Weekend

Apr. 22nd, 2007 12:16 pm
leynos: (Jack Off Jill)
My Uncle and aunt invited me over for dinner last night. The evening turned out rather well, surprisingly. They'd made spaghetti with meatballs, and my cousin showed me Monkeyball on the Wii and a strange ITV show called Primeval that he currently seems to be addicted too. After dinner, we all watched Doctor Who and The House of Sand and Fog which was showing on the BBC.

Yesterday, I also sorted out cable Internet for my new flat and paid the balance on my sofa.

On Friday, I met Lu and Michael for coffee. Since I only had an hour, we met in town. The only place I could think of in town where we'd have a remote chance of finding a seat and holding a conversation at a sensible volume was the Whisky Society members' room, which turned out to be quite a sensible choice. (Besides, I'm paying for membership, why not use the bloody thing).

That, and they make pretty decent coffee there too.

From Lu, I bought Harvest Moon for the Gameboy Advance, which I played a little of over Saturday.

Today, I will hopefully get a decent amount of packing done (if I don't spend the whole day lying in bed eating chocolate). And it's steak diane for dinner tonight.
leynos: (Default)
I spent yesterday evening in town, doing my best to chill out. A curry was enjoyed at the mosque, a pint of Coors downed at Centraal, and a pot of ginger and lemongrass tea savoured in the Forest. I also managed to purchase a ticket for Ballboy's concert tomorrow night at the Liquid Room. I should add that Coors is rather delicious, very clean tasting and refreshing, with a subtle maltiness to it.

All of this was in aid of a planned meeting with Scottie later in the evening. A restauranteur acquaintance of his had tasked him with delivering a bespoke point of sale solution, and I had been offered the opportunity to assist. So we talked about possible means and software designs, and examined available hardware and ready-built solutions. We envisaged waiters taking orders on tablet computers and database driven backends doing crazy wacked things with statistics.

I'd like to help out if I can, because it is some time since I've had any opportunity to do any real programming.

Speaking of opportunity, I have a job interview on Monday. The first in a while, since I postponed my job hunt on account of the therapy I'm undergoing. This is for a helpdesk operator / registration administrator for the e-commerce web site at the bank I work for. It should be interesting, but I don't have a lot of confidence right now. I know where I'm going wrong, but I just don't feel I have it in me to fix the problems. Still, I think I have better stories to tell the interviewer than I did a few months ago. The last month at work has been surprisingly eventful.

I do like the prospect of working closer to the town centre. Well, to be precise, I like the prospect of working across the road from the Blue Blazer.
leynos: (Default)
Part 1 of 5

In which Leynos arrives, gets lost, meets the Singing Handyman, sees a play and gets drunk.

Lost in Transition


I stepped out of Leicester Square Underground station, and still slightly dizzy from all the beer drunk on the train, I started to wonder around aimlessly.

Erin, my sister, had said to meet at the All Bar One in Leicester Square. Now, erm... Where is that? Not really sure where I should be going, my wonderings took me down a rather pretty lane, lined with what appeared to be nothing but shops selling collectables. Coins, books, records, stamps, toy cars, you name it. That's something I like about London: the way streets and precincts become devoted to a single branch of commerce. Saville Row for taylors, Tottenham Court Road for electronics, Camden Town for cool gothy shit, etc. it's almost adorable. Streets in Edinburgh never become quite so single minded.

So, as you'd expect, I got a little distracted, which was kind of the idea anyway. Eventually, I found Leicester Square. All Bar One still eluded me however. I wound up sipping a glass of bourbon and ice in a chain pub that might as well have been All Bar One. Given the weather, I'd have preferred to sit outside, but a window seat had to suffice. Erin arrived at five o'clock, and we headed for her flat in Woolwich to ditch luggage.

Just to prove that crazy goings on happen all the time, as we left the Square, Darin-esque crooning lilted through the air. The source soon became apparent in the form of a smiling chap singing from the cab of his dinky toy van into a PA system. Ladies and gentlemen, may we present The Singing Handyman.


