Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Ex Pat Blog: Prologue

I guess this might end up being one of those terribly irritating ex-pat blogs before too long.

For now, I'll just say I've been working in Amsterdam for a few days, putting together an exciting science idea. I can also tell you that I still love Albert Heijn. I can also inform you that the fashionable Amsterdam lady is wearing skinny jeans, big sunglasses and a smart blazer and is striding purposefully around in big heels or is wearing a colourful knee-length skirt that flutters prettily around her bicycling legs. There are, as Sartorialist readers know, many shawls and scarves.

My first useful Dutch phrases are "ik begrijp niets" and "alstublieft". The rest I'll pick up as I go.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Are We Nearly There Yet?

Monkey Island Map

No, but we're more nearly there than we ever have been before.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Manners Maketh The Man

On Saturday night, I went to see steampunk musical heroes The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing in a strange leopard-print tent out the back of a pub in Digbeth. I've been listening obsessively to their album on spotify and as an enthusiastic fan of dressing-up-ridiculously-at-events-that-might-call-for-such-things I togged up suitably.

And that outfit in colour:

I had most of the stuff already - the skirt, blouse and boots are from my normal work wardrobe. I made the pleated petticoat out of some muslin from my dressmaking box and the little collar was some other dressmaking scraps trimmed with brown ribbon and irregular matte brown sequins. The corset comes from my existing collection and the choker is black ribbon with some marcasite beads from a broken bracelet. The goggles are embellished with sugru around the rims and painted over with pewter and brass acrylic paints and settled in my epically backcombed hair. Smart, right?

But what about the bands? The first support band Frenchy and the Punk were really enjoyable. It's a bit hard to describe their style, but I recommend you watch some of their live stuff.

I'll draw a neat veil over the second support band and proceed onto the main event! TMTWNBBFN! (tmtwnbbfn!)

They had us singing "Isambard Kingdom! BRUNEL!" and about the London sewers and Boilerplate Dan and marveling at the use of a musical saw. Victorian Grindcore was a marvellous gag, and the Royal Wedding was marked by a medley of both God Save The Queens. The new songs (variously about a Lovecraftian excursion to Margate, the Great Stink and an unusual form of contraception) made me impatient for the second album, especially as the size of venue and some sort of mixing oddness at the sound desk made it hard to pick out a lot of the lyrics during the more thrashy songs.

But a great time was had by all and it kicked off in a reserved, genteel manner for the more established tunes like Goggles, Steph(v)enson and Etiquette.

The best thing about The Men Who... is that they're really strong musically. My boyfriend enjoyed their extremely chunky metal riffage as much as the songs about cool stuff with cogs on. Excellent!

Friday, 22 April 2011

A Three Headed Monkey

I bet you were wondering how the Monkey Island cross stitch was going on.

Yup. I'm doing it.

I haven't included any details for scale, but the half of it that you can see sketched out is about a foot square. It is going to take a while.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

2011 Eurovision Preview

Begins with a good intro and proceeds well until the chorus, when it goes a bit Radio 2. The singer saves it a bit by having amazing hair and nails.
It's probably a grower.

Generic, sparse tangoesque latin pop.
Boom-boom chaka-chaka, for pity's sake.
It is, at least, quite cute.

A long acapella intro shows off some impressive lungwork. A bit inspirational Disney,
complete with a key change and appearance of a concealed choir.

Like a rich tea biscuit - dull but not unpleasant.

A recent trend has been the self-promotional Eurosong (cf LT United, The Balkan Girls, Irlande Douze Point etc etc) but this is a bit different and has absolutely no ironic wink to the audience. I like it, but I feel that the chorus is a bit too close to 'Ra Ra Rasputin' to count as strictly original. If the video is anything to go by, the stage show will include some people in traditional costume dancing, which I always love.

Oh god, the zither just kicked in.

You can never tell what the Belgians are going to contribute. This year, we have some
slick and nonsensical acapella vocal jazz in our gift from Brussels. Remaining so
defiantly out of step with modern pop takes some doing. I take my hat off to them. The beatbox section was quite good though and I liked the way they did the keychange.

Bosnia & Herzegovina
Real end of the night drunken 'life is hard but we get along' stuff with a touch of
oompah. I hope the man gets a better jacket for the big night in May.

A rock ballad by an impressively coiffed young rock chick. I spotted a keytar in her
band, who were all playing seated until the second verse for no apparent reason. I like it, but as it's in Bulgarian I think I will have to make up my own words before I can put it onto my 'Clenched Fist of Emotion Angsty Singalong Playlist'. "Oh, my emotions are all stinky!" the chorus could go.

