhere in the depths of Blogware's admin system.
I'm sorry about that.
I will be moving off Blogware onto an installation of WordPress at some point, just as soon as I can get round to it.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

The right (silk) stuff

by Suw on October 14, 2007

As well as trying hard to find exactly the right shade of burgundy card for the invitations, I've also been trying to find exactly the right silks for my wedding dress. Having finally settled on a dressmaker, who not only can do exactly what I want but can also do it at a reasonable price and without throwing a strop about “design rights” and attempting to charge for quotes, I spent quite a bit of time trying to find the right fabric.
AnitaJane, my dressmaker, showed me a number of dupion silks by James O'Hare, some of which were lovely, but they didn't have any silk brocades, which we'll need for the insert in the skirt. Instead, I went off to Maculloch & Wallis, to see what they had, and found about half a dozen vaguely ivory-coloured brocades, and a few more burgundy silks. I also managed to get three brocade samples from Dalston Mill, but when you compared all the brocades with the ivory dupion, most of them were a long way away from being the right sort of ivory: too pink or too gold or too yellow. One was about right in shade, but it was a bit too subtle – from a distance you really wouldn't be able to see the detail. I thought I'd deal with this by beading it with pearls and burgundy Swarovski crystals, but that also seemed like an awful lot of work, not just because beading is quite slow and tedious, but also because it would require a whole new thought process about what would be an appropriate design.
Last week was Kevin and my anniversary – two years ago we had our first date, and so Kevin booked us in to one of our favourite restaurants, Andrew Edmund. We had about an hour to spare before our booking, though, so we wandered round Soho looking for a place to have a quick pre-dinner drink. That's a lot easier said than done on a Friday night in London, especially when a warm day has people grasping at summery straws, pretending that autumn hasn't really set in, honest guv. We ended up in a vodka bar that appeared to be mainly frequented by gangsters. You think I'm kidding. I'm not. Kev has a good street sense about these things, and I'd put money on there being various mafias present that evening. We finished our drinks and legged it.
On our way back from the dodgy bar, we walked down Broadwick Street, right past Broadwick Silks. They had some brocades in the window that immediately caught my eye, so yesterday we went back for a closer look. It seemed that they had a much bigger range of silks than Macculloch & Wallis, although M&W only put samples out on display, keeping the rolls themselves behind the counter, so it's really hard to judge. But Broadwick Silks' staff were dramatically nicer, letting me browse when I wanted to, and then helping me out when I asked.
I earmarked a few silks to examine further, then I told the assistant what I was doing and what I was looking for, and pointed out the rolls I liked the look of. She asked me if I had the fabric for the rest of the skirt, explaining that it is actually hard to match fabrics off a swatch, and that if I buy all the ivory I need from them, both the dupion and the brocade, then I can ensure a better match. She went on to explain that silks are dyed in batches, and that so long as the colour is within 10% lighter or darker – within “industry tolerances” – then it's deemed a match, but you can't really tell until you have a large piece to compare.
We haven't bought the ivory dupion yet, so she showed me the dupion that would go with the silks that I had chosen, and you could see it was a good match. I ended up buying 10cm of each, so I have a decent amount of fabric to play with. The assistant agreed that my choice was a bit more period than the alternatives – it's actually not a brocade, it's a dupion that's embroidered and beaded.
(For those of you who don't know, a brocade is “a rich fabric, usually silk, woven with a raised pattern, typically with gold or silver thread”; a dupion is “a rough slubbed silk fabric woven from the threads of double cocoons”; and a slub is “a lump or thick place in yarn or thread”. There, I bet you thought I'd never explain.)
This is all very exciting! Firstly, it means I don't have to do so much beadwork as I had expected. Secondly, it's going to look more period, and thirdly, I can go in some time next week and buy the fabric I need, in time for my second fitting. Of course, on the way back towards Oxford Street, we passed two more fabric shops, so I don't suppose for a second that I'll be able to resits popping in to make sure that they don't have anything better, but I really do think I've found the right silks now.
You'll noticed that I said “second fitting” – had the first one on Thursday. Really all it was just having my measurements taken, trying on a corset again and making a few decisions on how I want to adjust the shape, and deciding on a skirt pattern. Pretty simple stuff, but it's exciting to be making these decisions and getting on with it all.
Of course, as the process progresses, I find myself changing my mind about things, and refining what I want. I was originally going to have lace trim on my corset, for example, but have since decided that pearls (or rather, Czech glass pearls, given that real ones are rather expensive to buy in bulk) would be more appropriate … and less work. I still intend to use lace on the skirt, but I'm also considering whether pearls might not work better there too… it's a rather organic process, this, which means high cognitive overheads as I do more research and try to make decisions, but also gives me a real feeling of ownership. This dress, for better or for worse, will be a true expression of my personality, not just some pretty thing I picked out of a book.
Makes me wish I had room in my flat for a sewing machine.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Somewhere between here and there