Voted small builder of the year no less



At Charing Cross Station, my sister informed my, much to my dismay, that my shiny new Ken Livingstone Card would be of no use on the overground trains to Woolwich. Drat. Back to bits of paper with magnetic strips.

Tartuffe


Tartuffe had been my suggestion, albeit one made without much fore-knowledge. The synopsis sounded agreeable, and I knew that it had run at the Lyceum in Edinburgh with much prominence. I don't actually go to the theatre normally, but seeing a play in London had been recommended by a number of people. As it turns out, the play was running in the Greenwich Theatre rather than the West End. Although that just made the whole thing even more fun. Like shunning the famous pubs to find a cosy tavern in a quiet back lane.

We both enjoyed the show, as we were treated to a masterful comedy of deception. The use of rhyming couplets in the writing worked delightfully to accentuate and mock the characters speaking the lines, and the writing positively dripped with erudite wit. The elabourate setup in the first half paid of spectacularly, as the sly villain got his comeuppance in the end, but not before the dull-witted figurehead of the play nearly saw his world collapse around him. Praise must go not only to the 17th century author, but to the translator of this new version, which connects with the audience and delivers impeccable humour whilst retaining the feel of a play from four centuries past.

End of the night


My sister's boyfriend joined us for drinks in a bizarre establishment in New Cross that purported to be an Irish pub. Before long, two guitarists on stage, the guy on the left looking strangely like on of The Proclaimers, had launched into a set of surprisingly passible pop covers.

I guess that this is the South London equivalent of a piano bar. As the night ran, the place slowly began to fill up, and then people started dancing. Before long, the floor was shaking. My sister suggested, "I bet you didn't think you'd see everyone in here dancing like this." An accurate observation I have to say.
leynos: (Default)
Another thought that struck me about the kendo class on Friday is that I now feel a lot more inclined to learn than I used to. This is mainly on account of meeting people in the dojo whom I have had actual conversations with both about kendo and other interests. Before, the people I have spoken to were mostly being polite, making conversation to fill in time, or didn't want to talk at all. Essentially, I felt like I was on a different wavelength from everyone else there. This left me with a sense that I was alone–although part of the class and being taught with everyone else, I didn't really feel included, and so had less of an incentive to pursue the lessons.

It's also interesting to note that the new kihon-waza drills are just that. The All Japan Kendo Federation only officially adopted them in 2005. It is most likely for that reason that the teaching methods concerning these drills have slowly been improving since last year as the sensei and sempai discover how best to integrate them into training. I never thought about this before, but this could actually be considered a fairly radical change in something that has been around for several hundred years.

Bokuto ni yoru kihon-waza keiko-ho mnemonic:

"ichi-ni-hari-hiki-nuki-sure-ba-kaeshi-uchi"

Portrait Gallery


[livejournal.com profile] galaxy_girl00 is right, the entrance to the gallery from Queens Street is indeed an impressive sight.

As I've said before, portraits aren't really my thing, but as I've also said, my last experience with the Edinburgh galleries happened a long time ago, and my perception of the world has changed a lot in that time. For the most part, I did enjoy the visit.

To decide what I was going to get out of the gallery, I had to ask myself what portraits are for. They are glimpses into the past, albeit through a heavy filter of perception. An opportunity to look eye-to-eye with someone significant and often long dead, through the eyes of another. A portrait, done properly, speaks volumes about the person depicted, the way that person perceives themselves and the way that person is viewed by the artist and the world at large.

There is no matter of fact recording of events. Certainly, the way in which the subject is posed and dressed, the items they choose to associate with are all elements from the real world brought into the image, however even these can be artifacts of the creative process, especially in the case of posthumous depictions. In one example, a painting of a Labour MP from the 1920s, whose image I found noble and haunting, the Glasgow canal in the background was an addition requested by the artist to honour his close association with the area.

