Thursday, 30 September 2010

Travels with my Film-Life: Rome

Just so's you know, we's still travellin in Europe with our film DVDs. We stayed a bit longer in Spain - with Almovadar and his "Dirty Habits". Madrid in the 1980s... with nuns.

Yeah - I know I'm waving at you from Gaudi's Barcelona - but you gotta look around a bit while you're here. Anybody care to remind me of some films set in Barcelona I could check on? I'd love to go back there for a visit.

Then The Old Man and me pops along to post-war Rome for an evening with Visconti and Anna Magnani and "Bellissima".

In which Cinecitta film studios is overrun by mothers pushing forward their little girls to audition for a film. It's all very hysterical. Everybody gesticulates a lot - children cry - men shout - and spivs spiv..... and.... I am exhausted at the end of it, you know? All I want is to put my feet up and drink a glass of Italian red and inhale a plate of pasta. Mama mia.

Monday, 27 September 2010

The Song of the Rook

I likes rooks. People quite often don't. And I think that quite often rooks are mistakenly called "crows", (although they are a member of the wider crow family - along with magpies, jackdaws, jays, and the chough).

But rooks are often in a group. And crows are solitary. Rooks have pale beaks, not black beaks. And they're more fond of a nice tasty leatherjacket grub than a frog or chick (I think). That's what I know of rooks anyway.

Oh... and they've got this great pouch in their beaks. When they're feeding they can cram extra stuff into this pouch like a mini-pelican sack under the lower beak. We used to think there was something wrong with the bird's beak when we first spotted one loading up in this fashion. But it's just extra carrying power for taking food back to the nest.

True - I wouldn't want to live under a rookery. A lot of droppings and a lot of cawing discussion. Also - young rooks are very demanding about being fed by parent - which makes them loud and annoying. But I expect that's what Mama Rook thinks as well.

Anyway. Rooks sing.

True, it's not what most people think of as bird song, but I'm sure it's a territorial song. Just like a robin or a blackbird. And OK maybe an acquired taste, but I am touched by a singing rook.

We have one who comes regularly to the lane. And he is known to neighbours who watch out for the star turn. He'll stand on the aerial and give forth - not loud cawing- but a softer succession of cries and mutters and chucks and clicks. Then he flies off to another nearby high spot, a tree or a telegraph pole and he repeats his performance. For all the world just as a blackbird might do. And with just as much joie de vivre - in a rookish way.

You don't believe me? Just checked in The Old Man's copy of "Crow Country" by Mark Cocker. And there the writer quotes his friend, the late Derek Goodwin, on the subject of rook operatics:

"Various soft, cawing, gurgling, rattling and crackling calls are uttered and the general effect is very much like that of a singing starling, only louder..."


Saturday, 25 September 2010

Into the Eye of the Dragonfly....

No. No suspicious substances.
Nor is we listening to The Incredible string Band.

"How sweet to be a cloud, in the blu..uu..ue."

But Old man and me take a walk just now, looking for blackberries. And The Old Man calls out and addresses something in the road - as is his custom.

I go back and look down.
On its back in the road is a huge dragonfly. Perfect. I can see its long abdomen moving in and out. The black stripe on blue widening and narrowing. Is that its breathing?

"I think it's just stunned. I bet it was that caravan." The Old Man says.

No traffic has passed us for a while... the last thing that does - is a car towing an old caravan with mossy windows. The caravan takes up most the country road.

"Move it out the road..."

I am nervous. The dragonfly looks so huge. With its four wings outspread, it covers most of the palm of my hand. I manage to pick it up and move it, turning it over as I lay it on the grassy verge. It lies there. It's legs moving a little. Its body moving with its breath. And I look into its huge eyes.

Another world.
A huge, slightly misted-looking, goldfish bowl of a lensy eye.
I am transfixed.

P.S. If you want to see what sort of dragonfly I think it is - click here.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The State of Mrs Doonuthin

So .... it having gone very quiet in Mrs Doonuthin's room.... I peep in.
The computer seems to be merrily chatting along to itself. Everything looks as per usual.

Except - maybe for Mrs Doonuthin herself. (Though on second thoughts - I dunno.)

She's slumped over her desk. Snoring away. One hand curled around a glass of "red" and a tortilla chip clutched protectively in the other.

Looks like she had a rough night.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Where was I?

Excuse me people. But I just had to get that Mrs Doonuthin back where she belongs -


It is, I believe, "Little Grey Doll's" Blog is it not?
It is NOT "Mrs Doonuthin's" Blog.
I have things to do and places to be. And one of those places is right here - with you.

P.S. The lesson of this story about tinkering with computers is .... Don't.
Mrs Doonuthin has been "tinkering" for hours. I can hear her screams from the next room. Oh well - at least it will take her mind of those Tortilla Chips.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Mrs Doonuthin has some Tech Problems

I currently view Grey Doll's Blog using as Web Browser - Mozilla FireFox 3.6. And everything seems to be working OK.

Today I thought I'd be a good girl and check to see what her Blog looks like using Internet Explorer 8 as Web Browser. Unfortunately I see that the embedded videos aren't showing an image and therefore aren't playable on Internet Explorer 8 on my PC.

It seems to make no difference whether the videos are "You Tube inserts" or Little Grey Doll's "in-house" video.

Is this a security setting issue I ask myself?

I've checked out the problem on Blogger Help and it does indeed seem to be an ongoing issue for some other - now very angry - bloggers as well (since January 2010 in fact) - with no resolution in sight. And it seems to vary from blogger to blogger as to which Browsers do not show the video images.

I've tried some of the techie solutions proffered by other users on the Help site - but I'm a newbie - not HTML proficient - and it didn't seem to cure the problem for me.

I know that this will come as a great blow to Little Grey Doll's vision of a Blogospheric film career. So I would be grateful if I could get feedback on whether you can "see" the videos or not, and play them. And which browser you use to do so (or not as the case may be).

You'll find a sample You Tube video at the Red Shoes Post.
And Grey Doll's own embedded video at No Paparazzi Post.

A grateful thank you for any feedback that can be given.

Edit: 22 Sept 2010: Please give feedback on any browser problems via the comment box on Technical Director Page (click here for link).

Grey Doll is fed up with me hanging around here!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Daily Grind

Go to the dentist's on Friday. The usual six month inspection of Grey Doll's elderly teeth.

I say I've got a tooth playing up again.
They inform me - it's because I grind my teeth.

The Grey Doll grinds her teeth.

Now who - reading this Blog - would guess that the Grey Doll would ever dream of grinding her teeth.

Tank Girl Revisited

The other day, when The Old Man goes to be fitted with yet another piece of 24 hour recording machinery at the Hospital in Penzance (see 15th Sept Post here) .... I go for a mooch.

And I mooch into the Bookshop.

And this Bookshop is called Books Plus. And there, as I go "mooch, mooch" I spot the Graphic Novel or rather the Comic Series of "Tank Girl" by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin. This is a "remastered" edition and on the shelf .... are Volumes 1 & 2.

So I puts down the book on "How to Make Handbags" don't I, and I buys Vol 1 of Tank Girl instead.

Cos I haven't read a bit of Tank Girl for years. And didn't I only just the other week talk about that circus, Archaos, and it's crazy Mad Max - Tank Girl post-apocalyptic feel? (See that Post here)

And I guess you know.... or anyway I'm telling you now..... that Jamie Hewlett is the guy who co-created the "virtual" band Gorillaz along with Damon Albarn.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Mrs Doonuthin Speaks

I would just like to say..... that any forthcoming attempts at movie vehicles for The Grey Doll are entirely my fault.

I shall be attempting - for the foreseeable future - to make them using the free software ANIMATORDV SIMPLE+ available from Animator HD.

I am currently using a perfectly functioning (but 7 years old) laptop running Windows XP SP3 with a princely 512 MB RAM.

Surprisingly - connected to a Microsoft LifeCam VX-2000 - it made something. (Click here to glimpse the 3 second "movie".)

I am on a learning curve of cliff-steep proportions. Please let me know if you cannot view the animation as I'm still new to video file formats, etc for the web.

Now - I have to go before Grey Doll sweeps in and accuses me of hogging the limelight.

Stars must be kept sweet.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

More Marvin the Paranoid Android ....

Today - we is Portable ECG Man.

This morning The Old Man had to go to the Hospital in Penzance to be fitted with a 24 hour heart recorder.

This time he does not wheeze or make mechanical noises of any kind. He does not go "Peep-Peep".
(Click here to read the Android post).

This time Portable ECG Man is silent in the machinery of his recording.

BUT - he does have to have a piece of paper on which he has to write down everything that he is doing:

12.09 pm Sit Down; 12.32 pm Eat lunch; 12.46 pm Stand Up; 12.47 pm Walk around a bit......

He IS The Walking Recorder. It gives a whole new meaning to the word "journalist". And it could prove a little inconvenient.

But that would make a good plot line for one of those Hollywood films, wouldn't it. With Ben Affleck or Ben Stiller or Ben someone and probly Jennifer Anniston.... There would be romance, there would be comedy. And we could call it a Rom-Com.

The Hospital said for The Old Man to make particularly sure that he records any "events" he may have. This made me nervous. At our age a lot of things could come into the category of "event".

But he said he thought they meant a palpitation or something.

Well.... at least he's having to keep his pencil sharp.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

No Paparazzi

Hey! I'm not ready to be filmed yet.

And for sure that Mrs Doonuthin is not ready to make a film yet.

I should say.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Travels with my Film-Life: Spain

We don't get out much anymore. Well... shopping, there's always shopping. And doctors. And hospitals. And occasionally - a bit of scenery.

But culturally... going out is a bit of a rarity. Such as the Kneehigh "Red Shoes" last month (click here for that Post). Normally... films, theatre, music - going out to see - no - not much.

Consequently our door mat is a frequent receiver of packages of DVDs and CDs. And I do all my Sagittarian foreign travel in front of a telly screen. I am currently visiting Spain with Pedro Almodovar and that is a very colourful experience. Me and The Old Man are inhaling his films on a regular basis. Last night was "Tie me up, Tie me down".

What I have been very slow in realising is that, along with the sexuality, murder, wit, music and lurve.... there is all this sumptuous and beautiful colour and composition. Great slabs of colour march through his settings, often in geometrical shapes like paintings - blinds, windows, walls and posters. I love just to LOOK at his films.

And then .....there is all that aforesaid sexuality, murder, wit, music and lurve....

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Listen Again with Greydoll

Did you catch the Radio 4 programme on Archaos this morning?

Archaos being the crazy French circus I told you about in the Circus Nights post?


You've got seven days to listen again - or is that six days now?
And you can do that by clicking here.

A Crowded Schedule

Just in case you thought you would pop in for a cup of tea or something... forget it. We - or at least The Old Man and sometimes me - are never in. The reason being that the whole medical world finally wishes to inspect him for something or other.

The other day we do the 2-hour drive thing to the hospital where The Old Man had his heart valve operation. This is for the surgeon to inspect him. We have to get there two hours before the actual appointment, in order to have some tests - which take half an hour. So an awful lot of tea is drunk before - at the end of the afternoon - we finally get in to see Mr Surgeon (after insisting it was him that The Old Man sees... not someone else on his team... after all there had been a bit of a "do" after the op; a small matter of life or death.)

We see Mr Surgeon and break the news of The Old Man's cardiac arrest and two week stay in our own hospital. This is all news to Mr Surgeon, who duly looks solemn and takes some notes. Mr Surgeon says that "lessons must be learnt" - by whom, I am unsure - and also informs The Old Man that he has "an atrium the size of a bucket" (? -me neither) The Old Man seems inordinately pleased with this observation. Mr Surgeon also has a view on medication, unlike The Old Man's Cornwall based cardiologist, and the Old Man is relieved to hear it. All in all The Old Man seems very pleased to have seen Mr Surgeon and is very impressed by the tweed jacket.

And after a whole 15 minute audience with Mr Surgeon we return to the car and do the 2-hour drive back home. I insist we stop off to get chips and stuff - cos it is about 7pm when we get home and I for one am too knackered to cook from a standing start.

It is very tiring being companion and observer.

Today the Old man is summoned to see the Heart Nurse.
He also gets a letter with an appointment one day next week, he knows not why, to be strapped into some other portable contraption (see blood pressure recording post) - this time to record his heart.
He's got an appointment with the Stroke Nurse next week as well.
And the GP.
And on the one free day next week, I've got the dentist.

So - we're not home, right?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Lost in Space

I'm reading a sci-fi book again. Or rather... trying to. And it's a shame but I can't get into it.
The book is "Against a Dark Background" by Iain M. Banks. And I thought that I really liked Banks, but...

I know that I've read the book before, and I remember enjoying it. I don't remember the plot too well so I thought - hey I'll give it a go again. But this time I just can't get lost in it. The characters are really starting to annoy me. They seem thin and schematic. I can't see them or feel them. And I'm struggling in a welter of exotic settings, names and broken time sequences.