Mid-nineties dance here. The singer has a very captivating nose and exhorts us to 'put our hands up' and have a good time. It's pleasant, but I don't know if it's memorable enough to make it through the semis. Luckily, Croatia will probably have enough friends to put it through regardless.

Ooh, the breakdown there had some dubstep wub-wub-wub noises in it. Modern!

Whine, whine, manpain, whine.

I suggest that we could be looking at a Danish win. This song already sounds like the
end of an 'emotional journey' documentary or a blast of confetti on a man holding a big glass trophy. I am not just saying this because one of my favourite Eurovision pals is Danish. I do think the giant white balloon things are cheating though.

Rockefeller Street is just nonsense and is ruined entirely by the awful loud shouty
grindy bits after the choruses. I was prepared to get behind this song until that.

An adorable, if slightly worthy eco-ballad. It's a bit like what we were all listening to when Travis were big. You can even probably sing the chorus of 'Writing to Reach' you over the chorus of this one if you wanted to.

Oh, France. This is getting silly now. I preferred Sebastian Tellier with his daft golf cart and his bearded backing singers. This sort of soft opera crap hasn't been
considered pop music since the charts were decided on who had sold the most sheet
music. Play the bloody game.

Rocktastic and quite fun. I wasn't expecting the rapper, but I don't think it
detracted. I would have liked more singer/rapper interaction because I love a shouty
boy/girl duet.

Lena is already massive. I quite like this - reminds me a tiny bit of Lykke Li or any
of the icily-temperamented sexy pop ladies of recent years. Love it, but it's too kinky and wierd to do well in Eurovision. I have, however, put it on my main Spotify

Back to ridiculous Europop with a song featuring rapper 'Stereo Mike' (not the same one from that song where some guy said 'This is Stereo Mike? Stereo Mike?). Do you remember when the UK put some gentle, non-threatening urban music by Love City Groove in for Eurovis and it didn't do well? Well I finally think Europe has caught up. I've noted the presence of about half a dozen rappers, beatboxers and allied trades, which at least means Eurovision has moved forwards.

I didn't care for this song at all.

Generic upbeat disco stuff. Enjoyable and with leanings towards being anthemic. Cher
would have had this on the 'Believe' album.

Very, very gentle easy listening with parping brass.

I was recently trying to explain the concept of Jedward to some non-Brits and was
reminded that two halfwits do in fact constitute one wholewit. The video is really,
really troubling, but not as troubling as the jedward twitter feed that I follow
because I cannot look away. I am not sure if it is alright for Jedward to be out in the world, but they seem happy enough. I cannot wait to see what havock they can wreak in the green room. The song is listenable tosh, but it's more or less besides the point.

Dana International returns with some sort of treatment on her vocals. I'm glad she's
back and all that, but I wish the song was at least an order of magnitude better.

Back after 14 years, Italy supplies us with a rather classy number that belongs in an
underground bar at about 1:20am. From the music video, I presume it is also connected
with a film or soap or something. Unsure.

Upbeat dancepop from a pair dressed like they're leaving the X Factor on Big Band Week. It's got my favourite linguistic quirk so far - to whit: 'Kill me with killer kiss! Kill me with tenter lips!"

One of them does a rap that I would go so far as to describe as 'nerdcore'.

A melodramatic intro leading to a melodramatic torch song. I thought there was
potential for some skirt-removal when the beat kicked in but alas, it never did.

FYRo Macedonia
Balkan flavoured chart-rock with a puzzling song structure. Break for accordion, loud
hailer and traditional Balkan choir in the middle 8. Expect traditional dancing.

Malta submit a winning, dancey plea for equality and tolerance that is basically GaGa's Born This Way but a little bit less good.

Big dumb rock chorus with verses featuring some sort of local Moldovan wind instrument.
Compelling. The NME could potentially like something like this, but only for one week
before an inevitable vitriolic backlash.

Aural teflon. I cannot remember what it sounds like and it's still playing.

I thought I could hear autotune or something on the gal's voice, but it was enjoyable
and listenable. The chorus is in Swahili, which I thiiiiiink might be the first time
lyrics in Swahili have appeared at Eurovision.

You can reconstruct this song in your head by imagining Britney's 'Womanizer' and
systematically stripping all the fun production touches off it. Harrumph, harrumph.

