Thursday, November 27, 2014

Shoddy costumes: Film Fatale, Hallowe'en, and who the hell is Bucky?

Spoilers further down for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But they're kind of obvious and most people knew it going into the cinema, I think. Phone quality photos, too.




I went to see Psycho in The Sugar Club for October's Film Fatale. I'm bad at putting together era-specific costumes, but I was happy with the dress and make-up for this.

Psycho gets better on rewatching, too. "My mother, she - oh, what is the phrase? - she's not quite herself today."




I spent Hallowe'en night running a pumpkin carving workshop at work. The general public are surprisingly good with knives! I was happy with my fake bruises, even if a lot of people didn't notice them. (I had fingerprints around my wrists - given that people didn't notice the one around my neck, they were probably an unappreciated effort.)







I like to dress up as something scary rather than specific characters for Hallowe'en, but Bucky Barnes's loss of agency and autonomy as the Winter Soldier strikes a nerve for me. No-one seemed to have seen Cap 2 whenever costume plans came up, but the gentleman in the off-license realised who I was once I asked if he had seen Captain America 2, as did a few other people at the party I went to. Only one person figured out who my costume was unprompted, but couldn't tell who I was under it - to the point of not being able to discern gender - so I think that's a reasonable success.

I think my costume was the right amount of effort + mediocrity. I'm also weirdly prone to letting the length of my hair determine my costume - see Harry Potter last year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What I'm consuming these days

I started an MSc in October. The hours are long, but at least the work is hard. I'm not having as much time to make or read or watch as I'd like, but there've been a few books/films/shows that have stuck out, and are a good way of figuring out what I want to make.

1. I started Moby Dick in August and I'm only half-way through. I'm a speedy enough reader, but as I said, I have a shortage of time and nothing goddamn happens. There's stuff to like in it - the description of Queequeg comes from a fond if intensely racist place - but Ishmael keeps stopping to describe how much he likes the sea for an entire chapter, or list everything he knows about whales, and I don't care. Ahab is also contemptible. I think you're meant to view him as pathetic and twisted, consumed by revenge, and yet admirable in his pursuit of his dream, but I can't get past "pathetic". Also, hell of a victim complex, wanting to kill something for daring to hurt him in self-defense. Also: "Gifted with the high perception, I lack the low enjoying power." I went out with that person, and it was awful. (They loved Moby Dick. I got to that line and it became apparent why.) It reminds me a little of Philip Roth for its time - by a dude with a boring notion of integrity and masculinity, for dudes with a boring notion of integrity and masculinity. I'll finish it, but I don't expect to start enjoying it, which is a pity.

2. Lights Out. I watched this yesterday, and I'm enamoured. I love short horror. It doesn't bother with world-building or explanations, which can undo a good monster. It captures a very childish fear, and has the protagonist trying to behave maturely while clearly fighting those childish self-preservation instincts. This pushes a lot of the right buttons for me. When I switched off the light before I went to bed, I felt a flash of anticipatory terror, expecting cruel claws around my spine and Achilles' tendon. I think that's a good sign in two and a half minutes.


The ending undoes it a little, but that's the nature of short horror special effects.

3. I saw Welcome To Night Vale's live show The Librarian in The Olympia in October. The Sugar Club sold out in no time, apparently, but I think a theatre was the right venue for it. I have the same problem with Night Vale I have with anything once I catch up on marathoning it. I get immersed in a world, and once I get out I can't get into it the same way. When I started listening it made me laugh until my face hurt, and now I think it's still clever, but I'm a little inured. I also have mixed feelings on the fandom - I think it's quite wonderful how people have created canon imagery to go along with it, but I also find the fandom pretty annoying, and I'm not sure how I slot in with that, as a fan who's not in the fandom.

That said - oh wow does it work live. As a podcast, it's all about the writing. Weird things happen, and some of those weird things are very intelligent, but I love the wordplay, the imagery, the sense that they take real joy in it. There are some absolute gorgeous turns of phrases in there. It's carried by Cecil Baldwin's voice - Jesus, that voice - and it's rich and dark and knowing and innocent and edged with savagery, and just right. I wasn't sure how that would translate to the stage. The show was mostly Cecil in the middle of the stage with a script in his hand, and it was absolutely mesmerising. The podcast can't convey his presence, his magnetism. I'm interested in the way stories are told, and he told a story with his whole body. He could make your heart race and create the most wonderful terrible silence. I lack charisma or story-telling flair, so both are something I find compelling. I went in thinking he was a man with a wonderful voice, I left thinking him so attractive it makes me angry. I'm a sucker for a story-teller.


I've given a few public talks in the last year - I spoke at Electric Picnic, so I think I get to say now that I've performed at Electric Picnic - almost all pop-science. There's been a lot of figuring out what works on me and what doesn't. I can't do jokes with a build-up - I get a better laugh with off the cuff-remarks. I can play to my advantage the fact that I'm quite an awkward presence. People don't expect me to be funny, they expect me to plod through something I've clearly learned by heart, so a straight-faced one-liner, in the same tone (slightly over-eager, slightly apologetic for taking up the audience's time) works well against that. I shift around a lot, which I can exaggerate and have read as energy or enthusiasm, and my body language is quite deferent, which, again, complements comedy to which I can play oblivious. I can't stand on a stage and spell-bind people - I don't have the voice or presence - but I can wrong-foot a room full of people and make them laugh when I want them to, and that's not something I expected to be able to do.

