Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas Everyone!!

Here's hoping you all have a fantastic Christmas, and don't overdo it with the mince pies!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Various 'empty street' images that someone might find useful...

I am very happy to finally be back online at home!! :)
Here are a few of my photos that I took last year, some of them might be useful for reference in your projects!The glories of Strood, eh ?

The Stepford Wives...

I'm sure this film affects you differently, depending on your sex and age !

I am in the unenviable position of (vaguely) being able to remember the 70s, and I certainly think that the way that the women were depicted is uncomfortably close to the truth - I remember getting girls magazines at the time and doing the quizzes which told you what your 'style' was and where you were heading in life... so, for example, if you answered mostly 'a', you might be seen as a sporty girl destined for the outdoor life, and might look like this...

On the other hand, if you answered mostly 'b', you might be destined for a life in an office, and look like this...

And of course, if you answered mostly 'c', you were the caring, nurturing type that had a life of servitude to look forward to... You would probably aspire to look like this!

The fourth option,'d' was the one I always tried to get - even if it meant fiddling the answers - the dreamy, romantic, artistic type! And this of course, is how I would have looked if all had gone to plan...

Oh well, you know what they say about the best laid plans...

Anyway, enough of my personal dreams- basically, what I wanted to say was that if you put the film into the context of the time it was made, the outfits the women wore were not particularly strange or outlandish - you had the career photographer in the trouser suit, the outgoing Bobbie in the denim hotpants, and the 'Wives' in their uniform of floral pinafore dresses. Likewise, during my youth the impression was definitely still being given to young girls via magazines, that it was a good thing to have a man to take care of. I wonder how the young women today would feel about that?

I have read a couple of reviews that state that Ira Levin, the writer of the original book, must not like women very much - I disagree, as I feel that overall it is the women that are portrayed as the stronger, more interesting characters, and the men as weak-willed and somewhat pathetic bullies. Not happy with living in a lovely picture-perfect town, having good jobs and beautiful wives, they strive to 'improve' their marriages, by taking away any individuality from the women, replacing them instead with sex-slave domestic robots that won't question their authority, and will devote themselves purely to their husbands pleasure. (How many of you men have said at that point " what's so wrong with that then?" ! )
Anyway, I'm off home now to cook the dinner and do a bit of cleaning....

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


I'm still without Internet at home - that's been nearly a week now! I don't like it!!

Anyway, I would have liked to review this film straight after watching it, as it was certainly quite disturbing. I felt the gradual decline of Carol into madness was brilliantly depicted through the use of the changing shape of the rooms, and the weird camera angles - sometimes you felt like you were spying in on her, especially when the camera was down really low on the floor. At times the house seemed to take on a life of its own, with mouth-like gaping cracks appearing as if getting ready to bite her, and the walls becoming soft and flesh-like, sprouting grasping hands.

The use of the rotting rabbit and the sprouting potatoes were a clever way of both showing the passing of time, and introducing a really disgusting atmosphere to the can just imagine the smell coming off that rotting, maggoty flesh.

Although obviously sexually repressed already, her mental state is not helped by the constant chattering of her work colleagues, referring to men as being disgusting and dirty. This just helps cement the idea in her head that men are to be feared and avoided at all costs. However, as the film goes on, she seems to become more and more masochistic, pushing herself through the groping hands, and smearing on lipstick and waiting for the 'rapist' of her fantasies to appear at night.

I've noticed that some people have described Carol as being a bit dim-witted - I think that she defiantly was mentally 'fragile' from an early age, judging by the look in her eyes in the family photograph, and if she existed these days, she would no doubt have a vast array of social workers on her case. You are left question how and why she became like this - was she abused as a child perhaps, or is it a mental condition she has always lived with?
I would recommend watching another Polanski film ' Rosemary's Baby' - this film is I think even creepier, and Mia Farrow (Rosemary) plays the part of the tormented mother-to-be brilliantly !

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Unheimlichkeit at Dawn!