by Suw on October 11, 2007

I'm writing this on my old Palm Vx, which I dug up the last time I went home. In nearly pristine condition, it's a relic from my web designer days, when I needed to keep track of an awful lot of meetings and was given this by my boss to do so. As soon as I left that job, I found I didn't really need it, so it was put away for half a decade to emerge only now.
My Palm Vx
It's funny how stylish it still looks – actually, it looks nicer than Kevin's Tungsten T5, and if you can't see the screen, it could pass for something new. I used to be quite good at the Graffiti alphabet used to input text, and am quickly getting my chops back. Certainly it's quicker than trying to type on the Nokia E61's tiny keyboard. Battery life is fab, and the flash memory means no faffing around with stupidly long menu trees to save stuff.
My Palm Vx
The problem is that it doesn't seem possible to sync it any more. I have a serial to USB adaptor, and the Palm Desktop in both Mac and PC flavours, but the Mac refuses to recognise that there is anything there to sync with, whilst the PC sees the device but can't figure out how to talk to it. I've spent a fair amount of time fiddling, but nothing seems to help. Palm Vx and computer just don't like each other any more. Perhaps the laptops feel the ol' Palm is just too pass?©.
But hoorah! All is not lost. It turns out that I can beam documents from the Vx to my E61 using infrared, then I can Bluetooth them from the E61 to my Macbook. In theory, this works the other way round too, as the E61 can beam files to the Palm but in practice the Palm can't recognise the file contents, so displays them as truncated gobbledegook.
What this means is that I can't add any new Palm apps to the Vx, so I can't add AvantGo (which it used to have), so I can't cram it full of stuff to read. It is, effectively, a write-only device. There is not much else it can do that's of any use. Yes, the other apps all work, but I don't do much calculating on a daily basis, and an address book on an un-networked device is a bit useless. So really all I can do is write… No disturbances. No multitasking. No interruption. (Although also, no spell checker either.)
I've started to carry it with me wherever I go, and scribbling down scraps of blog posts whilst on the tube or, as today, on the plane. (Let's just say that going to Berlin and back in one day is not necessarily a habit I would encourage anyone to get into.) The amount of stuff I've got going on never seems to diminish, and time for blogging seems to be getting harder and harder to come by. But maybe by using the little lost moments on the tube I can get more written.
The unexpected benefit of resurrecting this old thing is the retro geek joy it engenders. At Future of Web Apps, everyone I showed it too cooed as if it were something new and exciting, like an iPod Touch. I think people have fond memories of Palms from this era – they were certainly nicer than many of their contemporary competitors – but these days Palm devices feel old and unloved. If only Palm would do a serious update of both their OS and their desktop. Syncing and conduits and stuff are just all so boring – we want it to just work, not to be a right royal pain the backside. (Although frankly, all syncing is a right royal pain in the backside, if you ask me.)
Anyway, I am not going to promise anything, but it is possible that I will get more blogging done now.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }