Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Girls on Film

I had a successful run of lady-friendly viewing last weekend. It wasn't a conscious decision but it was delightful - it was exciting and relaxing and refreshing. This wasn't perfect or representative or explicitly feminist TV but it was a pleasure to watch well imagined female characters, meaningful female friendships and plots for ladeyz that in absolutely no way revolved around romantic entanglements. All of these aced the Bechdel test.

VB forced me to sit down and watch this three-part mini-series from April and I am so glad she did. It is three hours (of occasionally terrifying) bliss. Ladies solve crime with maths and wear great coats! The story sees four colleagues from Bletchley Park struggling to readjust to the drudgery of post-war women's lives while an unknown figure abducts and murders girls around London. Susan (played by Anna Maxwell Martin who is a joy to watch in almost everything and will always be my Lyra), now a suburban housewife, sees a pattern (maths!puzzles!codes!) in the killings and tries to inform the police but, when they are unresponsive (women), is forced to reconvene the old gang.

These are brilliant, individually defined women working together and using their brains to help society and other women. That shouldn't feel special but it does. Most of the characters don't wear make up and their (wonderful) costumes are muted and often a little frumpy but the colour palette is beautiful and that is appropriate for a 1950's Britain that was still enduring rations and recovering from the massive destruction physical and psychological (both of which are touched on) of World War Two. Susan is complicated and not always sympathetic (great) and sometimes the whole thing gets a touch daft but this is an ITV series, what do you expect? I can't hear enough about the women at Bletchley and, all in all, this was fab. Excitingly, another series has been commissioned, although I can't find a release date. Hurrah!

I have been waiting to see Bachelorette for nearly eighteen months. I saw the trailer and the hype months before it came out in the US last autumn and then watched with growing disappointment as it failed to come to the UK. Eventually it to the cinemas here in August and I saw posters and everything but it wasn't screening at any of my local cinemas. Finally it arrived via Lovefilm. Movie industry, this is why you aren't making any money (partially) - I would have paid up for my extortionately priced cinema ticket to see this but you didn't let me do that! Ridiculous. Also, it's worth noting, that there might be some weird edits to the UK DVD - the stripper scene on all of the posters wasn't even in the copy I watched.

Anyway, I loved this. My judgement may be slightly warped by the sizeable amount of sherry, wine and cider (we are eclectic drinkers, bite me) that was consumed prior to and during the film and by the horrible reviews I read afterwards but I really really enjoyed this at the time of watching. I understand and accept some of the criticism: the tone is inconsistent and the ending seems to undermine some of the unflinching points that have been made earlier in the film, the moments of sentimentality seem a bit phony and Kirsten Dunst doesn't get the opportunity she deserves to be funny. Also, Rebel Wilson is tragically underused which approximately zero of the reviewers drew attention to which just shows you how much they know... 

*Minor spoilers ahead*

However, I really felt that a lot of the sniping about the film was coming from (male) critics who didn't think that young women should be rude and crude and mean and unfinished. Yes, the bridesmaids in this film (Lizzie Caplan, Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher to Rebel Wilson's bride) are horrible people but so are the target viewers a lot of the time. Kiki is glorious as an uptight ex-bulimic who is trying so destructively hard to be perfect and have the magazine template life. Lizzie (good lord, she's beautiful, those eyes!) is a coked up slacker who doesn't have any of her shit together and who still hasn't got over a teenage abortion; Isla is a ditsy party girl who peaked in high school and is riding a downward spiral of unwitting cruelty, booze and drugs and empty sex. They are all weighed down by their separate failures. And these girls are vile and gross and cruel but they also felt familiar and real. 

This film doesn't have the warm-hearted narrative of Bridesmaids, which it is inevitably compared to, but it feels truthful, at least to me. Also, it made me laugh and laugh and squeal in horror and look at myself. Admittedly, I probably have to watch this again sober but that seems pretty good to me.

