Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Organ Grinder's Monkey:

Source: here

Click here to pledge and help Meursault!

Everyone and their mother seems to be turning to Kickstarter for project funding these days, and who can really blame them?  The only problem is that with so many worthy causes (and some perhaps not so worthy) to choose from on that site, you may find yourself wondering which ones to invest your hard earned cash in.  You might even miss some really good projects (and rewards).

Some of you might remember my posts last year about the Vanilla Ink Kickstarter.  I was really pleased to see those guys make well over £1,000 more than their target amount, and achieve their dream of exhibiting at International Jewellery London.  Even though I couldn't contribute a lot to their cause money wise, I hope my posts helped to raise awareness and thus helped them on their journey in some small way.

So, here I am, showcasing another Kickstarter page and hoping that it will encourage even just a couple of lovely people to contribute and help a talented and very nice band get to where they want to go.  The (brilliant) video below, featuring Neil from Edinburgh band Meursault and Matthew from the group's label Song, By Toad Records will explain pretty much everything that you need to know about the Kickstarter, but let me sum it up quickly for you anyway.

Meursault are off to America in March to play at arts festival South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, as well as touring around the east coast while they are there.  Obviously, doing this costs a fair bit of money but - also obviously - the band want to reward you for helping them out.  

The result is a mini album entitled The Organ Grinder's Monkey (hence the weird name of this post) that contributing fans will get to help choose the tracklisting for, as a thank you.  Did I mention that the album will primarily feature covers?  Covers that could be chosen by YOU, personally.  Pretty cool, huh?

As is the norm with Kickstarter, the rewards become more weird and wonderful as they increase in price.  For £300, you will receive your own private gig at the venue of your choice, as well as a signed bumper pack of goodies (including the mini album, of course) and the band's eternal gratitude.  However, for a very reasonable fiver, you will secure yourself a ticket to a special launch gig in Edinburgh, and will probably receive a great deal of gratitude as well.  So, you see, there's something for everyone.

Source: here

As you can see from the above screenshot, Meursault are already well on their way to reaching their target of £3,000 before Friday 7th February, but any extra funds raised will help to make this debut American tour better for both the band and their fans.

And if you're reading this thinking: 'I've never heard of Meursault before, what even is that?' then get listening!  And, more importantly, get to a gig and see them live.  They are a band with such an eclectic sound and repertoire that I can't imagine anyone they wouldn't appeal to, on some level.  Also, I'm pretty confident that Neil Pennycook has one of the most powerful voices in the entire world.  It has to be heard in person to be believed, so go and see them.  But, first:

Go get 'em, champs.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

My top films of 2013:

Source: here

Looking back, I didn't see as many new films in 2013 as I should have.  I love going to the cinema, but I've fallen into the dangerous and repetitious entertainment trap that is Netflix on the sofa, under a cosy blanket.  Unfortunately, it isn't socially acceptable to go to the movies in your pyjamas - although I could probably get away with it at my local cinema, the Dominion, as it's tiny and only round the corner!  Still, I happen to think that the 2013 films I did manage to see were some of the best last year had to offer. 

Source: here

The original Monsters, Inc. (2001) movie is high on my list of favourite Pixar films.  I love Billy Crystal (mostly thanks to his performance in When Harry Met Sally) and who doesn't have a soft spot for John Goodman?  I think Pixar did a lot of stuff right when it came to Monsters University.  For one thing, there were twelve years between Monsters, Inc. and its prequel, which I think proves that Monsters University wasn't just a slapdash, money grabbing scheme.  Obviously a lot of care went into creating the animations, recording the voices and writing the script, resulting in a sweet and funny film that is a credit to Pixar's legacy, not an embarrassment.

I enjoyed finding out more about Mike and Sully's back stories, and how they became such firm friends in time for Monsters, Inc.  I was also (somewhat cynically) amused by what I read as the film's underlying message for a new generation of kids who will not be encouraged to go to university as readily as I was: you don't need further education to get a job.  And, even if you go, it probably won't help you much.