Yesterday saw the start of the next project...lots of clean slates, and students eager to get going! :)

As an introduction, we watched the brilliant original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, as good a way as any to introduce the idea of 'the uncanny' or Unheimlichkeit. This word is one I was already familiar with, having grown up with German as a second language, and in my mind it translates best as 'creepy' in the phrase,'es ist Mir unheimlich', you could read, 'it gives me the creeps'.
It's a different idea or feeling to fear or terror, and one which I think is all the more difficult to handle, as often it involves tricks of the mind, meaning that anyone can be overcome with a sense of Unheimlichkeit at any time! Who can honestly say that they have not been spooked by 'something' lurking in the shadows in the safety of their own home, or drawn the curtains because someone (or something!) might be out there watching in at you...? At this stage it is not terror, but how quickly that can escalate and become more than an uncomfortable feeling, leaving you with your heart pounding and beads of sweat on your forehead...
Much of the uncanniness we experience comes from a fear of losing control of something, so for example in Body Snatchers, the characters fight to maintain not only their bodies, but their individuality - what it is that makes them human at the end of the day.

It is a feeling that lurks just beneath the surface of everyday life, threatening to burst through and surround us all with paranoia. We embrace it where we can, as if by making it public, we can keep worse at bay. Take, for example, Big Brother... most of us, I'm sure, subconsciously fear being watched, spied on or stalked, and yet many millions go out of their way every day to sit down and do just that - the difference here being that the 'subjects' have opened themselves up to the voyeurism. So is it creepy to be a 'peeping-tom' or are we giving out the message that actually, there is a thrill to be had on both sides of the curtain...? (At this point, I will confess to never having seen Big Brother ! :) If you have not done so already, I would encourage you to read Raymond Carvers short story, ' The Idea' which deals with this will unwittingly become part of the story, as you watch the neighbours, watching the neighbour, who is also watching...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

A Chance to Network with Medway Creatives!

In case anyone finishes their project early this evening (!) and fancies a coffee and a chance to meet local artists and craftspeople, the Deaf Cat coffee shop and gallery on Rochester High Street is holding an event, 'The Crafty Deaf Cat'....

Coffee, cake and lots of lovely original bits and pieces for sale, too ...ideal for Christmas!

Strood end of the High Street, just before the bridge

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

...and some more!

Please pass them on to anyone that might be able to use them!

Clouds, castles, mist etc!

Hi Folks! Here are a few pictures that I have taken at various times and locations, that might be useful reference points for some of you...

Couple more to come....

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The al

I was going to write about The Cook et al last night, but I thought I would wait until a few reviews were in, so I could see what other people had thought about it.

I had seen the film before at the cinema when it was originally released, and I have to say that at the time it was even more shocking than it appears today - in fact, several people in the audience got up and left. In those days, there was a lot less sex and violence around on the TV, and so I think that people were in general a lot more sensitive to those sort of things being portrayed on screen. These days, we're a hard, de-sensitized bunch...

Still, today this remains an extremely uncomfortable film to watch. The brutality and crassness exhibited by Albert ( Michael Gambon) towards not only his wife, but all those around him, leaves him with no redeeming features at all. The issues that are addressed make for painful viewing - issues such as rape, child abuse, domestic violence, are suggested with gut-wrenching realism.

I'm not going to spend too long talking about colour etc, as although this was obviously an influential aspect of the film, for me the character portrayal was paramount....
The colours used throughout reflected the atmospheres being portrayed at the time, with the light influencing the overall effects...for example, the red that was used in the dining area portrayed opulance and lushness, but at one point the lighting reflecting on Albert's face caused him to have a demonic appearance, mirroring his anger. The use of bowls overflowing with fruit and game, candles in highly ornate candlesticks, lush draperies etc gave an impression of looking at a vast medieval still-life painting.

Having read some of the other reviews so far, there seem to be differing attitudes to the sex scenes in the film, and the way they were portrayed. For me, I found these scenes to be beautiful, the only small moments of peace and happiness in Georgina's otherwise miserable life. I found this reflected in the decor of the bathroom... under normal circumstances, a couple having sex in the cubicle of a ladies toilet would appear seedy - here however, the pure white decoration and the lack of ornamentation in the bathroom gives the whole scene an 'innocent' feeling.

The contrast between the love-making of Georgina and Michael, and the groping violence of Albert against his wife could not have been more different...
I did not see it as necessarily a betrayal of the husband by the wife, but more as an affirmation of the woman as an individual. Albert treated Georgina like a possession to be shown off and mistreated when it suited him, whereas with Michael she found real tenderness, and a chance(albeit a short one) to rediscover herself.