Speaking of Bridesmaids (it is hard to avoid when talking about women/films/comedy at the mo - Paul Feig also directed The Heat), I love Melissa McCarthy. She just seems so cool. I want to hang out with her and her tiny husband (who makes a fleeting appearance in The Heat). It is nice to see her cast hear as more than just 'fat woman' here. I mean, she always brings more to a role than that but she is very evidently present in The Heat because she is funny. She is rude and brash and aggressive and bad ass before 'non-standard shaped' in this film. She and Sandra Bullock make a beautiful antagonistic comic pair; Bullock is an uptight, obedient FBI perfectionist with no people skills, McCarthy is a rough and ready, rule breaking, street walking cop. Blah blah blah, the plot here is kind of irrelevant, buddy cops, drug bust, guns, not bothered, but the leads's chemistry is palpable. The narrative isn't especially sharp and sometimes the whole thing veers too heavily into the ridiculous and the difficulties of being a woman in law enforcement are mentioned only in the briefest of asides but this is dumb entertainment. No one is trying to be smart or political, they're just trying to make you laugh and Bullock/McCarthy as a pair did that for me. In six months time I will have forgotten absolutely everything about this film except their friendship and, great, FEMALE FRIENDSHIP ON SCREEN. Bring it all. Also, unrelated, the soundtrack is flippin' excellent - Angel Haze, Azaelia Banks, Santigold, the Isley Brothers, Bill Withers...

Anyway, that was a bit of a ramble. Also, apologies for the aggressive overuse of brackets - apparently I felt very bracket-y today. I reckon all of these are worth your time but they are definitely ordered by importance - track down The Bletchley Circle and enjoy with my blessing. More girls on film please. Plus, any recommendations for lady viewing?

In a brief housekeeping note, I don't think I'm going to be on the blog much in November. Hopefully I'll be checking in but it's probably going to go pretty quiet over here. I will be around and about though so do comment here or email or what have you and I will see you soon.

Chuck x

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cake Marvelous Cake

It has been an unnaturally long time since I last baked. Between life being busy and doing some proper, interesting savoury cooking it has kind of fallen by the wayside. I made a super quick celebratory GBBO finale cake last week though and it felt goooood. There is something so soothing about baking - I need to make the time for it.

  1. The recipe calls for 'unsuphured molasses (not blackstrap)' but I had no idea what this was and didn't have time to Google it before hitting the shops so I just bought and used Lyle's Black Treacle. Having done a quick web hunt I am even less confident of what molasses actually means in the context of American recipes - it seems to cover everything from golden syrup to tar. Looking at the colour of Joy's cake I suspect she used something less hellishly dark than black treacle but golden syrup would definitely have been too light... Luckily my result tasted great even if it wasn't quite as the recipe intended, the black treacle made it taste powerful and grown up. That being said, do not try eating black treacle out of the tin, it is very overwhelming.
  2. I don't know whether it was the black treacle or the vegetable oil (which generally freaks me out in cakes but which did work here) but this was a lovely dense, fudgey cake. Obviously it shouldn't, technically, have sunk in the middle but now it is heart-shaped!
  3. More pomegranate seeds are always the answer. They make everything delicious.
  4. As if more proof was needed (it wasn't), own brand cream cheese does not do the job - too thin, too grainy. You really can only cook with Philly or better.
  5. I used half quantities to fill a loaf tin.
Also, in other news, I have started a new ice cream blog: Repeat Scoop! Because a) I don't have enough on my plate and b) ice cream is the greatest thing. I'm only going to be updating it sporadically but it is going to be 100% ice cream.

Chuck x

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Sound

I have a long-standing affection for M.I.A. I bought and loved Arurlar as a sixteen year old and have followed her ever since but I found /\/\ /\ Y /\ patchy at best and Bad Girls is just a bit dull. Y.A.L.A though, the third track to drop from her upcoming Matangi, makes me feel hopeful.
[N.B. I will shortly be taking an Atlantic/Agents of SHIELD stance on Maya's aggressive over use of the full stop. My little finger hurts.]

Sooooo good. Listen to his interview with Jesse Thorn.

This Fleetwood Mac cover cd is a thing of intermittent glory. Not all of the songs are perfect but I'm very much of the all-Fleetwood-Mac-all-of-the-time school of thought where almost any Fleetwood Mac is happiness. Plus, Haim. What a bonus. The Kills cover of Dreams is excellent too.

Chuck x

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


SHAKE from Variable on Vimeo.

So this wasn't what I meant to post today but I couldn't resist. Puppies, ya know.

Carli Davidson took high-speed photographs of dogs shaking themselves and made them into a book that I very much want. Variable helped to make a video montage of these photos. Together they made me very happy.

