Sunday, November 29, 2009


the face of the day on the daily dish today was from this great photo-feature on 6 artists working in fantastic photorealistic/ hyper-realistic sculpture. some of these pieces are deeply... freaky. i love it.

i quite possibly shared some of these images from the contemporary art floors of Denver's DAM in October '08. they have some great sculpture, including hyper-realistic, not all of which could be photographed, including a Ron Mueck head sculpture if memory serves...

more sculpture photos after the jump note: there's one sculpture of a boy some folks may be uncomfortable with, (involves nudity).

creepy tales

darkness of a whole different kind...

Joel recently found himself driving alone with an almost empty tank, close to lost, in the middle of the night, on the back roads of the wonderfully appropriate Barren County, Kentucky. no wonder then that he tried to dissuade me from listening to The Old Road, the final episode in series 2 of The Man in Black on bbc radio 7. as he no doubt knew i would, i ignored him. and i'm glad. this is radio drama at its best.
also worth hearing is Angel in Disguise and the particularly gruesome, Flesh.
it's all a superb take on the tradition of the classic, "spooky story" in contemporary settings... you know the inevitability of what's coming and yet it doesn't spoil the listening... one can't help but grin... 

the tradition of scaring ourselves around campfires and by torchlight with stories of strange happenings and things that go bump and growl in the night are our way of dealing with our fears and the real darkness we face... a curious form of entertainment and yet somehow telling creepy tales pushes back the world and those real fears... as host Mark Gatiss would likely concur, there is comfort in knowing after all, that it's only a story...

isn't it?


what is coming...

it's the first Sunday in Advent.
it seems strange to be marking the beginning of the season of light incoming when the news is filled with so much dark talk of the child abuse history of the Catholic Church in Dublin.

Which drew me to turn, as I have done before, to these words of Buechner,

"Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility: that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal."
All the paradoxical themes of Advent are compressed into that handful of words: Christ coming at Christmas time in great humility and again at the end of time in glorious majesty - Christ coming as a child to save us and as a king to judge us - mortal life, immortal life. They clatter against each other like shutters in the wind with all their points and counterpoints. They all but deafen us with their message at one and the same time of sin and grace, justice and mercy, comfort and challenge. "Cast away the works of darkness," they say, and put on "the armor of light." Maybe those are the words that best sum up the paradox of who we are and where we are. Somewhere between the darkness and the light. That is where we are as Christians. And not just at Advent time, but at all times. Somewhere between the fact of darkness and the hope of light. That is who we are.
"Advent" means "coming" of course, and the promise of Advent is that what is coming is an unimaginable invasion. The mythology of our age has to do with flying saucers and invasions from outer space, and that is unimaginable enough. But what is upon us now is even more so - a close encounter not of the thrid kind but of a different kind altogether. An invasion of holiness. That is what Advent is about.
What is coming upon the world is the Light of the World. It is Christ. That is the comfort of it. The challenge of it is that it has not come yet. Only the hope for it has to come, only the longing for it. In the meantime we are in the dark, and the dark, God knows, is also in us. We watch and wait for a holiness to heal us and hallow us, to liberate us from the dark. Advent is like the hush in a theater just before the curtain rises. It is like the hazy ring around the winter moon that means the coming of snow which will turn the night to silver. Soon. But for the time being, our time, darkness is where we are.

- Frederick Buechner, The Clown in the Belfry, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1992
and so it is that we wait.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

film reels and umbilical cords

two birth congratulations are in order... 

the first is still underway and has had a long gestation...
dunno if it's my computer, my server, or a glitch on blogger but several attempts to send good wishes to Mike and Rose Riddell over at The Interminable Moon have failed so i'm doing it here instead.

