Friday, 15 September 2017

Back From Holiday

It was an unduly stressful holiday. Not far... just to Dorset. But we do not travel much and are, it do appear, unduly stuck in our ways. This means that a thousand things have to be taken with us in order to maintain routine. For we is aging and apparently do value both our routine and things familiar.

The short of it is - we haven't screamed at each other so much for ever such a long time. Where to go and what to do and which exit to take at the roundabout. Self-catering brings its emotional and digestive costs also. I have never cooked on an Aga before. Slops and toast do seem to be the end result of my attempts ... and baked potatoes. With bad sleep and bad choices of lunch destinations, I have never been so exhausted by a holiday before.

The upshot is ... that both The Old Man and Moi are appalled at the psychological rigidity what do accompany our stiff legs and backs. There is only one thing to do.

Go on holiday again.
And so we shall.
Quite soon.

Electric Palace in Bridport

PS. Things to enjoy in Dorset in September: dragonflies and swallows, terrific coastal scenery, fossicking for fossils and - Bridport with great food at the Soulshine Cafe and for lovers of jazz, rock and collecting vinyl Clocktower Music.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Holidays - Things To Do

It's me again. The Doll. The Old Man and me have decided to get away from it all. Or some of it at least. Not very far. To Dorset it looks like.

We do not travel much. We do not holiday much. When you are a gold-plated pensioner, every day is a holiday. N'est-ce pas? So I am making lists of things not to forget. Because when you are a pensioner one of the things you do best - is to forget.
And we have been shopping. For the things you need on holidays. Sandals for a start. There are bound to be beaches of loveliness in Dorset. I do know there are.
I have already bought one pair of sandals which, after a few hours of pain are to be returned to the shop. Today I bought another pair. This time ... so far so good. The Old Man is inspired to do likewise and buys a very complicated pair of Northwest Territory beach things covered in Velcro straps ... every which way. In fact these are so intricate that the shop assistant is also not too sure which webbed opening to use for foot insertion. But a solution was found and we have returned from shopping and are wiggling our respective toes.

But now I do wonder if I shall be spending silent, wet, holiday afternoons watching the rain dribble down the panes of glass. Silent that is except for the monotonous ripping sounds of The Old Man adjusting and re-adjusting the Velcro webbing on his sandals.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Mrs D Scratches Away With a Pen

Now that Mrs D is trying to draw her animations ... she has realised her drawing skills are somewhat rusty.

Also, she has been infected by an obsession with getting a fountain pen to draw with. See her blog post about just such an obsession.

She hunted high and low in local shops but nothing suitable to be found. So she climbs into the internet and finds a pen site, would you believe, and cheerfully orders a Lamy pen with a fine nib and a converter to fill from bottle ink... and a bottle of ink of course (Diamine ... go and look at all them colours...)

When it all arrives, quickly and accurately with a free packet of Haribos (!!), she scribbles away .... and then ... when she remembers ... she scribbles still.

From a portrait by August Sander

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Streaming Komische Oper Berlin's "The Fair at Sorochintsi" by Moussorgsky

Muggy late summer weather. Out in the garden, hanging me washing, besieged by swallows swoopin' and chatterin'. Why flying so low? Flying ants, that's why, and the birds was swooping in for a meal of fat queen ants on the wing.

But sometimes this weather gives me a right old headache, or the feeling of the start of one. This happened the other weekend and I took to me workroom, feeling sorry for myself, unable to read and nothing on the radio... until I do have a brain wave and try the internet and the Opera Platform.  And I found a piece from the Komische Oper Berlin (same director, Barry Kosky, that brought "The Nose" to Royal Opera House).

Dear friends I spent a pleasant couple of hours, forgetting my headache and lounging around to the streamed pleasure of  Moussorgsky's "The Fair at Sorochintsi" Berlin style: farce, love story, devils and curses, drama, pigs heads and stilt-walkers. And great chorus singing. My kind of opera production.
You can stream it from Opera Platform until 21st October 2017 and I suggest you do.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Animated Goings On: Mrs D Rotoscopes A Clockwork Mouse

Mrs D has been playing around with her beloved with TVPaint animation software.
She says: "My very first rotoscope. A clockwork mouse. Cute ... and another work in progress."

Rotoscoped Mouse from Mrs D on Vimeo.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Animated Discussions: Bitz by James Pollitt

Some of us like a dog.
Some of us would like to animate a dog.
Animator James Pollitt is already doing so with his creation, the whippet Bitz.

I favour the buzz of creating only from what is to hand, which is the challenge which James set himself in creating a critter from a selection of random bits and pieces. Voila - Bitz exists.

James has a kickstarter project going for creating more Bitz.
But meanwhile, for dog - and in particular whippet - lovers everywhere ... just click the arrow and behold the wonders and setbacks of animating Bitz.

BITZ- The whippet made from random stuff... from James Pollitt on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Criminal Reading: Norway, 1969 - Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum

Satellite People (K2, #2)Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum
Beginning with an enigmatic phone call from a wealthy tycoon wishing to discuss an imminent threat to his life with Oslo homicide detective Inspector Kristiansen (known as K2), Lahlum's crime novel is both tribute to and dedicated to the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.

Potential victim and detective never keep their Monday appointment as the tycoon is killed during a regular Sunday gathering of family and friends. His killer's identity provides the core conundrum for detecting partners K2 and his young, precociously bright, wheelchair-bound, friend - Patricia. But more people will die before they unearth the killer from amongst the dinner guests.

I try, but have to admit to rarely finding the "constructed" style of detective novel, full of chronological interviews, witness accounts and deductive discussion, a gripping read. So, much as I admire Lahlum's writing from reading his third in the "K2" series The Catalyst Killing a while ago, for this reason alone it took me some time to finish "Satellite People", his second novel in the series.

Lahlum is an excellent writer and this English translation by Kari Dickson works well. I like the way he sets his books retrospectively in the late 1960s and 1970s, a period which can still touch both pre- and postwar Europe (the dead tycoon in this story had been a member of the Norwegian Resistance) and in this way is able to bring a flavour of contemporary Nordic Noir social psychology to his plotting whilst constructing his books as classic, constrained, detective-mysteries.
In his end note, Lahlum pays tribute not only to Christie but to Conan Doyle. I can't help wondering if, given Lahlum's underlying sense of humour, he relishes the fact that Inspector Kristiansen is very much the Dr. Watson to Patricia's "Sherlock".

Believe it or not, despite causing me a slight reading struggle, I really recommend Lahlum's K2 series to fans of classic detective stories.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Opera Nights At The Cinema: Verdi's Otello with Kaufmann

I love Verdi's "Otello" and was not going to miss this week's live broadcast with German tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the lead role. I enjoy both Kaufmann's singing and acting. He has emerged as one of the greats. Although doubtless somebody will disagree.

Verdi's opera is based on Shakespeare's tragedy "Othello" in which a Moorish general (Otello), who serves the Venetians, is maliciously played upon by his aide (Iago) and led to believe that his new, young, Venetian wife (Desdemona) is unfaithful.
Iago is the driver - his jealousy, envy and pathological psychology moving him to ruin and warp everything around him. Othello is the subject, the man played upon, whose passions are worked and driven so that all that follows is tragedy. And Desdemona's constant good faith pushes her relentlessly towards her fate. This drama has always summed up tragedy to me - a collision of people's psychology and the turns of fate which explode into a terrible outcome - and we the audience can see it coming.

Verdi's opera has the drama and psychology of the original play together with beautiful music and a vocally challenging lead role in Otello. Domingo has been one of the great Otellos. I never managed to see him singing it live. But this week I got to see the broadcast of Kaufmann's debut in the role. Of course it seals him into it. I was relieved that he was not "blacked up". (School age trauma caused by my class being taken to see the film of Sir Laurence Olivier's awful performance as Shakespeare's Othello, whom I expected to drop on one knee and sing a rousing chorus of "Mammy" by way of encore.)

This production's sets involve partial walls (they appear as towering, dark, wooden walls or screens) which move around to change the space. As such the set has been described as minimalist. But I don't think it is. I can cope with minimalist. If a production and music is wonderful who needs a box of tricks?  But here it seems as if movements are made sometimes because they can. For instance why does Desdemona appear to rise up from the ground in one scene? As does the Herald announcing the arrival of the Venetian delegation? Throughout, performers have been walking on and off as usual, so why are these two entrances singled out as "magical"? No good dramatic reason that I could see.
And there are glaring additions to the design's "minimalism". A huge statue of the Venetian Lion is hauled on by the visiting delegation and in the final scene it re-appears, "broken". OK, I'm not a fan of heavy symbolism if it is not handled well but poke it into a relatively severe set and it's impact is disproportionate.

Never mind, I bicker ... because I can. The singing and acting of all the main roles is wonderful: Kaufmann (Otello); Maria Agresta (his wife Desdemona) and Marco Vratogna (Iago). It's a moving opera and a moving evening which we both did enjoy very much. And as usual The Old Man particularly looked forward to his interval ice cream.