Author: Rob

Photographer. Filmmaker. Writer. These are all things I would be if I was only a little better at them (and did them more often).

Britain Votes ‘Maybe’

On Thursday the UK turned out in their droves to cast their votes on the UK’s membership of the EuropeanUnion and  unanimously said in one voice, “we’re still not really sure about any of this.”

The historic referendum has returned an overwhelming ‘maybe’ vote, with 52% in favour of leaving and 48% against.

With both sides of the debate populated by compulsive liars who are amongst the least trustworthy in the country, it’s little wonder the population at large had no real idea which way to turn.

Confused Brexit voter Steve Anderson said, “with the remain side championed by a public schoolboy whose mum still cuts his hair and a slimy delinquent who does unspeakable things with farm animals, I’m afraid I had to take the Leave side.

“I mean, I don’t really understand a lot of what Boris Johnson says, but he’s such a lovable oaf you can’t help but side with him.”

On the flip side, Remain voter Jonathan Bradley said, “as I don’t really know which side’s specious arguments to trust, it was sensible to vote to leave things as they are until we actually figure out what’s going to happen. That just seems like the really obvious thing to do.”

Despite the closeness of the result, expert David Mango said the UK will run ahead and leave the EU anyway.

“Ruining the lives of the majority of the population based on the poor decision making of fifty-two percent of voters is one of the fundamental tenets our democracy is based on,” he said.

Leaving the EU is still not a certainty however. Government sources have suggested that due to the closeness of the vote other options are being considered, including splitting the country in two along the 52nd parallel, near Birmingham, giving Remain voters the southern half and allowing the Brexiters to inhabit the northern half as far from Europe as possible.

“The problem with that,” said our source, “is that Scotland will probably be an independent country and part of the EU by the end of the decade, so the anti-Europe population will find themselves sandwiched between two European countries they want no part of.

“Really, if they want to leave Europe, they should just go live somewhere that isn’t in Europe.

“I hear the property values in Venezuela are particularly favourable.”

Our source was keen to stress that the main thing to remember is that for now, we technically remain part of the Euopean Union, so there is absolutely no need to panic, even as the stock markets and the value of the pound crashes down around us.

Positives were taken however in the 72% turnout. Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor, said, “it just goes to show that if people consider one of the options on the ballot paper as palatable they’ll actually turn up and vote.”

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Pi Day

Forget those people who complained about explaining gay marriage to their kids. That’s really not that difficult (Dave and Derek love each other very much, just like mummy and daddy, Susan and Jeremy from down the road, and Uncle Chris and that pillow with a Japanese cartoon girl on it). But how do you, as a British parent, explain Pi Day of all things to a child?

“Well Stevie, Pi is the number 3.14 that doesn’t change and is used with circles, and America is a backwards country who do dates backwards so they call today, 14/3, Pi Day, and being American use the day as an excuse less to do mathematics and more to eat pie, and not proper pie like steak and kidney but dessert pies like pumkin pie.”

You might have guessed, I don’t like pie day because I think it’s dumb.

The Morning Commute

Recently, a Buzzfeed list has done the rounds which has resonated well with my fellow commuters. It reminded me of this old, long-unfinished post that I actually started writing in early 2011 but never got round to finishing. Still, as it has a few points the Buzzfeed article missed, I decided it would be worth finally finishing it…

Let’s face it, the morning commute is, for just about everyone, pretty horrible. Even if you removed all of the people and had an entire train to yourself that wouldn’t leave the station unless you were on it, you’d still have the getting up, getting to the station, and the inevitable problem that all the free seats would be either broken, covered in chewing gum, or have a stain and odour about them that you wouldn’t find all that comforting.

Despite that, the worst thing about the morning commute is usually the people you’re travelling with. You share your journey with hundreds of other people on your train alone, and they all have to be somewhere quicker than you do for far more important reasons. You’d have thought that the free world wouldn’t be quite so dependent on so many people.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the most annoying things people can do to make your morning commute just that little bit more unpleasant.

 

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Update

Just a little update on the state of this poor, forgotten blog.

About this time last year, I gave myself an ultimatum: sort it out, or get rid of it.

In the year that followed, I only made one post. There’s no way I could justify paying the fees to host this dedicated blog with WordPress.org when WordPress.com would do it for free, especially when bits of the .org install were breaking.

At some point last year, I backed up the entirety of this blog to a free WordPress page.  And with the expiration of my hosting account tomorrow, rob-howard.com will redirect to that site, which is indeed this site, cousindirk.wordpress.com. I figured it would be a good idea to hold on to the URL if nothing else.

Maybe I’ll use this more in 2014. Maybe I won’t. But at least I won’t be wasting as much money on it.

In the meantime, head on over to CreativeSplurges.com, where I do actually publish posts.

Dentistry

Yesterday was really quite a unusual day.

To frame the story, one important piece of information needs to be noted. I am truly phobic of dentists. For almost ten years – from the time my mum said ‘you’re eighteen, sort yourself out’ – I didn’t go to the dentist, even when one of my teeth mostly rotted away. Last year, however,my resolved to finally go to the dentist and get things sorted out, and hopefully remove an increasing mental burden I was carrying around with me. I finally got to the dentist last May, and with being bounced around a couple of hospitals to find one prepared to do all of the work under sedation, it was only yesterday when I eventually got any actual work done.

I was so scared going into it. The only way I was able to function for the days leading up to the treatment was by distracting myself, by ring fencing the idea that I was going to the dentist to have treatment for the first time in over a decade into a corner of my mind and shutting it out completely.

By the morning of the treatment, that shuttered corner of my mind took up a significant portion of my brain. I barely said anything to my wife on the journey to Guy’s Hospital.

After a brief pause in the waiting room, my name was called. I froze up completely, momentarily unsure what to do, in a stereotypical rabbit-in-the-headlights moment. After a few moments, I got up, and followed the nurse to my fate.

The mental ring fence grew. By this point it was having to occupy so much of my conscious mind in an attempt to try and hide from me what was going on I couldn’t actually talk.

“What did you have for breakfast?” the nurse asked, ensuring I’d followed their guidelines on the short walk.

“Uh…”

I genuinely couldn’t answer. I vaguely recalled what I had eaten, but the words to describe it – and the way to vocalise them – were gone, hidden away in the locked off part of my brain that was preoccupying itself with doing anything but thinking about the situation I was in. A few other questions followed, and each time I had to look to my wife to answer. I simply couldn’t speak.

I arrived at the dentist’s chair. Unlike my previous checkups, where I had initially refused to sit in the chair, this time I sat down without complaint, resigned to my fate.

The dentist and nurse talked to me a little more. I managed to recover a few words; I was able to tell the nurse I had “cooked bread” for breakfast as she swabbed my arm for the IV. They stuck a pulse meter in my finger, then got a bit annoyed when I started nervously tapping it on the arm of the chair. Looking at the IV inserted intoned my arm, I decided I wanted to take a picture of it. I don’t know why, despite the fear, I still wanted to take a photo. I got my phone from my pocket, but then decided it would be a silly idea and put it back.

Then they added the sedative. I remember saying my eyeballs felt funny – then the next thing I knew, I was sitting in a recovery station with a tissue in my mouth.

This is obviously where things get a bit hazy. What I went in for was conscious sedation, so I was awake the whole time, but I have no memory of it whatsoever. None at all.

So, then, it was naturally a surprise to find I had taken a couple of images of the catheter and the pulse monitor and had uploaded them to Facebook. I also also had a short, badly-spelt conversation with my dad via Facebook messenger, and apparently decided to wear one of those little puke bowls as a bowler hat whilst in the recovery room. I also managed to have enough failed attempts at unlocking my phone it got to the point where it had locked me out for five minutes, which was probably for the best.

Eventually the sedative had worn off enough for them to let me home. At this point I was pretty lucid; it was I that needed to guide my wife out of the building. That said, all this is really foggy at this point. I remember waking up with the tissue in my mouth, because I took a picture of it.

wpid-photo-28-feb-2013-1103

I don’t really remember leaving the building, but I remember being aware of it. I vaguely recall my wife getting a tiny bit lost at London Bridge Station. I also remember her falling asleep on the train home (I don’t, however, remember posting a picture of her asleep to Facebook, but apparently I did). But the few bits of the journey home I have any recollection of are like a dream, or that disjointed, automated journeying you do when heading home when very drunk. The first decent memory I have of the day is waking up with my cat on my legs having fallen asleep on the sofa.

I don’t, for instance, remember commenting repeatedly on the quality of the soap in the toilets. The weird thing is, a lot of what I did whilst ‘under’ was related to the few thoughts that were rattling around in my head before they dosed me.

It was a weird day. I have no recollection at all of the dental procedure, I wasn’t even aware of it happening, but I was aware of the rest of the day; it’s only in the intervening time that the memory has faded like waking from a dream. It was surreal.

What I’ve learnt for next time – which is worryingly next Friday – is to relinquish my phone to my wife before the sedative kicks in. Which will be less amusing for the people who follow me on Facebook, I guess, but at least I won’t then check my own Facebook the next day and go, what the fuck?

Twelve Months

I’ve just renewed the lease on this site for another year.

As some of the more astute of you will have noticed, I haven’t actually posted on this blog in almost six months. This, despite the fact that this blog is the one I pay for. Creative Splurges has been my baby, having, as it does, the most followers, and it’s where most of the content I’m currently creating is destined for.

This place has gone to wrack and ruin a little bit. Elements of the backend have broken, making adding links and images difficult. All of the widgets and stuff down the righthand side have been trundling along regardless. 