Gareth posted an update on the film version of Mike's novel, The Insatiable Moon over at The Film Talk dot com and Mike is posting regular updates from the set on his blog.

that these folks have stuck it out this far and this long is a testament to their determination, hope and creative tenacity. where others would have lost hope, they didn't. for that they have my respect. Mike and Rose are as downright lovely folks as one could ever hope to meet. and that makes being pleased for them all the more lovely.
i reckon the chances that there's another judge (as in the makes-sure-you-are-presumed-innocent-until-proven-guilty kind, not the can-make-you-an-overnight-star-on-the-X-factor kind) turned film director out there is pretty slim. when it comes to female judges turned film directors... well, i've got to guess Rose is a first.

you can follow their progress on facebook and on twitter and even donate a little to the production of the film here.

well done and love to them both and their crew.


big love also to dear Aaron, Autumn and Tyler on the safe and healthy arrival of Jackson on Sunday. very proud of you. especially Autumn, for delivering an eye-watering 9lbs2 worth of baby.

right, back to my essays...



wanted to highlight a worthy cause for those in the US: there's only a couple of days left, but you can still support HFASS in Denver's Operation Turkey Sandwich here. it'll ease your conscience when you find yourself lying bloated on the sofa on Thursday after eating your own body weight in pumpkin pie.

Monday, November 23, 2009

no news is good news

i've got my head stuck in a paper right now so there's not much to report. my days are currently split between ploughing through texts on the second wave sex war, trying to think of something intelligent to say about same and skyping with the Dr of Darkness. but all is good. actually, it's all great. Christmas holidays start 3 weeks tomorrow. can't wait. but for now i need the days to slow a little.

3 things:

1) apologies to those i owe mails to. the list is steadily growing. i'll try and catch up this week.

2) Thanksgiving greetings to all in the US of Stateside. safe journey to all who are travelling this week and a happy time to all. for what it's worth, i still believe you're an exceptional country.

3) congratulations to Shirley on becoming an auntie today. nice one. :)

oh, one more:
4) i'll be up North on the 5th/6th. hope to catch up with folks then. note to self: remember to collect Christmas decorations from the Fry's. note to Joel: get a tree.


Monday, November 16, 2009


new week. new post.

this past week has had some emotionally rocky moments, mostly thanks to this next month being an intense one with a lot of work needed for school. a LOT. it's been hard not to feel overwhelmed. firefox has been plagued by the rainbow wheel of death and i got frustrated with myself for feeling anything other than complete joy.
the deadline of 14 december is swiftly followed by a totally different kind of month. i'd love to jump ahead and already be enjoying time in the US and Canada with Joel and family. but there's much to do and i have to pull myself back to the present. but holiday plans are already well underway and it's shaping up to be nothing short of magical.

for as much as i have a policy of, "This is our present reality and i want to consider not the glass half full, let alone half empty, but brimming over with goodness even while being 3905 miles from my soul mate and he from his", distance is always an amplifier and one's anxieties know that they have an opportunity to rattle the cage a bit louder. i guess this week they decided to clang on the bars and see what they could get away with...
on those days when life seems more challenging than others and one knows that a strong hug shared would be enough to make troubles melt like lemon drops, one has to contend with not being able to experience that contact. and thus distance (dis)embodied risks becoming its own stressor.
but i'm so thankful for Skype and for the gift of someone so committed to transcending and subverting the virtualness of our current reality with constancy and imagination. of surprising my monsters with the very thing they least expect, leaving them to skulk off befuddled and confused and wondering why their stratagems don't seem to be working.
as Michael Banks said to his sister Jane of Mary Poppins, "Better keep an eye on this one. [s]he's tricky." i am being truly blessed as i am deeply loved.

so. new week. new post. new energy.

here's a mixed bag of stuff to start off the week and then i'm going to knuckle down, knowing that once i start, this isn't going to stop 'til i hand in my work.


this one's for my beloved, aka, "the person least likely to ever join Facebook, MySpace and Twitter" - a little bit of amusement from Step-hen Free. i'm pretty sure Joel hasn't seen this, because if he had he would have almost certainly sent it to me.

glad to learn Step-hen shares my love of the Sharpie. the king of marker pens.


congratulations to The Film Talk for reaching 100 episodes. please consider supporting The Film Talk with a donation of $3 a month. if they can't make it pay for itself, then they close up shop at the end of the year. and that would be a shame. there's a special offer for US based listeners this week to tempt you.


this past weekend Willow made two trips to dublin. one to stay over with me and much great chat ensued. she then headed back to Belfast and made a well-worth-hearing contribution to Sunday Sequence in a discussion about For The Bible Tells Me So which gets a special free showing in Belfast this week. then she and Jonny drove down to meet up Rachel and Karen from Minnesota who were on a brief visit. Rachel and i have crossed paths online and so it was wonderful to join them for lunch and have conversation in person. they are good people.


a quote from Joel i woke to this morning, which means a lot...