4. I'm late to the game, but I'm digging Lana del Rey. Her voice drips with sorrow, and I really like love songs that are broken without romanticisation.

I have so many books to read and there are so many good films in the cinema! One day, I will create for myself a world where I have free time, and it will be awful.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Up all night to get Loki

One of my jobs had a KAL of Vera Valimaki's Colour Affection. I had just seen Thor 2, and god damn I love a good villain*, and what better way to show that than through a scarf-based reference that only I will understand? Loki and I apparently favour similar colour schemes, too, so that was also a plus.




The green is Malabrigo Arroyo in Vaa, the grey is Louisa Harding Orielle, the black is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. I knit it on 4mm needles, finished it, and realised it was impractically gigantic (and that was the small size). I found the masochism to rip it out, halved the number of all the section repeats, and was a lot happier with the end result (though i could have saved quite a lot on yarn if I'd known I was going to do that.)




I worked on this while I went to visit my best friend in New York in January. (I thought I would have something to knit on the plane, but then was too much of a chicken to risk taking the knitting needles on board and having them taken away.) One evening we were hanging out with her friends in the common room, me knitting and her solving a Rubix cube as we sat on the couch at the end of the room. One of her friends' friends was a film student, and commented on the fact that both of being casually engaged in activities as we talked made it look like we were in a film - characters flatly delivering dialogue is dull, so you want to have them doing something else, as people often are. I hadn't consciously noticed that before on-sceen, and now I can't not.

What I can also take from that is that my natural behaviour comes off as artifice contrived  to appear natural.




* I actually preferred the treatment of Loki in Thor and Avengers to Thor 2. A lot of the character's strength came from the fact that the role was written a little flat, and given a great deal of depth by Tom Hiddleston. It seemed like the writers of Thor 2 picked up on what fans liked about the nuances of his performance, and then wrote it all in explicitly. I found it a bit heavy-handed. Still a fun silly film, though.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Back from the dead

I forgot to post. And then I forgot to post some more. And then I felt guilty, and put this blog to the back of my mind.

Every time I've remembered that this blog exists, I've considered putting the patterns up as Ravelry downloads and deleting the whole thing. Most of the tiny number of people who follow it also know me in real life, and since I post pictures of everything I make on Facebook anyway (so people can tell me how lovely they are and stroke my ego), it wouldn't be any loss. What's held me back is the one or two people who don't know me, and how that affects me writing and posting. I sort of love reading blogs belonging to people I don't know, even - sometimes especially - if I don't particularly like them. It's fascinating to see what people are willing to share, what persona they try to create for strangers. Lifestyle blogging and image creation are pretty compelling. There are layers of narcissism to the fact that I like to skim over this and see how I try to come across to strangers. What interests us is finding out what we are like, mar a deirtear.

I've made some quite fun things in the last year, maybe I'll give them their own posts. Other ways I have been filling my time include having three jobs, joining a SCUBA-diving club, applying for postgraduate positions, taking up climbing, working through my to read pile, travelling, marathoning a lot of TV shows, and sitting quietly.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hallowe'en costume and crafts

I'm a bit behind the times, but here's what I did and made for Hallowe'en.


Shoddy nail art! I'm pretty happy with how the right hand turned out, given that I'm right-handed and used the easy ones on my left hand.


The first pumpkin I have carved in years! I carved it the Friday before Hallowe'en, then forgot about it until Hallowe'en night, by which time it had gone too soft to lift the lid off and light a candle inside for full effect. Woops.



Cupcakes! The recipe is from the Moosewood recipe book, with added almond and raspberries, the icing is vanilla buttercream, and I bought the toppers in Fallon and Byrne. This was my first time using food colouring in a good many years, and I added to much to the red, but this had the result of making it look like viscera while not tasting or feeling any different. Accidental success!





I dressed up as Harry Potter! I couldn't find a red and yellow tie, so I got a red one and wound a yellow ribbon around it. I got green contacts, which had a fairly narrow gap for the iris, obscuring my vision, and borrowed a pair of my mother's old glasses, which blurred my vision even without the contacts, so really I think the fact that I didn't drop or break anything is a success story.

I used rigid collodion for the scars, after becoming smitten with this tutorial. Because I did it in a rush, and the scars I was applying were rather fine, it didn't turn out quite as well, but I was happy enough. I used lip-liner to draw the scar on the back of my hand, and concealer for the lightning bolt. Apart from the shine, which I couldn't fully take away with powder foundation, they looked quite good.

I should probably end this with "and on to Christmas knitting!" but I have most of my Christmas knitting done, actually. Not to brag or anything. Just saying.