Sunday, 16 August 2015

August Break Photo 16: Fire

Fire! What an exciting and excellent topic! I cheated a bit with this one and used a photo that I took in 2012 while at the Paralympic Games in London. What a summer 2012 was! What a glorious Olympic and Paralympic Games it was! Everyone I knew was excited about it. Seeing both Olympic and Paralympic events up close in my hometown was a truly once in a life time unforgettable experience. I still remember the sound of 80,000 people cheering in the Olympic stadium as David Weir, crossed the finish line in his wheelchair and won gold for Great Britain in the Paralympics. It seemed louder than a jumbo jet taking off and I was struck dumb by the sight of thousands of people all clapping, cheering, hugging and crying at once. That afternoon I got up close to the Olympic flame, felt its dizzying extreme heat and snapped a photograph.

I did think it would be a shame to not include a more recent photo, so here is one I took a week ago of the sky above my flat. It had just rained, but the sun shone briefly and a rainbow appeared. The storm clouds moved in again like some biblical tempest and I snapped this photo before the scene suddenly changed. I thought it looked like the sky was on fire,

Saturday, 15 August 2015

August Break 15: Art

For this subject, I chose to use my mother's Art as my inspiration. Over the years my mother has had an art studio and painted portraits, still lifes, landscapes and abstracts. She is a constant inspiration to me, especially in her use of colour and experimental painting techniques. I try to incorporate her experimental use of colour in my own photography. The above photos are of her studio and paints. The below is her work, a portrait of me.

Friday, 14 August 2015

August Break Photo 14: Favourite Smell

This was a hard subject to photograph because I have so many favourite smells! I chose a freshly made coffee because it is an easily photographed smell and I do love an excuse to photograph my food. This latte was made, bought, photographed and drunk at the Barbican Cafe in Central London. I especially liked the criss cross pattern of the tabletop as well.

My other favourite smells include:

  • Rosewater
  • Lavender
  • The side of my husband's neck just below his ear and hairline
  • The smoky woody smell of my parents' flat
  • Melted chocolate
  • Fried onions
  • Roast Chicken
  • The warm soft fur of my cat (when I was a child)
  • The musty smell of books
  • The dusty shelves in libraries
  • My mum's soap (I think it is Lily of the Valley or possibly Jajoba oil)
  • A fresh lime and coke
  • Ice (sounds weird, but ice does have a sort of smell)
  • My avocado and olive oil handcream
  • My Voyage en Mediterranee Mimosa de L`Esterel perfume
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Bonfires in November
  • Fresh grass
  • Soil and plants after it rains
  • Honeysuckle
  • My husband'a aftershave
  • A really ripe mango

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Fully-Fledged X-Phile creeps out of hibernation...

So I have been re-watching The X Files from the beginning (201 episodes in total..phew!) in preparation for the new series starting in January 2016. If you Google the show you will notice I am one of millions of people doing this at the moment, so I don't feel so weird for binging on scifi and writing about it. Since I have not seen some of the early X Files episodes since I was literally a teenager, the experience of watching them as fully-fledged adult is both exciting and nostalgic. The scripts are a lot funnier than I remember and I can now really appreciate how excellently the show is made (some of those camera shots are epic!). Plus, now we have the internet and small mobile phones, but when the show first started the characters were still using books to do research! I get excited every time Mulder flicks through an encyclopaedia. How novel! How retro! It is sort of comforting to watch an era that you lived through and that is essentially gone now. Plus now I can see the common character trends in the series and laugh about them, rather than get all mixed up in the angst of the show, which when I was a teenager, was what I actually felt most of the time: Angst. Now I appreciate the humour:

Every Episode of The X Files

*something mysterious happens*

Mulder: ALIENS
Mulder: Look, a thing...
Scully: Don't do the thing!
*sexual tension*
Mulder: It could have been aliens!
Scully: But science!

As a 32 year old I have a lot more appreciation for 'science' than I did when I was actually studying it in school and so this time round, while watching the show, I find myself sympathising with Scully a lot more and thinking Mulder is blatantly crazy half the time. And obviously now that I can look up anything on the internet, my obsession for the show just gets bigger. Looking for an amusing picture of Mulder arranging pencils? Just Google it and 'Wham!' There it is on your screen!