I found that I enjoyed the 20th century portraits the most, in part because of the freer experimentation with styles and materials. I felt that the greatest significance of this section was the way in which it offered an alternative view of a familiar world in an era so dominated by the rigidity of photographic depiction of life. It is the people that make this world, and the recording of one person purely through the labour of another offers an insight into those people in a way that neither the camera nor the written word can achieve.

The Victorian gallery could be viewed similarly. It told a lot of the era, and the heroes of that time. Of the rise of the savant class, and of the role played by royalty and empire. It's dangerous to view the gallery as a crystalline historical documentation, but as a window into the past, specifically the minds of a people past, it is an invaluable experience.

It was in this light that I viewed the Scottish history gallery. Placed in chronological order, the paintings here depict significant figures in the period of Scottish history from the battle for independence through to the Act of Union. The greatest impression I got from this was of an age of utmost reverence. Portraits here serve the subject above all else, as an instrument of vanity and propaganda. While this will always be true, in this age of our history more than any since, the paintings served as weapons in a war of opinion.

It is perhaps because of this that I enjoyed this section least. Of course, it is important history that is depicted, but here more than anywhere else in the gallery, the subject will be most guarding of their flaws and most eager to project an image as above themselves as they could. Consequently, there is little room for artistry that does not serve this goal and little variance in style over what is a significant period of time.

I have to add, lunch in the gallery cafe was fantastic. I may well have to visit again if I'm in the area around noon.

Afternoon


I showed up at the Wellington Statue at two pm. No sign of the PSC stall anywhere. After ten minutes of waiting, I received a phonecall from a friend who needed help finding the roleplaying shop from where I got my funny dice. This being preferable to standing around doing nothing, I helped him out.

That task done, I headed to the cinema where I watched Inside Man.

Inside Man


There is a rare breed of film that sets out to be purely entertaining, where the filmmakers believe in this goal, leave their baggage at the door and accomplish the task in a way that leaves the audience feeling satisfied and not in the least bit guilty that they enjoyed themselves. No prizes for guessing that Inside Man is one of these films. Gerwitz intricate plotting and Lee's flawless timing and oversight put all the right elements in place for what unfolds.

Cinematic slight of hand is the order of the day, as pages in the story turn revealing just enough clues to let us guess at what will transpire without being certain that our answer will be correct. Inside Man wants us to guess, and the cast of players in its bank heist tale play along with us. The trio of commanding screen presences, each charismatic and likable in their own way do battle through wit and guile. It's impressive that such such suspense and intrigue is created in a structure with no real bad guy.

Denzel Washington as the detective, who works with the audience to delve behind what at first seems like a straight forward hostage situation, is the one who we spend most of our time cheering for. But it's hard not to find admiration for Clive Owen's bank robber who executes the perfect crime with icy calm and steady nerve. Our admiration only grows as the full extent of his planning becomes apparent. Even the sly fixer, played with impeccable suave by Foster, who at first seems like our enemy, eventually comes to earn our respect. As she wisely informs the detective, she didn't get where she did by making enemies.

It's entertainment, not high art, but as entertainment the film sits among a small vanguard of similar recent titles that have provided us with an evening of entertainment that we didn't feel the need to question. This is a film that believes in itself and delivers accordingly.

Food


For tea, I made myself a stirfry of tehina and broccoli, according to a recipe I found on E2. The last time I tried this, it didn't turn out quite right, but for whatever reason, it tasted delicious this time round. I may well be ready to subject others to this particular piece of culinary experimentation. This was followed by cheese and oatcakes, which I will have to do more often, and plenty of whisky. (Freshly opened bottles of Macallen 10 and Highland Park 12.) Not a bad evening in.

Sunday


Not a lot happened today by contrast. Chris and I went to GEAS at two, but none of the games happened to be running. Most likely, I think, on account of the current exam season at the University. I introduced Chris to the curries served at the Mosque's kitchen, and we had a good wonder around the city, stopping off at Games Workshop. A bunch of emos on Cockburn Street mistook Chris's girlfriend for a private school on account of her work uniform. This resulted in plenty of laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation. At Chris's persuasion, I bought some produce from the cheesemonger on Victoria Road, which I shall save for later in the week.