Just look at all that beautiful, balletic drool!

via Colossal.

Chuck x

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Sound

And we're back on track.

James Blake. Chance the Rapper. TOGETHER. That this collaboration even exists makes me blissfully happy.

Poliça's new album, Shulamith, really is named after Shulamith Firestone which is delightful news. They're dropping tracks on their Soundcloud and their 6music live performance is charming.

Best. Ever. Quite literally everything about R. Kelly makes me snigger. He was the sound of year 9 discos and Phoenix are magnifique and together they make my brain explode with joy. Listen to this and just try not to grin. They pulled it off YouTube but the internet never forgets. My mind is telling me no but my body, my body is telling me yeeeeeeeeeess.

Chuck x

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Personal Style

So I find it difficult to talk about my 'personal style' without sounding like a noob. It's just so Women's Magazine - 'How to Dress to Suit Your Body Type', 'Autumn's Best Colours for Blondes', '5 Ballet Shoes Every Girl Should Own'. I don't identify with the articles or the clothes they feature. I have only very limited interest in wearing cuts and colours that flatter me, I would rather wear cuts and colours I love. Obviously I'm not wholly devoid of vanity and I will be steering clear of crop tops, anything double-breasted and most shades of yellow probably forever but my clothing purchases are driven more by what I love than what suits me.

Fortunately/unfortunately my tastes, in fashion as in most things, are pretty broad. My wardrobe is stunningly inconsistent - 1950s print dresses snuggle up with modern cuts in neon colours, I'm developing a collection of silk shirts but these jostle with fluffy leopard print, Breton stripes and plaid, I have five pairs of trainers and five pairs of impractical heels and not much in between, there are a handful of (relatively) garish print t-shirts and piles of beloved second hand cashmere. Not many of my clothes go with other clothes. Which is fine, it's fun and a truthful depiction of my brain, but in the last couple of months/seasons I have been craving something more coherent.

I had dinner with a friend recently and on meeting her at the station I realised that she had become the women she's going to be in fifteen years time. Not that she looked or dressed like a forty year old but that she looked like the woman she was becoming. I don't know when this happened but I started noticing it in the people around me - lots of them are beginning to settle into their personal styles, the looks and sartorial ideas that they're going to live with for the foreseeable future. Some are chic, some are fashionable, some are comfortable and relaxed in a casual adult way. It's fascinating. I don't feel like I'm there yet. My clothes are all over the place and I always look scruffy and often a bit bonkers. I mean, I guess those could be my adjectives but I doubt they'd be anyone's conscious choice.

In response to all of this I have been trying to think more rationally about what I wear/buy. I have been paying closer attention to what I like and trying to interrogate my tastes - attempting to pin down my 'personal style'. A lot of this involves Tumblr and blogs and saving down images that connect with me and seeing what they have in common. There is some real life browsing as well but I am also really enjoying Polyvore at the moment. It's a place where I can put together outfits and see what clicks. What items and looks do I keep coming back to? What are the differences between outfits that I make and like and outfits I make and want to wear every day? I am never going to be a capsule wardrobe kind of gal but what pieces are central to my concepts of dressing and do I already own them? Basically, what reliably works for me?

Apparently mostly it is trainers...

Clothes #7 - Weekend #3

White t shirt, £45 / A.P.C. flight jacket / Jigsaw mini skirt / Leather bag / BCBGeneration bracelet, £20 / Solid Colors Slip-On, Little Boys, £22

Clothes #23 - Weekend #12

STELLA McCARTNEY long sleeve sweater, £465 / Lingerie bra, £60 / New Balance shoes, £34 / Tom Ford sunglasses

Clothes #2 - Smart Casual

Rachel Comey shirts blouse, £195 / Marc by Marc Jacobs high rise black jeans / Whistles brown cross body purse, £160 / Cateye glasses, £25 / Nike Air Vortex LTR

Clothes #24 - Weekend #13

Wood Wood purple cardigan, £120 / Topshop pencil skirt, £45 / NIKE footwear, £115 / Pierre Hardy handbag, £130 / Madewell retro clear glasses, £34

Clothes #17 - Smart Casual #6

Whistles navy sweatshirt hoody / Zara black golf skirt, £31 / Zara short boots, £63 / Saddle bag / Tom Ford sunglasses / Madewell hair accessory, £6.59

I also clearly need more sunglasses. Burgundy and grey are my best things. Focus on fewer but more important accessories. All of this is big news obviously.