Pencil straightening...a common FBI activity...
When I was first watching the show in the 1990s (yes I am that old), I had a pretty slow dial-up-connection and we only had one computer, which really belonged to my father, so I would spend most of my time actually reading about the characters in fan magazines or in books from the library. Those were the days when I thought I was the only scifi fan or X-Phile (the term for a fan of the show) out there. It was pretty lonely to be honest. Now you can find a fandom for pretty much anything anywhere on the internet. Plus, years later, I have a best friend called Nat (who I met in University and who is as obsessive as me about things) who turns out was also an X-Phile when she was a teenager and guess what?! Even my husband confesses to having watched it religiously after school. So now I have three people to share my obsession with, which is joyous. Sort of like a madness shared by three...a 'folie a trois' if you like...

I can also indulge in all the other X-Philes' fan-created-websites out there, which is where I found the below gif of a very young Scully looking sceptical...pretty much her expression for the whole 9 years of the show...

Aliens? Mulder, please... (courtesy of

Apparently according to the Urban Dictionary:

A true x phile should be able to quote every significant event throughout the 9 year run of the show. Possibly the only people to ever understand the complex conspiracy that just got more confusing as time went on. A typical x phile would be able to say any of these at least once every day and incorporate them into otherwise unrelated conversation: 

"That was like that time in that episode in Season 3 when Mulder asked Scully to..."
"That's why they put the 'i' in FBI!" 
"This must be a conspiracy" 
"Ooo! I feel like I'm stuck in an X File" 

Whilst watching TV: "That guy was once on the x files in an episode where Scully and Mulder...." 

Both Nat and I definitely fall into this category. Cursed with a photographic memory for faces, I am always pestering my husband when we watch TV by reminding him that this actor was in that movie or that we saw that actress in that TV show. So in light of our new found shared passion, Nat and I have decided to start a blog won't be on this blog since this is a platform for my online ramblings and musings (such as they are), but I will link to the new site from this one once it is set up. Watch this Space! Oh...and The Truth is Out There!

August Break Photo 13: Last Year

Photo 13 is on the theme of 'Last Year.' This is sort of last year...this was in September 2014. New undergraduates try to find their way around campus on their first day at the London School of Economics. The excitement and buzz of Freshers' Week! In three weeks it all begins again this year!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Monday, 10 August 2015

August Break Photo 10: Talisman

August break photo 10: Talisman. These are Jade buttons from Japan near where I was born. They were purchased for me by my mother when I was a baby. Tiny Jade buttons are sewn into babies clothes for good luck. A few years ago my mother made them into a necklace for me.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

August Break Photo 9: Earth

Nobody knows but the red red rose, how good mud/sand feels between the toes!

Earth! Our lovely, beautiful, wondrous, abused home. Time to reconnect with the earth on our little blue green planet.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

August Break Photo 8: Smooth

'Smooth' Jazz at the bandstand in Clapham Common courtesy of the South London Jazz Orchestra. :)

It is International Cat Day!

It is International Cat Day today! And cats everywhere could not give a damn. Obviously they have been secretly running the world for thousands of years now anyway, so it hardly matters that we simple and insignificant food-providing humans have given them their own internationally recognised day. But it does mean that there are hundreds of more cat photos and videos on the internet this morning. Just because we love them so! Our furry little friends with their shamelessly manipulative behavior, predator instincts and uncanny ability to sleep for 16 hours a day.

And to mark this momentous day for felines everywhere, below is a photo I took in June this year, of one of the many snoozing cats in Dubrovnik, Croatia:

Lets all go indulge in 'the way of The Cat' and snooze in the summer sun.

Friday, 7 August 2015

August Break Photo 7: 5 Facts About Me

There is a huge hand outside the National Theatre in London, so I took a photo of it and added 5 basic facts about me....(I did not add that I am a terrible speller, hence why I had to google the word 'amateur').

The Path to Fictional Love is Bumpy Indeed....