To be honest, I don't mind that all we really did was wander about, because that's what the weather lent itself to today.

According to someone at work, the world ends tonight. I'll be at Neon celebrating.
leynos: (Default)
Walking through Deanbridge to get to the Gallery of Modern Art, it struck me how easily I forget what a beautiful city we live in. This place is the stuff of fairytales. Grand houses that resemble medieval castles, turrets and all. Tudor cottages, victorian bath houses, terraces of stables, and mansions topped with bizarre leaded glass domes. This mishmash of architectural styles crisscrossed by almost rural roadways and wynds affording glimpses into this time-frozen world.

The gallery itself offered a rather bizarre experience.

Several large and rather perplexing installations greet visitors as part of a temporary exhibition entitled "Selective Memory." It strikes me that it's not really necessary to comprehend these works to appreciate them. They are more about the feelings they evoke in viewers than conveying meaning. And it's hard not to be affected when walking around the giant sculptures of glass and barbed wire, or the intimidating assemblage of found art objects awkwardly mixing the new and the ruined. The slightly erie sense I got in Cathy Wilkes' installation, standing "eye to eye" with a mannequin in whose face had been replaced with a paint splattered canvas has stuck with me.

My favourite of the three though had to be Alex Pollard's sculptures of artists tools forming into animal and human shapes. Some of the sculptures depicted conflict; either figures fighting or hands creating and undoing each others' work. It struck me as a bit of a mocking decision to model these tools in clay rather than use the real things, as if he wanted to play with our perception. Then I noticed bends and waves in the paint brushes and rulers. I'm not implying that trickery was the intention here, just that by building these scenes out of recognizable objects, the artist is taking advantage of our habit of accepting things we know by sight and filling in the gaps.

I have to say, a lot of what people class as "modern art" doesn't work for me. Maybe when classical art was modern, a lot of it didn't work either and has since been discarded. On the other hand, plenty did work for me, especially the collages of Joe Tilson that evoked an almost panicking sensation of frustration and disquiet at the conflicts depicted. Another piece that I liked was a large photographic print by Andreas Gursky, capturing parallel lines and regimented angles in such a way that they dominated his photograph of a hotel lobby, to the extent of diminishing all other details and making them appear artificial.

Poor Tracy Emin didn't come off so well. I could see what she hoped to achieve in her scribbled ink prints, but the outcome just wasn't really there. The maddened energy evident in her work is impressive, but the childish scrawl could have come from anyone with a similar background. Maybe that's what people see in her work. Or maybe not. "Oh look, it's a giant cock with scribbles," exclaimed one female visitor. "And another," laughed her friend.

"Challenging" is maybe the word for what I saw today. I think I'll have to do this properly now. That's two down. I just have the Dean Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery to go.

~

I now have a MySpace. I won't be blogging there.

I'm skint until Thursday, but I will be at AASoc tomorrow, and hopefully the pub afterwards. Probably drinking Irn-Bru.

Zoga is open again, so I won't be stuck for my Turkish coffee and baklava fix.
leynos: (Default)
I declare my first experiment in cooking Gaeng Ped to be a success. I did burn the rice a little bit, which is embarrassing, but it all turned out right in the end. More importantly, Ho-il liked it too, which makes me happy, since he's such a kick arse chef. The recipe I used in the end turned out to be an amalgam of the one on E2 and a sheet that the lady in the Thai supermarket gave me. Here's what I used in the end:

300g chicken breast, diced
2 tins coconut cream
3 tbsp red curry paste
5 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
6 kafir lime leaves, shredded
1 tbsp Thai basil leaves, crushed
1 small tin bamboo shoots
1 cup pineapple pieces
100g baby sweetcorn
5 baby aubergines, quartered

These were all bought from either Thai@Haymarket, or Lidle. Despite this, it added up to a fair bit. I wound up paying around £13 in the end, although some of that constituted inital outlay on ingredients that make several dishes. This made enough for two, with a little left over for my lunch today.