Now, this is going to sound like I am a cruel, heartless woman, but I feel that although Albert gets his comeuppance at the end, I would have liked to see him suffering a whole lot more...his end came much too quickly, after all the suffering he had caused...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Hi Guys!
Phil has asked me to let you know that the Photoshop lecture at one o'clock today has been cancelled due to the man being ill - the film is still going ahead at two though!

Please can you let everyone else know...I don't have that many people following my Blog!

Cannibalism on a Tuesday...

...I'm looking forward to seeing what people think about today's film!

Monday, 16 November 2009

More tissues, please!

Well, what can I say - that film is a classic! I have seen it so many times, and it still does not fail to move me . (Today, I came out a nervous wreck, from having held back the floods of tears!)

Edward Scissorhands restores my faith in the ability of a fairystory to address everyday issues of morality, in a manner that leaves you thinking... was it right for Peg to bring Edward down from his castle, thereby tainting his innocence with the banalities of small-town life? Is it right for the townspeople to exploit his abilities, in effect making him a freakshow exhibit? On this note, I find the TV interview particularly unsettling, Edward's quiet dignity when being interviewed, contrasting so strongly with the boorish behaviour of the 'boyfriend' Jim.
Although the film is nearly 20 years old, the comments on celebrity status could not be more relevant today - how easy it is to be swept along and made into some sort of cult figure or icon, only to have the tide turn on you by some spiteful word or action...

Pure brilliance!!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Community Service Announcements!

On a lighter note to my last post, I thought I would recommend a couple of local places for you poor, cash-strapped students to spend your loans... both a bit different, in their own ways!

Firstly, for anyone that enjoys live jazz, there is The Eagle Tavern on Rochester High Street. This pub is usually pretty empty if you walk past during the day, but on a Sunday lunchtime, it hosts a different jazz band every week. It gets nice and busy, with regulars and tourists, old and young alike, and it has a really good atmosphere. In the summer there is a sunny garden at the back...
It is free to get in, but there is a raffle to support the band - I have won several times!! And they have free roast potatoes on the bar! The doors open at 12, the band usually starts about 1pm and finish about 3.30.
During the week, they have other live music in the evening...

The other place is in Strood, just over the bridge right by the river... spookily enough, it is called the Riverside Tavern!

It prides itself on being Medway's number one gay-friendly pub, and it does some absolutely brilliant meal deals! The best one is on Thursdays, where you can have any of the huge burgers, with fries and the best homemade coleslaw PLUS a pint or bottle beer all for only £5 ! (Some of the burgers alone would normally be over £8!) On Monday and Friday, it is Steak night - a rib-eye steak, fries and salad for a fiver, and Tuesday is 2 x Scampi and fries for a fiver.
Apart from the excellent food, they have club night on a Wednesday and quizzes etc throughout the week, and lots of other theme nights throughout the year. And again, a really nice garden area right on the riverside...not much good in this weather, admittedly!

Obviously, being gay-friendly means that you get a wide mixture of people in here, but it is also family friendly, and I have been in loads of times with my elderly parents. Ladies, just be aware that some of the chaps will have better make-up and nicer stockinged legs than you! :)

I am off there myself for my dinner tonight - woohoo! No cooking !!

Dazed and Confused of Strood

Was it only me, or was yesterdays 'lecture' a little on the weird side...?

I think Jude's idea was to get us to question our perception of Eastern culture, based on the 1983 pseudo-documentary film Sans Soleil. I had never actually heard of this film, however last night made a point of having a look at the background, and I must say, I think that if we had been a bit better prepared for it, it might have been easier to watch. Just being thrown into it as we were, left me actually feeling physically sick and with a massive headache by the end - it was like a sensory overload... and I have since discovered that we only saw a fraction of it, as it is in fact well over an hour long!

I would recommend having a look at a review or two, as I feel that there is probably going to be a point in one or two of your (student) lives where you will suddenly remember this film and be able to use it for ...something!
Here are a couple to get you started...

Still not sure about the monkey-porn though...

Monday, 9 November 2009


I really enjoyed watching Alien again today - it has been YEARS since I last watched it (in fact, the last time I watched it, most of you students probably weren't even born!!)

Today, I was looking at it with fresh eyes though , as obviously I knew the story and roughly when to expect the shocks. This meant I could concentrate much more on the design of the film, the sets, the atmosphere etc... and what a difference it made to focus on that. You don't notice half of what is going on in the background, when you are just waiting for something to jump out!