After all the rumours flying about in the last few months about the new Star Wars re-boot (that apparently Han Solo and Leia will not be a couple in the new film) this week word came through from the entertainment grapevine that not only have Mulder and Scully broken up, but so have Kermit and Miss Piggy. Love, my friends, is DEAD. Well fictional love anyway.... (also, why would Kermit divorce Miss Piggy? Honestly! Does he think he is going to find a better swine somewhere else?).

Sad Mulder expresses how shippers feel everywhere....
In news released by Internet entertainment sites this week it was revealed that, in the new X Files mini-series due to be on screens in January 2016, Mulder and Scully are no longer together as a couple. This news of course has ignited fury and debate across the Internet. Shippers (the term for 'relationship' fans) are sad and disappointed, but other X Files fans welcome the news saying that it will cut out the romantic element of the show so the two FBI agents can concentrate on investigating the paranormal. My personal opinion is that even if you're an anti-shipper X Files fan or don't care for their relationship, some logic needs to be applied here: after all that happened between them, breaking them up is ridiculous. Mulder and Scully have been through so much together through nine seasons of the show and two movies and have continually reaffirmed their commitment and belief in each other in countless scenes (they even ended up having a son together!). Any couple in a science fiction / fantasy genre universe is doomed...or so it seems...

A Venn Diagram showing the amount of amazingly bad stuff that Mulder and Scully experience while investigating the X Files, leading to them being the world's most unlucky FBI Agents...ever.
I suspect that this new development is a ploy by the scriptwriters to get people watching the show again and to create dramatic tension between the two characters. Perhaps it is a temporary breakup and they get back together by the end of the new series. Why go through years of build up, have them get together and be together only to break them up? Despite what writers may think, many fans tune in to the show for the relationship between Mulder and Scully and a very large portion of the audience is not going to like this new development. The writers really risk the chance of alienating the audience and hurting overall viewer numbers. The intensity of the agents' relationship was one of the elements that kept me watching the show through all those years. I am a little sad at the news partly because I am a romantic at heart. I think Mulder and Scully deserve a happy ending (or at least a visit with their son?) and although personally I can see why Scully might leave Mulder (he is insanely obsessive and living with him would be very difficult), I am rather sick of this constant need of script writers to break up characters in shows just to create 'dramatic or sexual tension.' Sometimes the conflict and drama within a movie or TV show should not just be about personal relationships.

Time and time again writers will create two characters who care/love/fancy each other and make them dance around each other for hours of a TV show/movie only to have them get together in a hugely romantic scene, be happy for a short while and then break up in some massive tortured and long saga. Then, although they are secretly still longing for each other, these characters will then decide they they can't be together for some inconceivable reason and dance around each other for a bit longer, until ultimately they end up together again or go their separate ways heartbroken. After a while this mode of drama gets a little tired. Why? Because it is so unrealistic. Sure, Love is complicated and the path to true love never did run smooth. People are complicated. But they are also instinctive and most individuals are not sadomasochists. They are not going to sabotage their own romantic life. They want to be happy and if they think they can be happy with someone they love, they normally reach for that person and commit to that relationship. The mistake that most script writers make is in thinking that a committed relationship on screen is not a dramatic story. Obviously this is just my personal opinion and you can take it with a grain of salt, since I am not a script writer and have no experience in writing for film or TV, but I have seen a lot of TV shows and films over the years and have noticed this trend. No one who is married/together in a TV show is ever happy being married/together or stays married/together. Characters are more often than not commitment-phobes or single (or somehow emotionally stunted and tortured. Fans call it 'angst'). There are really interesting dramatic stories that can be told about people who are in committed relationships. Think of the old 1970s TV adaptation of Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels. The central relationship of the entire series is a married couple: Plantagenet Palliser and his wife Glencora. They may love each other but they are massively opposite in character and there is quite a degree of dramatic tension in their marriage. At first they don't even like each other that much. But they never break up! Once they decide to stick with each other, they do! They argue, they have three children, they laugh, they love, they argue some more and they both compromise. Granted neither of them is hunting aliens like Mulder or Scully (which is bound to put a strain on even the deepest affection), but they are committed to each other in much the same way X Files creator and writer, Chris Carter led us to believe his characters were.