Using a large stew pot (no wok in my flat), I briefly fried the curry paste first, then seared the chicken. Into that, I poured one tin of coconut cream, saving the other for later. After that, I added most of the other ingredients, except the aubergines. When it had reduced down a little bit, I dropped in the aubergines and topped it up with the rest of the coconut milk, covering and leaving it to simmer until the aubergines had cooked. Lovely.

Ho-il did indeed bring Killzone (an FPS for the PS2), and we played a fair bit of deathmatch then took turns at trying to clear campaign missions. Killzone certainly is visually impressive, with a powerful aesthetic and a lot of detail. As an experience, it has a lot to offer, however, I think it lacks a lot in AI and in the design of a comprehensively believable environment. There is much shepherding, and that bizarre predicament where an elite soldier can't jump a 3 foot wall rears its head. In fact, he can't jump full stop, except where permitted by the level designers.

Midnight


At GEAS yesterday, Colin's D&D game wasn't running, so I asked around for something else I could join in. It transpired that I could join a game called Midnight, that was just about to begin afresh. Midnight uses D&D rules, so I didn't have that much to relearn, and is set in a dark and opressive world where evil gods reign, the dead walk the earth, and literacy and combat training are outlawed.

Suitable to such a hopeless world, the GM threw us in at the deep end, as the party began manacled together, being herded north by a gang of orks to be worked to death in an iron foundry. Read more Tolkien-esque goings-on... )

So, quite a fun afternoon. I'm still a beginner, and I try, though I worry that I'm not contributing enough that is useful to the game. I'll just have to endeavour to improve that with time.

Colin did show up eventually, then proceeded to fall asleep at the table, much to everyone's amusement. Wild night, I guess.

Parliament

Apr. 9th, 2006 07:56 pm
leynos: (Default)
The weather being pleasant today, I went on a wee walk. In 2004, I worked for two months for RMJM, the practice that designed part of the Scottish Parliament building and oversaw its construction. This being the case, it struck me as a bit weird that I had yet to actually see said edifice in person, so I chose that as my destination.

I arrived too late to get inside, but I got a good view of the exterior. I've heard a lot said either way about the building, and now is the time to make my own mind up. Well, I wouldn't go as far as to call it ugly, but I couldn't in all honesty call it beautiful either. On the other hand, I would be happy to call it striking. My first impression, upon seeing the MSPs' offices from Holyrood Road was almost awe.



The liberal use of wooden canes in decorating windows is something that feels very individual, and the amount of disjoint curved surfaces used in the design make it very memorable whilst at the same time difficult to visualize in its entirety. On the other hand, I'm not convinced that this is the national symbol that Scotland needs. I could easily imagine it becoming a piece of iconic architecture in years to come, but it doesn't feel like something of the city it inhabits.



It's been said that the Parliament is to last a thousand years. I'm curious how well it will indeed stand up to this test, but it pleases me to hear of people thinking this far ahead. There is an atmosphere of short-termism in the modern buildings of glass and steel that leaves me wondering why people don't build for the ages in the way they did even just seventy years ago.



As a public space however, I feel that the Parliament gardens are a success. The roller bladers grinding on the sculptures outside probably agree with me. I was happy to sit for a good half hour at the foot of Arthurs Seat, admiring the view of the complex flanked by the Dynamic Earth Dome and Holyrood Palace, and overlooked by the Folly on Calton Hill.

On the way back home, I popped into the Bongo Club, where a Sunday social afternoon has been running for as long as I have been clubbing. This is also something I have strangely never quite got around to visiting. I guess I didn't quite know what to expect. Another opportunity to relax is what it presented. There's a nice little cafe upstairs in the Bongo Club, and this is where the music is in the afternoon. So I got to enjoy afternoon tea and cakes over a little light reading, whilst the DJ played some quality chilled reggae and hip hop. (Well, okay, rum and cakes, but who's counting.)