Source: here

I might be the only person in the world who wasn't forced to study The Great Gatsby in high school, so I haven't had the pleasure of reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel yet.  I do, however, think that this gave me two main advantages when seeing Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation.  First of all, I didn't know the story at all, really, so I wasn't bored, and wasn't concentrating on what had been added or missed from the book.  Secondly, I had no idea if the casting was appropriate in comparison to the novel's characters, or even if the sets and locations were accurate.

Of course, those of you who have seen or read it will know that the story is sad in parts, but the glamour and decadence that is always present in Baz Luhrmann productions was taken to extremes in Gatsby.  The whole film looks stunning, down to every last detail, which makes anything worth a watch, in my opinion.  Even if you decide to watch it with the sound off.

So, as someone admittedly coming to The Great Gatsby as a total novice, I really enjoyed the movie for what it was.  I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was - if you'll pardon the unintentional wordplay - 'great' as Gatsby, I'm a big fan of Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire redeemed himself a little in my eyes by being actually quite funny.

Source: here

Another film based on a book, and another book which I haven't read.  I have, however, read some other Irvine Welsh novels and short stories before, so I had an idea of what to expect when it came to Filth.

To be honest, if I had to choose a favourite film for the whole of 2013, Filth would be it, no hesitation required.  It's simultaneously hilarious and devastating, just as any good movie should be.  Also, this is easily James McAvoy's best role of his career so far.  He has officially waved goodbye to being typecast as a nerdy love interest, and was much more interesting to watch as a manic drug addict/alcoholic.

I've blogged about this before, but I love to see Edinburgh in films and on TV, so Filth was a joy to watch.  Also, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (McAvoy) and his colleagues are generally despicable characters, portrayed in such a way that I felt I already knew them, or at least had encountered them on a night out in the Grassmarket.

Source: here

I don't know what it is about Sofia Coppola movies, but I find them strangely watchable, even though not much ever seems to actually happen.  The Bling Ring was no exception to this rule.  Somehow, the fairly juicy true story of five teenagers who begin to systematically rob the houses of celebrities became a laidback affair under Coppola's direction.  And, yet, I really enjoyed it.

If you're looking for something deep to wrap your mind around, this isn't it, but don't write it off completely.  Again, it's a really visually pleasing film, and vicariously snooping in celebrity walk in wardrobes was pretty fun for me.  The soundtrack also features the Sleigh Bells track 'Crown on the Ground', which is damn catchy.

Source: here

I only saw Drinking Buddies recently, but it was a surprisingly powerful indie film that stayed with me for a few days after watching.  It stars Jake Johnson (who you might know better as Nick from New Girl), Olivia Wilde and the usually hilarious Anna Kendrick whose comedic talent is frankly wasted in this movie.  However, Johnson and Wilde are very cute and funny as the film's (somewhat alcohol dependent) leads.

Drinking Buddies explores the slightly awkward territory of intergender friendships, documenting their pitfalls as well as their benefits.  In fact, the whole film is endearingly awkward, just as real life is.  It doesn't have a perfect Hollywood ending, either, which is something that always makes me respect writers and directors more.

Source: here

As for this year, there are already quite a few films that I'm looking forward to in 2014.  

The Wolf of Wall Street was only released in UK cinemas and has already had some amazing reviews.  A true story, dark humour, Leonard DiCaprio and Jonah Hill are all plus points for me, so I'm sure I'll really like it.  

The Grand Budapest Hotel (due to be released in February) is Wes Anderson's follow up to Moonrise Kingdom (2012), which I absolutely loved.  His films are always funny, wonderfully surreal and look gorgeous.  Plus, Edward Norton and Bill Murray are among my favourite actors.  Anderson always chooses a brilliant cast!

I'm a fan of Garden State (2004), so I'm looking forward to seeing Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here in September.  The film was crowd funded by Braff's fans through Kickstarter so that he could make it exactly the way he wanted, without Hollywood sticking their nose in.

Are there any films on your 'must see' list this year?

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Instagram #18:

1. Christmas cookies that you can find the recipes for here.
2. My beloved Christmas jumper from Primark.
3. Nicola and me celebrating the end of term in our Christmas jumpers.

4. A delicious Ferrero Rocher Christmas tree, which was soon devoured...
5. Sunrise from the bus to work.
6. An amusing quote from Rupert Murdoch on the back of Dial M for Murdoch.