Victorian Marriage - it is a serious business involving big hats
Don't get me wrong I like romantic tension in a storyline as much as the next person. I would classify myself as a 'shipper.' I find that the relationships between characters is the most interesting part of a story for me. Sure I like all the surrounding drama, whether it be politics (House of Cards), police procedure (The Wire), investigations of the paranormal (The X Files) or even a high school singing club (Glee), but it is the characters, their traits, their thoughts, their decisions and their relationships that keeps me tuning into a show week after week. When those relationships become unrealistically complicated and needlessly angst-ridden I feel cheated as a viewer. Scriptwriters, don't mess with what's not broken. Love is dramatic enough just in itself.

Before I go off to do another oral history interview this afternoon and to also take my next August Break photo, I just want to mention a few more of my favourite on screen committed couples. Just be aware of the spoilers to any shows below....

Francis and Claire Underwood - House of Cards.

The ruthless team that is the Underwoods...they are sizing you up..
Ambitious, ruthless and totally in sync with each other, Francis Underwood and his wife Claire have an usually supportive and appreciative marriage by TV standards. They do fight a lot and sometimes their personal goals and ambitions clash (and they both have extramarital affairs) but they always return to each other and remain loyal to their marriage. There is no emotional histrionics between the two of them until the third season of the show when the power and lure of the Oval Office starts to drive them apart. For most of the show they are an extremely dangerous and frightening effective team in Washington. They are literally the ultimate power couple.

Allison and Joe DuBois - Medium

This family can see dead people
Medium is a show about a woman named Allison DuBois who has a natural ability to hear and speak to spirits of the dead. She also happens to be stay-at-home wife and mother of three daughters. The series ran for 7 seasons and although it may not be TV on the level of The X Files in terms of storytelling, it was an entertaining show which was made charming by the central relationship between Allison and her sweet long-suffering husband Joe. The character of Joe really had the patience of a saint when dealing with his energetic daughters and strange and at times frustrating wife, but it was clear that he really loved her and was committed to her. Of course the scriptwriters got itchy fingers and had to write some tragedy in at the end of the series just because in the TV universe when someone is as kind as Joe, he is probably doomed.

Peter Bishop and Olivia Dunham - Fringe

Back in the day when you could get 4 different photos in a train station photobooth
Fringe is a show that could only have been created off the back of the existence of The X Files. It was essentially a similar premise: people investigating the paranormal and followed along a lot of the same lines as The X Files, until it started delving into alternative universes and all sorts of things went bat-crazy in the final season. The main relationships in the show were between a father and son (Walter and Peter Bishop) and between a man and woman who actually ended up marrying each other (Peter and Olivia). The love story between Peter and Olivia was actually very sweet and did involve some angst (just imagine trying to deal with alternative versions of your lover or yourself from alternate universes) and some messing with time travel but it ultimately was about two people who were trying to commit to each other even in the strange situations they found themselves in.

Rhonda Pearlman and Cedric Daniels - The Wire

Some serious crime-fighting is going on here
The Wire was probably one of the best TV shows I ever saw. It was an amazing series that delved into the drug trade and crime life of Baltimore right from the gangs on the streets all they way to the corruption at City Hall. Most of the personal relationships in the series suffered partly because waging a never-ending war on drug crime is an all-consuming endeavour for our characters. Quite a few relationships break down because the characters are simply too busy to invest in them (busy listening to wire taps, chasing down drug dealers, doing shady deals at the docks). But one stands the test of time: the relationship between Rhonda Pearlman and Cedric Daniels. Both these characters, one of which is a prosecutor and the other a narcotics detective, are still together by the end of the series despite police corruption, ex-partners and personal political ambitions. They are also a mixed-race couple which is always nice to see, since mixed-race relationships are woefully under-represented on TV.

Laura Roslin and Bill Adama - Battlestar Galatica

Some contemplative romantic sitting on the ground...
The reboot of Battlestar Galatica was one my favourite science fiction shows on TV. It was mythic, exciting and extremely well written. The dialogue between characters was a joy to watch. There were many relationships in the show but the majority of them were pretty turbulent (Starbuck and Apollo? Anyone remember that destructive love affair?), but one of the sweetest slow-burning affairs was the love that grew during the duration of the show between President Laura Roslin and Admiral Bill Adama. While everyone was passionately either making love or fighting with each other, Roslin and Adama just respected each other, became friends and then eventually partners. It was also nice to see a partnership between two older characters as well. I personally think relationships between older people are also under-represented in TV. 