Why am I so disappointed? Or do I mean- disconcerted? I thought of Iain M. Banks as a really good sci-fi writer. (And yes, I know that he also writes straight fiction as plain old Iain Banks. And is therefore no slouch in the writing game.)

I'll have to dip into another one, won't I? To find out if I have irrevocably lost the taste for Banksian sci-fi; or if it is just that this particular book doesn't stretch to a rerun.

It might mean that I can't revisit other old favourites: Sheri Tepper, C.J. Cherryh, Ken McLeod, Colin Greenland, William Gibson...

Maybe I need to try some sterner stuff. Some classics. Bradbury, J.G. Ballard, Lem. I've read Bradbury and Ballard, years ago - and keep meaning to try Lem's "Solaris". (Owned and praised by The Old Man. Who doesn't like sci-fi - so don't know where that leaves me there.)

What do you do when one of your favourite snacks loses its lip-smacking delight? Where do you turn when your booky comfort food leaves you fat and flat?

Monday, 6 September 2010

Circus Nights with Archaos

I see there's going to be a radio programme about Archaos (Thursday,9 Sept 11:30 BBC Radio 4).
An anarchic, punk, "never be the same again will the circus"- Circus; its founder, Pierrot Bidon, died earlier this year. There's an exhibition about Archaos from 9-12th September in London. Sadly we's too decrepit to get there at the moment. But you can click here to find out more.

Me and The Old Man went to see Archaos - at Highbury Fields - way back around 1990. I think we saw them a couple of times....

They got plenty of publicity about their juggling with chainsaws. And yes - they did. The Old Man saw the chainsaw juggler drinking quite well in the beer tent prior to chucking the chainsaws about.

Archaos thrived on its dangerous, heavy-metal reputation. Clowns clad in corrugated iron - chased each other with sledge hammers. Trucks and banged up cars filled the tent with diesel and exhaust fumes. A fork-lift trapeze act. (Click here to see with your own eyes, if you don't believe me.) But then I remember a juggler who worked with matchboxes, matches and finaled by lighting a cigarette with a juggled lighted match.

From the grotesque to the delicate. Outlandish, outrageous and dark... They conjured up the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max and Tank Girl. Oh yeah we saw them - and we've got the T-shirts to prove it.

Read more about Archaos by clicking here for an article in the Independent.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Happy Birthday Old Man

Just so's you know.
It is The Old Man's birthday today.
Basically, I congratulated him on reaching it this year.

The Old Man as Marvin the Paranoid Android...

...brain the size of a planet... You know? Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? The radio version? Because of the sound effects. Wheeze, wheeze, clank.

I say this because he has been fitted with a 24 hour blood pressure recording device. It's supposed to take readings every half hour.

So there he is - wandering around with a plastic box on his belt and a tube snaking up over his T-shirt... which, I suppose, is connected to one of those armband thingies.

And every half hour this wheezing, flatulent sound starts up. The Old Man goes rigid and stands to attention - as if suffering from some form of "petit mal". Then, more often than not, the spectacle finales with a high-pitched peep-peep-peep as the machine fails to find any recordable blood pressure and registers an error message instead.

Good job we haven't got tickets for a concert.

I would have to spray him silver and try to pass him off as a member of a 1980s art-rock tribute band.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Animated discussions: That 3D Stop Motion Thing

You make a setup. You have your camera, lights, props, etc in place for the setup.

You put your objects in place: puppets, play-dough, playing cards, deckchairs, people, bananas, whatever.

Take a shot or two.

Move the subject slightly. (But don't move anything else - including the camera or lights, unless you mean to.)

Take another shot or two.

Move again.
Shot. Shot. Shot.
Again. Shot-shot.
And so on.

Play the film back and the objects appear to move by themselves - mysteriously.

This is such a simplistic explanation it does not do justice to the technique - but you get the drift. And you can read more by clicking here. Like I said before... think Wallace & Gromit, Tim Burton's "The Nightmare before Christmas", and The Magic Roundabout (Doo-doo-duh Doo-dooo Dudududu-doo-dooh...) All of them stop motion animation.

So that's what Mrs Doonuthin wants to make. But on a peanuts budget. Like... software... laptop... webcam.

Cheapskate! Ooh but a wannabe film star like I - has to start somewhere. So I will grit my teeth and suffer for my art.

She'd better not be goin' to use that plasticine stuff tho'. She'd better be goin' to use "Moi".