Saturday, May 25, 2013
When our neighbor Chris came over on Monday, he left me with a photography book that includes many self-portraits by famous photographers. I finally got a chance to look through the book yesterday, and it inspired me to try some selfies of my own.
So here I am, in portraits necessarily taken in the bathroom, because that's the location of the only decent-sized square mirror in the house.
We have a very uninteresting medicine cabinet -- mostly empty except for Dave's collection of expired nasal sprays and ear drops. (We really do need to throw those out.) I am fortunate enough, for now anyway, to take no pharmaceuticals, except the odd aspirin or Tums. I do have quite a stash of Tums, as you can see.
Then I got to thinking about that little round make-up mirror attached to the big one, and trying to use that in a self-portrait. I know, I look a little wild-eyed and Charles Manson-ish, but I promise I am not dangerous.
It was incredibly challenging to frame the image and focus the camera, while looking through the viewfinder, and then move myself to what I thought was the best position to be reflected back -- without moving the camera. Sheesh.
I probably won't wind up in a book of self-portraits anytime soon. But it was fun to make the attempt.
Friday, May 24, 2013
It's 43ºF out there this morning -- and it "feels like" 37ºF, whatever that means, according to the people at weather.com. I got my winter jacket back out of the closet. Time to face facts. *sigh*
Despite the temperatures, the campanulas believe it to be spring, as you can see above. They're blooming wildly now. Except ours, which for some reason is a bit moribund. I wonder if bringing it indoors during the winter somehow dimmed its enthusiasm. Maybe it needs the wintry shock to set buds. (In which case it may be blooming just fine a few weeks from now, since it's out on the balcony enjoying our Arctic blast.)
The job interview went well yesterday, from what I can tell, and I've been asked to come back again early next week. So that's a good sign!
I walked Olga over to Latimer Road yesterday, where much to my surprise Mr. Styles' artwork is still unmolested. I guess others like it as much as I do.
I've also been plowing my way through several accumulated back issues of The New Yorker. More dreadful news from Syria -- but written in riveting style -- and a quirky article about "treadmill desks," where office workers can slowly walk while typing or on the phone in order to maintain physical fitness. I felt guilty for sitting on the couch while reading the article! I kind of like the idea of a treadmill desk, I must admit, though I do think at some point in life we all ought to be allowed to sit down.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
This shop on Queensway cracks me up. It doesn't have much character, but look at that sign! Are the Walt Disney people aware of this place?
When I walked Olga this morning it was 45º F. I hope we're not destined to have another summer-that-wasn't. Last year we had a few nice days at the beginning of spring and then got socked with three or four months of cold and rain. Please, Lord -- I know I don't pray to you often -- but please deliver us from that.
Yesterday I took the tube down to South Bank to take some people photos. I got some OK shots wandering around Westminster Bridge and the London Eye, but nothing that really blew me away. Maybe I'll share a few of them sometime soon. On the way to the tube, this guy was walking in front of me in Notting Hill...
...with a full litre of Skol super-strong lager (alcohol 9 percent!) in his back pockets. Now that is preparation. He was drinking a third can. It was approximately 1 p.m.
Today I have an interview for that full-time position at school I mentioned several weeks ago. Keep your fingers crossed!
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Flickr, the photo-sharing web site where I store and display all my photography, made some drastic changes yesterday and users are up in arms. The site has been completely redesigned, and I have yet to see any favorable comments. I suppose a certain amount of backlash is to be expected when any web site makes changes, but this seems especially fierce.
I'm trying to adapt, but the new site seems to de-emphasize community activities like commenting on photos, sharing them in groups and tracking view counts, in favor of bigger photo displays. The site also has less negative space, which I don't like. I think every photo needs air around it to be appreciated. And it has endlessly scrolling pages similar to Tumblr, which deprives users of a handy navigation tool -- paging through others' photos. Now you have to scroll, scroll, scroll to get to older content.
So, yeah, not thrilled about that.
But I suppose it's a tiny, minor problem compared to what people face in Moore, Oklahoma or in Syria. I've been reading an especially chilling New Yorker piece about Syria, where people fish dead bodies out of the local river by the dozens and snipers pick off civilians trying to get to work or school. Seriously, we all ought to be thankful we wake up in a secure place every morning. (And who's to say that will always be the case?)
In any natural disaster, photos and stories that involve pets seem to resonate with many people, and that's been true in Oklahoma too. That video of a woman finding her dog in the wreckage during a TV interview went viral yesterday, and the New York Times had a heartbreaking photo of a woman comforting an injured dog. I suppose we feel like people can take care of themselves, but pets really need us.
On a happier note, speaking of pets, I got some requests for a photo of Olga with her Jolly Egg. Here she is, trying her best to fit it into her mouth. Fierce!
(Top Photo: Near the Royal Oak tube stop in Westbourne Park.)
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
More East London street art today -- this time by a guy who calls himself Paul Insect.