Ross and Demelza Poldark - Poldark

More romantic sitting, this time dangerously close to the edge of a cliff
Poldark is a pretty silly show. It is basically a period drama with a lot of overly-dramatic 'Drama' and is a bit soapy. But it is gorgeously filmed. It helps that it is set in Cornwall in the late 18th Century. Cornwall is a beautiful part of the UK and the BBC takes full advantage of the surroundings by having the main characters walk along wild-flower strewn cliffs and gaze out at the blue green sea. It also helps that the main characters are all played by ridiculously good looking actors and actresses. There is however a central relationship in the show that is rather interesting. Ross Poldark, who is dark and brooding and has a rather fiery temper ends up marrying his spirited and kind-hearted servant girl Demelza (this not a real woman's name. It was invented by the author of the Poldark books). Despite a fair amount of arguing over the years and some extra-marital flirtations they remain very much married through thick and thin, But then I suppose divorce was out of the question in those days anyway....

Delenn and John Sheridan - Babylon 5

A lot of head and hair between this couple
Babylon 5 may look dated now and seem rather cheesy to many people. But back in the early 1990s it was very ambitious science fiction television. A show that ran for 5 or so years, it is about a space station on which interstellar diplomatic factions meet to try and secure peace for the galaxy. Sort of like the UN in space. Or The West Wing in space. A visual novel set in space. I loved it as a kid. I seriously could not get enough of it. I have always liked TV shows that have lots of ensemble characters. I think the differences between characters is always a compelling part of any story and all the different aliens in Babylon 5 jostling for power and space and interacting with each other really made the show exciting. At the centre of the show was the Commander of the station, John Sheridan and his lover who became his wife, the alien ambassador Delenn. I think my parents thought it was funny how I could adore an alien character who had a giant bone sticking out the back of her head. But Delenn seemed like wonderful woman to me. She was loving, kind, wise and strong. She was not exploited, did not need rescuing or sexing up and she was powerful. Male characters respected her and deferred to her good advice. She and John were a power couple in space. And after a few initial hurdles (alien/human culture clashes) they had a very successful marriage.

Niles Crane and Daphne Moon - Frasier

More romantic sitting. Seriously one of the most popular things for TV couples to do.
Frasier is a bit of an odd one out here because it is basically a sitcom and there are always lots of relationships in sitcoms since most humour in sitcoms is centred on the relationships between people. But I included this couple in my post because it really is an example of a happy ending that is totally believable. Two people meet, they know each other for years, they fall in love, they date for a while and then they get married. The writers for Frasier managed this love story extremely well. The long romance between Niles and Daphne is charming and funny and never becomes unrealistic or stupid. A lot of the credit should be given to actors David Hyde Pierce and Jane Leeves in their portrayal of the characters.

Claire Randall Fraser and Jamie Fraser - Outlander

Some fantastic knitwear being modelled in this scene
Outlander is an epic love story. It is also massively over the top. It is not a subtle show. Sort of like Game of Thrones (although with less angry men, more focus on women and lots of Scottish scenery). I love its ridiculousness, it's feisty female characters, the fantastic soundtrack and the beautiful costumes and cinematography. It doesn't hurt that Jamie Fraser is also very handsome. I was never fond of the books, they seemed rather clichéd to me (although who I am to judge? Diana Gabaldon, who wrote the series of novels has sold many many copies of her books and it has a huge fanbase). The basic story is: in 1945, married World War II nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall finds herself accidentally transported back in time to Scotland in 1743, where she encounters rebellion and the Highland warrior Jamie Fraser. Apart from indulging in my fantasy of travelling back in time (I would have to take my husband with me of course), I also enjoy watching the relationship between Claire and Jamie develop. There is a real love between these two characters and they are very committed to each other (and they are also married by the end of season 1). In a wonderfully romantic twist, Claire confides in Jamie that she is actually from the future and he believes her! Because when you love someone deeply, you trust them even if they sound crazy (which is also a theme of The X Files!). After watching one episode of Outlander, I turned to my husband who was reading a book on the British political system and asked him 'If I said I was from the future, would you believe me?' 'No.' he said without hesitation. Ah well....