The film was certainly pretty ground-breaking at the time; its portayal of space travel was as dirty, manual labour, rather than the somewhat glamorous futuristic image shown us in shows and movies such as Star Trek.

Nice clean uniforms and not a drop of slime in sight!

This whole dark atmosphere was further enhanced by the lack of a constant soundtrack - there were sections of the film where the only background sounds were the workings of the space ship. I found this to be just as effective, if not more, at building up a sense of suspense - you don't always need that dum dum, dum dum, dum dum....jaws-type stuff to tell you that something bad is about to happen.

I am now really looking forward to Edward Scissorhands - a film with real pathos about it. Must remember the tissues on that day....

A meeting of cultures...

Another photo that I took yesterday - the simplicity of the Buddhist monk's lifestyle contrasting nicely with the heavy machinery of the police bike in the front, and the futuristic building in the background.

A day out in London...

Had a great day out in the Big Smoke are a couple of pictures I took that might be useful to anyone looking at gothic style architecture.

I would like to thank Phil, for spoiling what could have been a nice few minutes listening to opera in Covent Garden - all I could think of was nuns burning stew ! :)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

After the seminar...

Walking home tonight , I got to thinking about what Alex had said during the seminar about how a foreign language can appear like a beautiful piece of music...because one cannot understand the individual words, the sound we hear becomes an entity in its own right. Once one starts to understand individual words, that specialness is lost.
Likewise, a piece of music sounds beautiful to us when we listen to it as a whole thing - individually, separated from each other, the notes and sounds mean nothing...

In other words, "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" - Gestalt theory!

Lesbian Undertones....

Yes, Phil, I agree, the lesbian undertones give an extra edgy feel to the film. Not only do you feel that the house is stalking poor Eleanor, but also that the mind-reading Theo is after her too. And her ability to 'read' Eleanors home situation seemed to give her the upper hand- note her frequent references to being like sisters with Eleanor, sisterly love being in short supply in the Lance household...

PS... The Lesbian Undertones - what a great name for a female punk band!!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Haunting...

I really enjoyed today's film - very spooky, in a subtle and thought-provoking way. What I found particularly effective was the fact that all the creepy things that were happening were not far-fetched or over the top - in fact, I bet most of us have experienced them at some point or another! Who hasn't noticed a shape on the wall that looks like a face, and once you've seen it you can't stop looking at it? Or felt the eyes of a statue or painting following you around? Or had their heart beat so fast and loud that it sounds like someone is knocking.... Luckily for us, we don't usually get to experience all these things at the same time, unlike the poor characters in todays film!
There were a couple of techniques that I noticed that made the atmosphere all the more tense for me - firstly the use of high and low camera angles. This gave the impression that you were spying on the character, perhaps peering at them from a hidden peep-hole up high or from under a piece of furniture. This is unsettling for the viewer, as it puts you in the position of the ghost or spirit, watching and waiting for the moment to pounce. The other technique was the use of mirrors throughout. Mirrors placed directly behind the characters reflected the backs of the characters, and had the effect of stretching out the usable set space - the action did not only have to happen in the room itself, but could also potentially take place behind the viewer facing the mirror, in the reflection itself, so to speak. This also gave the possibility of something popping up in the reflection and scaring the life out of you! As it was, this did not happen - but the possibility was there, and so the suspense was created...
This evening I also watched the trailer for Paranormal Activity...EEEEK ! That's one film I will definately be off to see once its released on the big screen. Roll on the end of November!!

Happy Ever After....

I was thinking some more about what I wrote in yesterdays post, about the demise of the fairytale... the more I think about it, the more I come to believe that without traditional 'scary' fairy stories, our children are doomed to a life of hopelessness!

Let's think about this - not only does a traditional tale give a child a link to a cultural past (maybe not their own, or even necessarily a genuine one, but one with a 'feeling' of history), it also provides them with a 'moral narrator'... a voice that can warn them of potential danger, while giving them hope for a happy ending. And therein lies the problem - children brought up on bedtime stories of Katie Price's latest exploits are left with no sense of wonder, with no feeling that, although the wolf may be at their door, the brave woodcutter is not far behind. By just providing our children with a diet of 'real life', we remove the romance and leave in its place the idea that it doesn't matter what you do, as the wolf will get you anyway....

Uh oh, I feel another thesis coming on!!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Late night musings...