In other words, work needs to be done. I have this webspace, but I don’t really utilise it that much, and that should change. Otherwise, what’s the point in having it?

So consider this post my twelve months’ notice. If I haven’t turned it around and aren’t making any even remotely worthwhile use of it, I’ll shut this site down, and consider what to do with it’s existing content, because there’s no point in paying for this site to just sit around and do nothing.

So, either I turn this blog into something useful, or in twelve months’ time this site won’t be here.

If there’s anyone still left in this desolate corner of the internet, comments are of course welcomed.

Cheers,
Rob

Making Movies

QUICK NOTE: THIS POST DOES NOT CONTAIN SPOILERS.

Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors working currently in cinema. The reason is simple: The Dark Knight Rises is more than just a film; more, even, than a great (and it is truly incredible) film . It’s a blueprint for how movies should be made.

Comparison of IMAX vs 35mm film

At a time when most of the industry is getting sidetracked into making films 3D, or relying too heavily on computer-generated effects, Nolan eschews all that crap in favour of something far more important: realism. Instead of resorting too readily to computer visuals, he does as much as is possible as visual effects in-camera. Instead of distracting, unnatural and often poorly-done 3D, Nolan instead shoots where he can in the IMAX format. There are few directors doing this currently; most of the films you can go see at your local IMAX cinema are the result of a process called Digital Media Remastering (DMR), in which films shot on standard 35mm film are ‘blown up’ to fill the IMAX screen. In fact, only The Dark KnightTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and The Dark Knight Rises have had sequences shot in true, 70mm IMAX (and the Star Trek and Hunger Games sequels are the only films on the horizon that are planning to make use of the format).

In the credits of The Dark Knight Rises is a line that is perhaps the most telling: Shot and finished entirely on film. The team working on TDKR are clearly proud of the work and methods they used to bring the film to the screen.

This sort of filmmaking excites me. I prefer film to digital cinema; digital is cold and inorganic compared to 35mm. And doing as much as possible as physical effects makes for a far more realistic looking film – no matter how good the CG, there is always a part of you that still knows its fake.

I really hope The Dark Knight Rises is a successful film (it certainly deserves to be) that leads to this style of filmmaking becoming more widespread. TDKR may not be my favourite film of all time, but watching it in the BFI London IMAX (the UK’s biggest screen) was the single greatest cinema going experience I’ve ever had. The difference between the footage shot in IMAX in comparison  to the 35mm scenes that had been through DMR. The gap was almost like standard definition versus high definition. The IMAX shots were truly jaw-droppingly amazingly stunning. In the wide, sweeping aerial shots of Gotham City you could see people on streets and rooftops. When there were closeup shots of people it felt like you could see individual skin cells.

It wasn’t just the resolution that was amazing; the daylight IMAX scenes were bright as much as sharp.

And the sound! The subwoofer sounded capable of concussing household animals, it actually made the seats shake. The opening sequence was a complete barrage against the senses, shot entirely in IMAX, loud, and above all without special effects. The best opening to a film since… well, since The Dark Knight.

This, however, is where my wife and I disagree on our methods of enjoying films. Whereas she is entirely engrossed in the story, I am also  impressed by the technical expertise that has gone into making the film. We both may have come out of the cinema gushing about the movie, but I was largely talking about the technical aspects; basically, the elements I’ve already covered in this post. Holly, meanwhile, loved the story (I felt compelled to tell her not to talk too loudly on the train, lest she give away spoilers; it was weird, I think I wanted to ensure everyone had the same epic move experience as I’d just had). It isn’t that I don’t enjoy the story of a film, but for me there is more to films than that. I can’t help noticing the technical side of a film; I’ve worked as a projectionist and in video editing so the construction side of a film interests me. My wife couldn’t really care less that they accidentally destroyed an IMAX camera filming both The Dark Knight (destroyed in the epic tunnel chase sequence) and The Dark Knight Rises (someone drove the BadPod into one). I’m surprised they still let Christopher Nolan shot IMAX, those cameras are about $300,000 each.

To me, 3D is a gimmicky filmmaking technique. Even the film that made the best use of 3D to date, Avatar, was a bit gimmicky in its implementation. I saw Avatar in the London IMAX and despite the impressive visuals, The Dark Knight Rises is the visually superior film, partly because of the higher resolution of the IMAX photography. I find the extra sharpness far far more engrossing than 3D. When done well, it can be effective, but that fact you’re watching three dimensional images on a two dimensional screen is damaging to the verisimilitude, no matter how effective it is.

When it comes down to it, we want to go back and see The Dark Knight Rises again, and I’m planning for it to once again be at the IMAX. I’m also very tempted to attend on of the midnight screenings of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, because if there’s one thing I really regret, it’s not seeing TDK at the IMAX.