Zoë Alleyne Washburne and Hoban Washburne - Firefly

Zoe and Wash, the most well adjusted married couple in science fiction
It was a crime that Firefly was cancelled after only one season. Written and created by Joss Whedon (of Buffy fame) it was a space-western-scifi-drama about a motley crew of smugglers on a ship called 'Firefly.' Wikipedia describes the show very nicely as 'exploring the lives of a group of people who fought on the losing side of a civil war and others who now make a living on the fringe of society, as part of the pioneer culture that exists on the fringes of their star system. In this future, the only two surviving superpowers, the United States and China, fused to form the central federal government, called the Alliance, resulting in the fusion of the two cultures.' It was a fantastic show, wittily written and with plenty of character development. And a very cheesy theme song. The characters were really three dimensional complicated people facing moral dilemmas. Amongst the crew of nine characters, were Zoe and Hoban (nicknamed Wash) Washburne, a married female soldier and an eccentric but brilliant pilot. This was an interesting dynamic between a tough independent woman and an intelligent sensitive man, they were very different people but they made their marriage work. And they were funny together as well. They were serious but also joked together a lot, which we never see married couples do on TV. And a lot of being married is about laughing together. Zoe and Wash had a committed and loving marriage right until the movie Serenity, when Joss Whedon killed Wash off. It was too good to be true...sob. He may have had a heroic death, but personally I felt it was a shame to kill off a character that seemed to be so well-adjusted. But....

Just because I could not resist, another sweet shot of Zoe and Wash...sad sigh.. I said before, any happy couple in a science fiction / fantasy genre universe is doomed...or so it seems... (did I mention Starbuck and Apollo!!). Apparently in the future we just cannot manage a long-term commitment...

Of course there are the examples of TV couples that stay together, but that probably should have split up. In The Sopranos, Tony and Carmela Soprano stay married for all 6 seasons of the show. They may love each other but Tony is a murdering sociopath mob boss, so Carmela probably should have left him. And then there is Don Draper in Mad Men, who really all women should stay away from, but who seems to have one wife after another who seem keen to stay with him. Lastly Walter and Skyler White (is Skyler another name for a woman that has been completely fabricated for TV?!) the married couple at the centre of Breaking Bad, keep their relationship going for a good long time despite Walter's evolution from mild-mannered school teacher and family man to ruthless criminal mastermind and murderer. 

So why is any of this important you ask? Who cares if couples on TV stay together or break up? It is not important. Not at all. There are plenty of more serious things to think about and to worry over. But in an age of cynicism, when young people grow up thinking that everything is disposable and flawed, it is nice to see examples in our popular culture of true love, kindness, happiness and commitment. Not everything falls apart and sometimes love really does last.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

August Break Photo 6: Notebook

This is just a few of the many many many notebooks I own. I have a bit of an obsession with notebooks and paper.....

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

August Break Photo 5: Citrus

Because I live in England and we are currently experiencing a true British Summer (ie. rain and grey clouds), not much citrus grows here! So here is a photo I took last month of some orange trees in a monastery in Croatia....

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

August Break Photo 4: Numbers

The theme of 'Numbers' as represented by 15 minutes worth of tiny grains of yellow sand. 

Monday, 3 August 2015

You can't go home again....

This weekend I felt rotten. Yet again my crappy immune system has failed me and I have caught some sort of virus. I am at work and pottering about through London simply because I do not have the time to take to my bed and sleep for a week (which is probably what would ultimately repair my broken health). I am not seriously ill but I am walking about feeling under the weather. (sad face)