Later tonight, I'm going to head along to Neon. Staying 'til three will be daft, but I'll probably do it anyway.
leynos: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] brucec and I had planned to go snowboarding today on the artificial slope at Hillend. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let us on without lessons, and the lessons were fully booked. Drat. So on a whim, I decided to visit the National Gallery instead.

It turns out that it hasn't changed much since I last visited with my Mum, ten-plus years ago. Still, my memory is far from perfect, and there was a lot for me to take in. Walking through the renaissance hall, I felt a deep appreciation for the level of detail evident in these paintings. It's humbling to think of the years the painters must have spent studying reflections and perspective in order to produce imagery like that. There was one pianting featuring an intricately detailed suit of armour glinting in the sun in photographic detail. What it must have taken to be the first person to realize the techniques needed to accurately reproduce that.

I'd always been one more for landscapes and still-lifes rather than portraits, but even watching the painters come to grips with recording the human form and then applying that experience to telling stories and conveying emotion or even humour filled me with awe.

In the impressionist hall, I was struck by the way so many of those paintings drew me in, and made me feel a part of the environment being captured. I know it's old news to anyone who has ever studied art, but seeing the evolution of the style and getting a chance to fully take in the magic of these works is something that filled me with joy in a way it didn't a decade ago. The paintings haven't changed, but I have. I still love the mathematically precise virtuoso perspective works, but I now understand the appeal of those vividly flowing silk robes and captivating sunlit glades. I spent a full five minutes entranced by Monet's Shipping at Midnight, taken away to those rough seas I'd envisaged listening to Radio 4, the beam of the lighthouse sweeping through the driving rain and masts straining audibly against the gale.

After that excitement, the Scottish hall in the basement seemed almost sedate, but I was none the less pleased to see how how well the work of my countrymen stood up against the best from Italy, Spain and Holland. Emotive, almost defiant portraits and still lives pulsing with meaning gave me much to think about. There were times when the artists borrowed from painters abroad and made the style their own, such as a portrayal of triumphantly returning trawlers in oil displaying shades of Japanese woodprints, and others where the work was undeniably and irrepressibly local.

Evening


Back home for dinner, and I headed out again to the Blazer for the Listening Room. Here Jason put on an amusing set of fresh compositions; Nobody Jones, whose voice is the stuff of heaven, teamed up with his mate to form the Jones Brothers; and Lisa Paton did a competent impersonation of Norah Jones with a guitar instead of a piano. I'm not entirely convinced of Ms Paton yet, but she is performing again at Out of the Bedroom on the 28th, so I will give her a second hearing then. Because I do like Norah Jones.

I also like alcoholic women. They're the only type I seem to be able to really identify with, or hold something resembling a real conversation with. Even if the conversation did involve a large onion and the difficulties of cooking for one. Unfortunately, the lady in question got turned away from the bar and asked to leave. I'd have offered to buy her a drink, but I already had half a Basil Heyden and a pint of Harvestoun Engine Oil to finish.

More tasting notes


W.L. Weller (bourbon) - Nose: Physilis, Cadbury's chocolate, and butter toffee. Pallete: Orange peel, blackcurrent, licorice, slight edge of Irn-Bru. Medium dry mouthfeel. Fades to strawberries and black pepper on the finish.
leynos: (Default)
I spent yesteday afternoon in North Berwick exploring the town, and, given the time of year, I couldn't have asked for nicer weather for it. The sun shone warmly and a mild cooling breeze blew in from the sea, making the experience all the more pleasant. It made me happy to find that as I walked through the high street and along the beach, I was able to think of nothing but my surroundings. The last thing I wanted was to come to this place and wind up just pouring over the week's worries.

Read more escapism... )
leynos: (Default)
Here's my uber-sucky camera phone snaps of some of the stuff we got up to at Firbush:

http://troubledskies.net/photos/firbush.html

Sorry I'm too knackered still to write about it still. The sailing was great fun.

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