7. Some pre-Christmas treats from me, for me: one of the tree decorations I blogged about in December and Gingerbread shower gel from The Body Shop.
8. A lovely hand drawn Christmas card from my talented friend, Marianne.
9. A merry Christmas collage from Inferior Design (i.e. me) on Christmas Day.

10. My cousin and me with her amazing knitted Clanger.
11. A new Frightened Rabbit tshirt from Santa.
12. A little lost teddy bear at work who (thankfully) was rescued!

13. Fireworks at midnight for the New Year (and our ugly mugs).
14. My 2014 airedale terrier calendar.  What started as a joke has become a tradition!
15. Some non-ugly mugs, bought in the amazing Anthropologie sale.

16. Drinking a delicious raspberry Edinburgh Gin and tonic beside the Christmas tree.
17. I picked up this Laura Ashley ceramic egg holder in TK Maxx.  A totally vital purchase, I think you'll agree!
18. We caught James Stewart nearly having a chuckle to himself mid scene in Harvey (1950).  I love seeing actors nearly crack up!

Monday, 6 January 2014

Dear Diary:

Source: here

Those who keep a diary tend to be negatively represented in literature, film and TV.  Adrian Mole, Georgia Nicolson, Bridget Jones - they're all preposterous
 characters, brought together by their apparent desire to document every last cringeworthy detail of their day to day lives in a journal.  There's that famous quote we've all heard (apparently first uttered by American actress, Tallulah Bankhead) that goes: 'Only good girls keep diaries.  Bad girls don't have time.'  Clearly, it's just massive losers who write a journal.  Massive losers like me.

Loser or not, I'm here to defend the act of keeping a diary.  I've always found it extremely therapeutic.  You might think you wouldn't have anything to write about, but you'll be surprised what comes out once you lift a pen and start writing.  When I kept a regular journal, I would usually spend around an hour writing each entry, and the time would fly by.  It doesn't matter if what you write is embarrassing, offensive or a self indulgent lie because - unless you have nosy siblings or flatmates - nobody is ever going to read it, apart from you.  That's the beauty of a good, old fashioned paper diary.

1. Agenzio small purple ruled notebook from Paperchase (£8)
2. Set of 3 Cavallini Mini Map Journals from Oliver Bonas (£9.50)
3. Laura Ashley Marciana A6 notebook from WH Smith (£4.99)

I kept diaries consistently throughout my undergrad degree, and I favoured A6 size, lined notebooks, which were easy to cart about with me and weren't expensive.  As uni got busier and more difficult, I found less and less time to write in my journal, sometimes leaving three months or more between entries.  I really missed it, though.  Like I said, it was my personal version of therapy.

Then, when I was compiling my Christmas wishlist, I stumbled upon a solution to my problem.  The One Line a Day five year memory book is a small journal with only six short lines worth of space to fill in for each day.  The diary is designed so that you can see what you were up to on any given day across the span of five years, which is a pretty interesting idea!  Although I sometimes miss my long and winding journal rambles, having to sum up a whole day so concisely is a satisfying challenge.  It also usually makes for much more amusing diary entries!  I started writing in my copy on the 1st of this month, and will do my best to remember to fill it in every day.  It'll be nice to keep five years' worth of memories in one, beautifully blue book.

An even less conventional journal idea (which I also received for Christmas, thank you, Santa!) is the Music Listography Journal.  I know that some people are natural born list makers and some aren't, but I absolutely love writing lists.  Even though I am a terrible procrastinator, I find making regular to do lists extremely soothing, for whatever reason.  If you're the same, any of the Listography Journals will be perfect for you.  There are quite a few different versions, but the basic concept is the same.  Each page has a different heading (e.g. 'List moments in music you'll never forget' or 'List band names for your fictitious bands') with printed lines below for you to fill in to your heart's content.  It's a fun, creative exercise, and you'll end up with an extensive record of whichever Listography topic you choose.