So instead of enjoying the amazing sunshine that shone over this weekend, I lay in bed and moaned to my husband, who very good-naturedly put up with it and cooked soup and cottage pie from scratch. I am one lucky woman. I also watched a shed-load of old movies that I have not seen since I was a teenager. And some episodes of The X Files (god I LOVE that show). But more on that later. For today's post I am going to concentrate on the movies. Those movies that I adored as teenager, that I thought would stand the test of time and..well...have...not. I am not sure whether it is that I have developed 'taste' over the years or if they were always bad and I just did not have enough experience of watching films in order to recognise their badness. The first film I watched was Kissing Jessica Stein, which if I am honest is not actually such a bad film, But it is a not a great one either. I loved this film when it first came out in 2001 (I was 18, so young! Sigh) and it was the first film I had ever seen, that portrayed homosexuals in a positive and well-adjusted light rather than closeted and emotionally damaged (which seemed to be the norm for most TV shows or films that contained gay characters in the late 90s, early 2000s). I had not seen the Channel 4 TV series Queer As Folk at that point and I did not, to my knowledge, actually know any gay people. I had little understanding of same sex attraction and seeing Kissing Jessica Stein opened my eyes to the idea of lesbianism. I saw the film in the cinema and I loved it. I thought it was witty, romantic, intelligent and moving. To recap briefly, the film is about Jessica Stein, an uptight and neurotic New Yorker, who tired of all the failed dates she has been on, answers a personal ad in the newspaper under the 'Women Seeking Women' column and has an affair with a woman (called Helen). Despite believing that she could never be attracted to someone of her own gender, she falls in love with Helen and moves in with her. And then it all goes pear-shaped.

Helen and Jessica have fun packing a handbag
Years later things have changed. I now have gay friends, have worked with gay people and gay marriage has been made legal in my country. I have more of an understanding of sexuality and the many ways people can feel attraction for each other. Sexuality seems to me to be a sliding scale and not always easily defined, which is sort of the message that could have been portrayed in Kissing Jessica Stein if it had been a smarter movie. Jessica is attracted to Helen the individual, rather than her gender, but by the end of the film simply can't ignore that Helen is not the right gender for her. Which is why I think the ending is a bit of a cop out. Because of a lack of a sustained sexual attraction between the two women, Helen breaks up with Jessica, stating that although they may love each other, they are more like room-mates than actual lovers. Jessica is heartbroken and the film ends with the two remaining as friends.

When I was 18, the film seemed witty and profound to me. But now it seems very unrealistic and confusing. Are we supposed to believe that two women would move in together and become lovers because one has exhausted her search for a male partner by eliminating all the men in Manhattan through her incredibly high standards and the other woman is bored with heterosexual sex? This is not a love story between two people attracted to each other's personalities rather than their genders (or even about two lesbians), it is about two people experimenting with relationships. At one point during the film a gay friend calls Helen out as just trying on homosexuality like a coat because she feels like trying something new. Of course, people should be able to be who they want to be, but it does seem to me that this character has a valid point. The film feels like a story about two heterosexual people trying to be gay for a few months and then deciding that they are really still heterosexual (except Helen, who does go on to start a relationship with another woman at the end of the film and I think she is a more authentic character than Jessica anyway). As if sexual orientation is simply just a choice or that sexual attraction is not as complex a factor as it really can be. When the film was first released it received some criticism from the gay community for not dealing in depth with the difficulties of being openly gay, but it was also praised for portraying a same-sex relationship in a positive light. I suppose that it is positive in ways, both women are happy for a while and their friends and family treat them both with love and respect and they receive very little resistance to their relationship, which was nice to see. But I feel the film chickens out because it is not actually about homosexuality. A better film would have had the two women remain together and just be gay together and it not be a big deal. To portray something as normal, you have to introduce it as just normal within the narrative world of the film. Jessica never treats her attraction or feelings for Helen as normal. She panics when a friend bumps into her and Helen on the street and lies about dating a woman. This is Jessica's story and so we see most of it through her eyes and she is not comfortable with being gay. What I thought, when I was 18, was a positive story about same-sex relationships is actually a film about an anxious woman experimenting. Added to the fact that as a 32 year old, I find Jessica's unrealistic expectations of the men she dates, very annoying and not remotely funny, I found the film irritating and I felt like telling the main character to just 'grow up' and 'calm down.' Perhaps I have a lower tolerance for neurotic characters than I once did. It might be all the Woody Allen films I have seen over the years or I may have reached a stage in my life when I am less neurotic myself. I don't think that Kissing Jessica Stein is a really bad film, but I don't think it has stood the test of time either.