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. 
- Vaclav Havel 

okay. let this month of busyness begin. with Hope.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

tattoo advice

okay. i was gonna to reply to Paul's recent query in the comment box, but i realise there's too much to say. so here's my list of tattoo rules.

assume from this, that i'm not interested if you want to have Tweety Pie tattooed on your hip. unless of course you have developed a philosophy of Tweety Pie that guides your life. you have every right to do want you want. after all, it's your body and your money. but i'm not interested. i see tattoos as wearing your heart on your sleeve. and it's an art form.
so, this set of rules are very much my rules and reflect my personality.

1. there is something in you you want to express. it's inside you. something you want to be reminded of each time you see it. i imagine it floating up to the surface and the artist tracing over it.
2. don't get a design to express something for someone else. express you and you only.
3. design it, print it out on a computer or draw it and then pin it somewhere and then wait for at least 3 months, if not 6. if your conviction holds, go for it. but you might want to change it. don't tattoo a temporary idea. because the tattoo is not temporary. this time also allows you to save up to pay for the best work you can afford.
4. research research research. scavenge for ideas everywhere. be creative and imaginative.
5. if you are worried that you might not think, feel, believe the same way in the future, that the tattoo will be out of date or become irrelevant, then think about whether rather than regretting it, this will mark out an important place or time in your life, that it will act as a reminder of who you have been, where you have come from and the journey you are on. will the meaning of the tattoo be one that can adapt over time as you reflect on it? (that's a lot of expectation to put on Tweety Pie. ;) )

1. research, research, research. any decent tattoo studio will have their portfolio and an artist bio on the web. note: not all tattoists are artists. look at each artist's style. are they experts in detail, or colour work, or shading, text, or reworking existing tattoos? tattoo artists specialise in the same way hair stylists do. i, for example, want artists who know how to craft very clean text on my right wrist was done by an artist that used to be sign writer and loves doing text work for that reason.
2. you get what you pay for. you want a tattooist who knows their craft and the industry, is using the latest inks and is passionate about their art form and wants to represent the craft well.
3. even if they do not share your ideology or worldview, a decent tattooist will respect you. but they will also know who they are. some tattoists have a very definite philosophy of the craft and have limits on what they will tattoo. for example, i have a bird. the artist, robin that inked it, would never, like many tattoo artists ink a bird or any moving image that wasn't facing the world with you, moving in your direction. ie. it can't face backwards. *that's* the kind of thing i appreciate. thought. care. an ideology. others will refuse to depict images of evil or satan. because they beleive it harms them as an artist. a good tattoo artist wants to respect their clients. the only way you can get a sense of a tattoo artist's philosophy is to talk to them. get their vibe. ask them about their work. you are paying them, so expect nothing less than the best of them. you know what it's like to have your hair cut but someone that doesn't care or hasn't tried to be an expert, or who's not interested in who you are as a client.

who do you want inking your body? making a permanent (unless you laser it off) statement of their art on your skin? someone who doesn't care who you are? sees you as just another in a line of paying customers? or do they want to connect with you and give you the best of their craft as they can?

right up to the moment you sign the consent form, you can walk away. in fact, at any point you can make them stop. meet the person first. do an advance trip. this is quite normal and any decent studio will let you meet the artist and talk to them. get a sense of them, their rapport, their attitude, let you see that they are professional, clean, that the studio has your health and comfort and safety at the forefront. they should love what they do with a passion and be experts. it is *very* easy to tell when someone hasn't gone to the best.

any decent tatooist will understand physiology, and musculature in particular, and they will be meticulous about placement and will not start inking til the design is in *exactly* the right place. your body is their canvas. and it is not flat. and it moves. a good tattoo will enhance your musculature because it will follow the natural shape and lines of your body.