If you've never tried keeping a journal before, I would highly recommend it!  As well as being something you can look back on (and a mostly accurate fact checker about past events) it might just make you feel a little bit better when life's getting to you.  If there's something you want to say but can't, you can always write it down.  It's much more satisfying than posting cryptic Facebook statuses, trust me.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Christmas decoration storage:

So that was Christmas then, was it?  Today I carried out the depressing task of putting away all of the Christmas decorations, tossing the poor tree to the kerb (literally) and hoovering up four hundred million pine needles.  While we don't have tons of decorations at the moment, our collection has grown over the last few years, and I decided it was time to sort out some proper storage for it.

Let's all pause for a second to fully enjoy the freshly hoovered and pine needle free carpet in the above photo.  Ready?  Okay, let's continue.

I only had to buy two new storage boxes to fit our modest array of Christmas decorations.  The first was a 64 bauble capacity storage box which I settled on after a quick Amazon search.  It was reasonably priced (just over £12, including delivery) and had good reviews.  The second was a fairly bog standard 52 litre plastic storage box from Dunelm Mill (similar one here) for £5.99.  I like that the box has a transparent lid so that you can easily take a peek at what's inside.

The bauble box arrived flat packed, but was easy to zip together into a cube.  The inserts for separating the decorations from one another were a little bit fiddly to put in, but it was nice to have the option to leave out a row so that larger baubles (and/or Christmas monkeys) could fit.  I'm not sure exactly how many decorations I fitted in (I should have counted!) but there was more than enough room for everything.  I easily fitted two or more smaller baubles into one section where there was room, just as I managed to squeeze the larger ones in!  For standard sized Christmas decorations, though, the section sizes were spot on.

Somehow, we have amassed an enormous number of Christmas cards that I'm planning to use next year, and probably even the year after that!  My trick (learned from my parents) is to visit Paperchase during their post-Christmas sale, buy a few packs of cards and some rolls of wrapping paper cheaply and then save them for the next year.  To stop the cards getting crushed, I've stored them all together in an empty gift box that I already had, along with some small gift bags, Christmassy ribbon and stick on bows. 

Larger gift bags went in the bottom of the 52 litre storage box, with everything from tinsel and Christmas lights to scented candles on top.  I call that box 'organised Christmas chaos'.  It looks like a massive mess, but at least everything is in one place and I won't have to go hunting for bits and pieces all over the flat next Christmas!

I think this project will make a big difference for me in Christmases to come.  It's definitely a big improvement on keeping everything in plastic bags!  I'm sure as the years progress we may have to invest in one or two more plastic boxes, but right now everything fits perfectly.  I couldn't have planned it better!  Now to tackle the cupboard that these boxes are meant to fit into...

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Perfect presents:

I know Christmas has been and gone now, but (just like last year) I was given some lovely homeware as gifts by my thoughtful family and friends, and I'm excited to share them!  First of all, Craig gave me an awesome wooden stag's head from Oliver Bonas.  I've had my eye on one of these for ages, so I was very excited and grateful when I opened this gift!  I think it (he?) looks brilliant above the fireplace.

My very talented Auntie embroidered pillowcases for me (and Craig!) with sweet messages.  She makes sewing and knitting look so easy, but I can't even comprehend how bad the outcome would be if I had attempted this project myself...  It's lovely to have something unique but practical that we can keep for a very long time, if not forever!

Craig chose this 4x4" dark wood stained photo frame (also from Oliver Bonas) as another surprise present for me, and it's perfect for our bedroom.  I've popped it on my bedside table already - just need to remember to put a photo in there at some point!

Remember the cutesy milk carton jug I included in my November Instagram update?  Well, my lovely little Mum did, and bought it for me!  It was a brilliant present, as I thought the jug had sold out.  Craig's Mum also surprised me with a pair of quirky Coca-Cola salt and pepper shakers in a little caddy.  They'll look so cute on the dinner table when we have dinner parties!

And last but not least, my big cousin brought me back some beautiful flower fairy lights all the way from Thailand, and my best pal, Emily, picked me out a Jimbob Art plate, by James Ward.  There are SO many great designs on his website, but the 'What Cake?' side plate that Emily chose is perfect for me.  I'm tempted to start a collection!  When did I become one of those people who collects plates and hangs them on the wall?