Which brings me on to the film I watched on Saturday night on Netflix. Empire Records. I loved Empire Records as a teenager. I was 12 years old when it was first released and I must have seen it when I was around 15. The film did poorly at the box office and was given pretty bad reviews but garnered a cult status later on VHS (remember those days? The days of VHS and cassettes!). If you fancy reading about the history of the film and more about its cult status, it is completely summed up in the below Buzzfeed article:

A very young Liv Tyler and Renée Zellweger in Empire Records.

I was not aware of the bad reviews when I first watched the film and I instantly loved it. The film is a story of one single day at an independent music store and its mismatched, quirky and dysfunctional teenage store clerks. Over the course of the film the staff fight to keep the store from being sold to a large music chain, dance around to different alternative and indie songs and generally air out all their angst and teenage pain. I loved the soundtrack and I actually thought Renée Zellweger, who sings in the film, had a pretty good voice. I wanted to be cool, alternative and quirky and sell music and wear grungy clothes. I felt inspired by the rebellious characters and touched by their emotional plights and dilemmas. Watching this years later as I lay in bed with a fever and my husband sitting beside me (doing a crossword from the newspaper), I wondered what the hell I was initially thinking when I thought Empire Records was a great movie. The plot is a mess (a bunch of random and rather unconnected scenes plunged together), the characters are stereotypes, the dance sequences disjointed, pointless and too contrived and the dialogue is ridiculous and too self-aware (or pretensions in a youthful way), And it is all kind of boring. Watching teens emote does not do it for me anymore. And I HATED the soundtrack this time around and turned the volume down. And Renée Zellweger seemed to be shouting, not singing.

'You like some weird films.' by husband murmurs beside me, looking up from his crossword as one of the characters delivers another bizarre line of dialogue and flails about like a blubbering fish.

'I was 15! I had no taste! I was full of angst!' I cry trying to justify my earlier comments to him (which were; 'This is a great film. I loved it. It is really quirky, you'll like it.')

There was also another aspect to the film that I did not enjoy this time around. The three main female characters are all damaged. One is self harming and shaves her head in an act of rebellion, another is pressured by her father to be a straight A student and throws herself at her music idol in an extremely embarrassing scene and the character played by Renée Zellweger is basically billed as a slut. In fact I think someone actually calls her a slut at one point. God! Are there no other ways of portraying teenage girls on screen! I was none of these three characters when I was 15. As an adult woman and a feminist who has grown up over the years and gained confidence and independence, I find portrayals of girls like this boring, oversimplified and unrealistic.

But is it really a bad film? Or have I just grown up? Actually I think it is a really bad film. But I have also grown up and I can't go back. You can't return to that naive part of your life once you have left it. You can't return to that teenage angst, that childish self importance and that joy in finding something really stupid profound, instead of recognising it as really stupid. That teenage innocence. And to be honest, I am not sure I want to return to that era of my life. I like being more discerning. I like intelligent films. I like being an adult. My cultural taste-buds have evolved. Which is why I might stick to the entertainment of my adult years and avoid my adolescent obsessions.

Except for The X Files of course. Which I don't think I ever really understood when I was 15 anyway.

August Break Photo 3: Skin

So today's theme was 'Skin. ' I wanted to capture the skin of more than one person to emphasise that we all possess this essential material. I chose the skin on hands because I actually think that we look at the skin located there more than any other part of our body. I asked my work colleagues to pose their hands in a circle and then added my own and took this snapshot with my phone from above.

With this year's August Break I am trying to use both my digital SLR camera and my phone depending on the photo and the location. I am experimenting with both and with editing software (the amazing PicMonkey!).

Sunday, 2 August 2015

August Break Photo 2: Air

So today's theme was 'Air.' Since I am trapped at home with a virus my choices were limited. So I experimented with the air in my lungs and drew a heart in the condensation from my breath on the window pane.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

August Break Photo 1: Breakfast

The first August Break photo is up! My breakfast on a very crowded plate! (the plate was purchased by my mother at a car boot sale years ago and somehow I have ended up with it) Does make arranging food very fun :)