Well, I thought of these things that I meant to say, last night after I had turned the computer off and gone to bed - and couldn't be bothered to get up and turn it on again!
I meant to comment on the clever lighting in yesterdays film, especially the bit just before the wife is murdered... the position she is lying in, and the light in the shape of a coffin tells you what's about to happen....
One of the most moving scenes I found to be the image of the dead wife under the water - her hair billowing in the current echoed the movement of the seaweed, and gave the scene a calm yet eerie and melancholy atmosphere - she reminded me of a fairytale mermaid.

Speaking of fairytales, I was wondering if our own childhood experiences of fairytales would effect the way we viewed this movie... I, for one, was brought up on traditional fairy stories, mostly German - these tend to have much darker undercurrents, child abuse being a common theme! Take Hansel and Gretel, whose evil stepmother leaves them in the forest to die as she cannot afford to feed them, or Aschenputtel, which is a Brothers Grimm variation of Cinderella, again with the stepmother as the protagonist. Or how about the Struwwelpeter stories (Heinrich Hoffmann 1776-1822) in which children frequently end up burning themselves to death, wasting away from starvation or having their fingers cut off by enormous scissors because they won't stop sucking their thumbs!

Growing up with these stories never did me any harm! (I think.... mwahahahaha!) But seriously, a lot of lessons are learnt from tales like these and I wonder how much harm we are doing our children today by sheltering them from these sorts of stories - I hate all this politically correct rubbish !
And on that note, I am off for some breakfast!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Film reviews...

Bit of a late starter, me , when it comes to the film reviews! :)

Anyway, Dr Caligari I found to be highly theatrical - the sets and costumes lending the whole thing a pantomine feel ("he's behind you!" ) I think it's quite hard for us to get our heads around movies with no speech, as you find you are having to concentrate in a whole new way- it is actually quite tiring. It does however, force you to look a lot more carefully at the action, and consequently you notice the scenery a lot more than you might do in a more modern film.

I really liked Metropolis! I had, of course heard of the film, but had somehow never got round to watching it (shame on me!) There were so many hints of other films to come that its hard to know where to start really - was I the only one have thought of the Oompa Loompas during the scene where the hero first goes to the underground machine city?

It's that whole group of workers performing en masse, keeping the wheels of the Machine going thing...

Anyway, todays film 'Night of the Hunter' gave us sound again!
Once again, I really enjoyed this film - it was interesting to see the quite negative portrayal of women, either as gullable gossips or easily-manipulated wives...but then again, putting into context, this was a time when women were possibly less able to have a voice in the household.
The film worked particularly well for being in black and white, as it allowed the use of shadow and silhouette to produce both a sinister and fairytale quality. I was reminded of traditional German fairytales, which are often illustrated using silhouettes...

and also shadow puppetry, both of which more often or not feature a baddie after the hero or heroine.

I found it an interesting twist that 'villain' was a man of God, and first sight we get of the 'heroine' is of her threatening to beat the children - it throws into question the whole idea of morality and trust...should we believe and be led by a man of the cloth, just because of his dog-collar?

In case anyone is interested... more about me! :)

Wow, blogs are great for a bit of self-promotion! Should have done this years ago!!

While we are on the subject of The Deaf Cat, anyone around and about in Rochester should pop in...its a fantastic new coffee shop/gallery opened a few weeks ago by my friend and fellow UCA graduate Laura, and her partner Kevan. Tell them I sent you!!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Pit..

So I thought I would have a little play with one of the texts, the Pit and the Pendulum. Not too bad for 6 o'clock on a Sunday morning....

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Wine and Wacom....

Ok, just to keep Si happy, here is something...

I have been using my teeny-weeny Wacom tablet to have a go at some painting (while quaffing wine !) - I have had it for a couple of years now, but have never really got round to using it properly. But after Fridays inspirational tutorial, I felt compelled to get it out and give it a go! I guess its maybe a Scottish Loch or something....?

PS I don't even know why I am writing this, as no-one is going to look at it! :)

Better late than never!

Well, as you can see, I am not a natural Blogger! I thought that since I am always going on at the students to post things to their blogs, I had better do the same.... so I will try and get something on mine asap!

Friday, 18 September 2009

So, this is a first for me... thought I'd better give it a go since I am going to be supporting students that are blogging!
Don't expect anything too exciting from me though....