So what do you think? About Polyvore, about personal style as a concept, about your own personal style? It is a superficially vapid topic that I find totally engrossing. Share.

Chuck x

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Friday Sound

Dammit, I ruined my run. I should have known I'd be good for nothing after going out for dinner...

Cool lady.

Robyn is my spirit animal. Everything is better with Robyn in it.

Hello October.

Tennis are back! What a sunny American treat.

Chuck x

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Coat Conclusion

A-posin' and a-poutin' in my lovely new Cos coat

Reader, I bought the coat. It is a thing of great beauty and loveliness. I have been desperately, sweatily wearing it daily despite London not really being cold enough for coats yet. Ordering it online was an excellent decision because it turns out it looks amazing with pretty much everything I own. Everything goes with burgundy. Especially burgundy. The above monotone outfit was supposed to be a joke but I maybe love it? The perfect, quiet Cos detailing doesn't really come through in my crappy pictures but let me assure you it is delightful. I feel very sophisticated in my new grown up coat. I love it - it was a great choice. Thank you for the encouragement!

Chuck x

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Article Reading Group

'Goodbye,' Sherlock fan-art by Alice

I went to add something to this post this morning and realised it was probably about time I pressed publish. I tend to just merrily and sporadically add things to this list as I go and it could become a monster if I'm not careful. It's pretty chunktastic as it is. As usual this reading group is only moderately up to date/topical but it is a particularly good selection of reading material, if I do say so myself. Some amazing things.

Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship - Emily Rapp: I am strongly of the belief that your best friend can be your person. "Here's the truth: friendship's between women are often the deepest and most profound love stories, but they are often discussed as if they are ancillary, 'bonus' relationships to the truly important ones. Women's friendships outlast jobs, parents, husbands, boyfriends, lovers and sometimes children."

Dangers of Traveling While Female - Tara Isabella Burton: "To be a Patrick Leigh Fermor, a Colin Thubron, a Norman Douglas or Paul Theroux, requires always saying yes. To not-get-raped, according to every lesson I – and so many other women – have been taught, so often requires saying no." I feel this very personally, it is so true and familiar. I would have liked to see a little less 'be happy with what you've got' and a little more analysis of cause and effect but still a great piece. I have forwarded this on to a couple of men.

Rape Joke, A Poem - Patricia Lockwood: There's nothing I can add to this.

107 Ironclad Rules for Writers Who Want to Be Better at Writing - Tom McAllister: Made me snort unattractively. Very funny. I want to read/write this book.
20. Always know what size shoes your characters wear. The soul is in the shoes.
23. Everyone moves clockwise. Counterclockwise is for anarchists
25. For every adverb you use, do five push-ups.
28. Just assume everyone has a weird fetish they’d like to keep secret.
49. If you’re stuck, introduce a blimp. Blimps expedite plot.
54. Present tense is for junkies and teenagers.
64. Your character may not be a caterer. There are more caterers in movies and novels than there have been throughout the history of the world.
65. See what you can do with SONAR.

Teju Cole's satire of the Washington Post article 9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask 
via Tumblr

The Intellectual Situation, the Editors at n+1: I have mixed feelings towards n+1 but Jonathan Franzen hated on this particular piece in his latest rage attack in the Guardian and, if I have learnt anything, it is that stuff J-Franz hates is generally worth a look. This is a delightful and slightly deranged ramble through the pasts, presents and futures of established literary magazines. It ponders the relationship between print and online media and although it sometimes seems to have a rather tenuous grasp of logic it is funny and worth reading. "Women, we mean the internet, are putting men, we mean magazine editors, out of work. The internet, we mean women, never pays for its content — or for their drinks! The only dignified solution for publications like the Atlantic is to die, alone and unread, in the ghost town of the printed word. But the Atlantic has chosen the survivalist alternative: abandoning the old settlement for the domestic, we mean digital, realm, where it gives women what they want and, even more than what they want, what they fear."

So read anything good recently? Any article recommendations? Let me know. I want to read the stuff.

Chuck x