It's the quirky one! I interpreted this as being some sitcom characters singing a ditty about socialism or trades unionism. It's called 'The Struggle' and I suspect there is some wordplay in it that doesn't translate. (I looked at the bio after writing this and it turned out that I was right. They are comedians & it is about socialism.)

Like Mika, but less squeaky. The further you get into the song, the more Mika-like it

Some guy in tight black jeans doing a song that 911 or A1 would probably just about
have got away with in the 90s.

San Marino
A big medium paced pop ballad. Nice enough, but hardly distinctive.

60's themed pop with a certain nonchalance. The singer is wearing stunning turquoise
tights with Barbie pink shoes, which looks just great.

Downbeat electro stuff, a bit reminiscent of something off Rihanna's Rated R album.

Another vaguely gloomy number with some twangy sitar very low in the mix and some
totally overenthusiastic dancers who I hope she is keeping for their entertainment

Awful. I don't know why I found this more objectionable than some of the others, but I certainly did.

Straight down the line male-fronted Europop. Maybe it's been a long day, mayber I've
watched too many Eurovision entries today, but aside from the glass-smashing, I found
it pretty ordinary. Of all the records, this one was most like something that would
actually be in the charts, which you'd expect because Saade is a proper pop star.

I was sure that the riff was ripped off an advert for an ipod or a cosy insurance
company. Like Fairground Attraction, but without the charm.

For a song about being cool and having louche rock and roll fun, the actual music and lyrics falls slightly short of cool and louche. It's only ok.

A winsome blonde in a series of neo-Victorian circus-themed vignettes sings a song of the sort that you could possibly get Aguilera to stick on your film soundtrack. Overwrought and vaguely unpleasant, and contains what could have been the biggest keychange transition of the night, if only it hadn't have wimped out.

We should probably just give up and send random nonsense.
I am not the first person to point it out, but:


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Tri-Island Stitchery

Today's progress...

I love the outline of the island and the shading on the sea area is starting to look great - can really see where the markings and folds will be.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

I'm Selling These Fine Leather Jackets

You've got to have a quest.

Last year, the quest was to finish my PhD.

I haven't had a quest for a while, but that was because I was addicted to WoW and they give you more than enough quests to be going on with.

Just before Christmas, I quit WoW and as well as experiencing a sudden influx of unallocated free time, I started to feel that my quest valency was starting to increase. It took me a while to figure out what my quest was going to be, though.

Rejected quest candidates include:
- Learning Latin with a view to read Cicero in the original
- Designing and sewing an evening gown inspired by the jumpsuits of Vegas-era Elvis
- Taking up weaving on a loom
- Healthy exercise!
- Getting some actual publications out, like, ever

I settled upon a quest this week and I think you're going to like it.

I'm going to do a big cross stitched version of this map, which you may recognise as being the map that you use to travel around the Tri-island area in Monkey Island 2.

I'll be turning this packet of threads...

...into an 18" x 11" cross stitched game art masterpiece.

I think I started three days ago. I've not got that far yet.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Original Pirate Material

Hilarity ensues as I begin an endeavour to cross-stitch a replica of the tri-island area map from Monkey Island 2.

It began with a sort of dolphin thing.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Pretty Handy

Just before Christmas, I was having a run of bad luck. I'd had my card details skimmed and was due to be without debit card access over Christmas and New Year. The final bits of Christmas shopping were stuck in some Amazon/Royal Mail holding loop due to the snow, and I was freaking out at my boyfriend about our journeys to Barnsley and Glasgow for Christmas in The Snow.

To cap it all, as I was sitting on my bed doing nothing more exciting than drying my hair, there was a tremendous crack and my bed disintegrated. This had happened...

Stupid cheap bedframe.

So what do you do with a dead bed, if you're me? Well. I took the headboard off and cut off a decent chunk of the foot with a saw, which was exciting.

It'll take a bit of work with the drill to finish it off nicely, and then there'll be an upholstery situation, but I think that making it into an awesome wooden pew-style bench is a good thing. Also, I've got about 2/3rds of the slats left for making into frames for veg planters when the time comes. Woo hoo.

In other news, I unwisely paid money for a really low-tech, brutally basic rigid heddle loom. I warped it up today, with some very lightweight cotton from Texere.

Aww, pretty. It took FOREVER.

What is taking even longer is the weaving. I wove all evening and have done about 6 inches.

The pattern is a sort of basic plaid, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. It'll be nice when there's enough of it to make a cushion. Also, don't worry. I'm not trying to make sheds with the tension like that, I just unwound some to show you.