Interesting red, white and blue color scheme, which of course could be a reference to either Britain or America. (Or both! Or neither!) Is he suggesting something about Big Brother always watching us?
GeoGuessr yesterday, I came across this humorous bit of street art from Google Street View in a small town in central Brazil. How cool is it that I can sit in London and walk virtually down a street in Brazil, enjoying the sights? It blows my mind.
Our neighbor Chris came over for tea yesterday. As is always the case with Chris, we wound up talking about World War II. But his real reason for stopping by was to lend me a book on photography (he's also a photography enthusiast). It looks pretty interesting. We compared notes on our recent picture-taking adventures.
Olga got a new dog toy in the mail! You may remember that back in December, I posted a photo of my dad's dog, Maybelline, enthusiastically playing with a toy plastic egg. I ordered a similar "Jolly Egg" for Olga, and we tried it out yesterday. She didn't know what to make of it at first; she crouched down and barked at it. (Olga never barks.) But eventually she got the hang of it and had fun knocking it around the courtyard. She's already worn deep grooves in it with her teeth -- and this toy is supposed to be pretty durable. We'll see!
Monday, May 20, 2013
I've been calling this sculpture the "Satanic Goat" ever since I took this photo a couple of weeks ago -- even though it's a ram, not merely a goat, and the red eyes are clearly a vandal's afterthought. Turns out the sculpture by Paula Haughny is called "Ram and Magpie," from 1996. According to the web site Exploring East London:
This was one of the works which was commissioned under the Bethnal Green City Challenge. The sculpture, at Allen Gardens Playground, Buxton Street, was inspired by a pub by this name which had stood on this site in the early twentieth century. The block of stone was installed on the site and the sculptress carved it where it now stands. Buxton Street is named after Thomas Buxton (1786-1845), of the brewers Truman, Hanbury and Buxton, who became an MP who campaigned for Prison Reform and abolition of the slave trade.
Pretty interesting, right?
More interesting than what's going on around here at the moment, anyway. I am still tired and it doesn't help that the dog woke me up at 5 a.m. squirming to go outside.
Yesterday Dave and I spent the afternoon watching "Cloud Atlas," which I really liked. I'm surprised it didn't get more traction in theaters. It was much easier to follow than I feared it would be, given the complexity of the storyline, and visually it's a beautiful movie.
If you're at all interested in geography, landscapes and cultures, try this online game called GeoGuessr. I am not a video game person at all, but a blog pal turned me on to this game, and it's actually really fun. You're given a random Google Street View image from somewhere in the world and you have to guess the location. There are five rounds in each game, with points awarded depending on how close you get. I can almost always get the continent right, at the very least, and often I can get within a few hundred kilometers. Once I was within a single kilometer -- when GeoGuessr showed me the start of the Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon, Fla. Now that's a spot I know by heart!
Sunday, May 19, 2013
This morning I feel like I need to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks. (Or maybe something softer. Q-tips?)
I am exhausted.
The school where Dave and I work had a fundraising auction a couple of months ago. You may remember that Dave, while a teacher during the day, is also a trained chef, and he offered a catered dinner party as an auction prize. Yesterday he, his coworker Gordon and I spent the day working in the shiny white kitchen of an upscale Marylebone apartment to prepare a seven-course meal for six people.
First, the apartment: It was huge by my standards -- two living rooms, a large central foyer where at one point the children in the family were kicking a ball around, and bedrooms and bathrooms off to the side. (I didn't see those.) I felt like I could wave to Madonna across the courtyard -- she owns a house in Marylebone. It's that kind of a 'hood.
Dave prepared an amuse bouche of breakfast radish with anchovy compound butter, followed by vichyssoise, eggs en cocotte, sauteed scallops with pureed parsnips and an orange reduction sauce, leg of spring lamb with potatoes and asparagus, a small salad, a cheese course, and lavender-vanilla creme brulee.
Gordon and I helped prepare the food as sous chefs, though to be honest I mostly washed dishes. That's probably my real talent in the kitchen! I've always enjoyed dishwashing at home, but last night I got a glimpse of how frustrating it would be to be a commercial dishwasher. The damn things just kept coming. I'd wash something and before I knew it, it would be back in front of me again, having been used by Dave or Gordon for some other kitchen task.
In the middle of all this, I had to run back home yesterday evening and walk the dog -- who of course had eaten lots of sticks on her recent outings to Hyde Park and the Grand Union Canal, and was thus having more digestive issues.
Never a dull moment, I'm telling you. But the dinner party seemed to turn out great, despite an oven with complicated knobs that we didn't quite know how to work, a torch for the creme brulee that ran out of fuel at the critical moment, and a strange cooktop that Dave described as "a piece of sh*t." (Surprising in that house, but I take his word for it.) The diners seemed thrilled, and that's what matters.
(Photo: A postman and a flowering bush -- big enough to require a wide-angle setting on the camera -- in Notting Hill.)