*really* do your research on this. there are different techniques. follow them to the letter. if your tattoo result is muddy and dull, it's down to 1. the inks used, 2. the application and 3. your aftercare.
having had several done i now know the method i think works best, with least pain. i'll definitely be looking to use the same product again. so when you are choosing a studio, ask them for explicit instructions and get them to explain their preferred method. it's not just about healing, but about yeilding the brightest cleanest results. it makes all the difference.

1. avoid any alcohol and caffeine in your system. both affect the blood and thus affect the result. plus, neither make you feel good during the process.
2. eat, so you are not on an empty stomach and drink lots of water. and take water with you or some should be provided. you might want to have a snack - a oatmeal bar or some nuts or something of that sort - in your bag. but i'd avoid high sugars. go for slow release energy foods. if you are feeling a little drained after as they high wears off that'll be good for you.

a good studio will take care of you and will want you to feel at ease, comfortable, minimise pain and the tatooist will talk to you constantly and ask you for feedback. if you are getting a large piece done, they will pace it for you and do it in stages. i find it's surprisingly relaxing. it gives you an endorphin rush and after only a few minutes you might even feel a little sleepy.

a big job will leave you, however, feeling drained. there is a limit on how long your body can keep producing adrenalin. common wisdom seems to be, 4 hours max before you'll crash and then the pain then increases exponentially. most tattooists have a time limit. plus it's tiring for them. so, the bigger the job, the more your health and comfort is a factor. a good tatooist will pause, will allow you moments to breathe and relax your body, move your limbs a bit so you don't cramp and will keep on checking you feel okay.
having tatoos of their own, they will also help you understand why it feels the way it does, and will be responsive and sensitive to your own reactions. even on a short, say 20 minute, tattoo and especially on a first tattoo, any good artist will be ultra careful to make sure you are guided through the experience so you don't feel nervous.
it is not half as painful as you think it will be. pain would never be a reason for me not to get a tattoo. some parts of the body are more painful than others. even on the least painful places, it is a physical experience and a strange one at that.  no one can tell you how it will feel but it's a unique sensation. i find it best not to look at the needle while it's working.

make sure you allow yourself rest afterward, and avoid being bumped into. that really is painful. afterward i think it's like having had an injection for a tropical disease. the pain is deeper afterwards. a kind of heavy ache. but it is very temporary. avoid sleeping on it and in the morning it should feel much better. it'll just be tender rather than actually sore. the tattoo itself will sting a little like a fresh graze. so be very gentle when you come to washing it. have scrupulously clean hands when you clean and moisturise it.

so, that's my advice.
take time to do your research. arm yourself with information and find someone you think you can trust. taking time to research the studio you want to use gives you the time to be sure you know what you want done. you'll be happier with the result if you do.

keep it moisturised. and always wear *very* high factor sun screen over it or keep it covered. this is especially vital when it is new. depending on time of year and how tanned you are will also affect how bright it looks.

oh, one last thing: go for bigger than you initially design. most people go smaller than they should. the results are nearly always better if you size them up. the studio can scale it up on the transfer. 

remember, it's your tattoo. don't give a damn what anyone thinks. just make sure you love it.
and enjoy it. :)

and yes, it really is addictive. 


Monday, November 02, 2009

birthday redux

i need to be getting back into the books. the next six weeks are going to be very busy with writing essays. a good result on a mid-term paper has me feeling encouraged but there's now 3 assignments due by mid-December. 

but before that, i'm rewinding time back a couple of weeks...
through the wonder that is Skype, after breakfast with Ewan and the crew in Toronto, Joel threw me a birthday party in Nashville. there was cake and flowers cut fresh from the garden, and a round of Go Fish with the family. my parentals dashed to the supermarket and supplied me with cake to eat here. highlight was then, by some kind of magic :), being able to simultaneously blow out candles on both sides of the atlantic. 

Joel took some photos, posted here with gratitude for the care and love in it...


Sunday, November 01, 2009

spooktacularly brief...

it was, and this will be. i am beyond tired. but very happy. best Hallowe'en e.v.e.r., in the shape of 48 hours with Joel. grateful to dear friends who sent us lovely messages of well wishing over the duration. yes, we had a fabulous time and yes, we savoured every precious in-person minute of it.

roll on Christmas break.