Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 12

A bumper Sunday edition of The Weekend List. This weekend has been a low-key one for me; yesterday was particularly marvellous, and for the first time in months I spent it lazily indoors, over at Nanon's, sprawled under a duvet on the sofa, with her mirroring me on the one opposite. With absolutely no intention of moving, silent laptop marathoning with a best friend, mince pies to hand, central heating on and an occasional grunt from one sofa to the other "I just watched the Beyonce film. I think I'm ready to be back in love with her." "Mm-hmm." "I've just remembered we ended last night dancing to Voulez Vous and feeling like the best dancers ever...Voulez Vous!" You need a Saturday like that every once in a while. Without further ado, some links to lose yourself in. Pop the kettle on, you know the drill.

Clockwise from top left: Little Chef, Lolworth, 2013, Benjamin McMahon; still from William Onyeabor: Fantastic Man, directed by Adam Bainbridge and Camilla Wasserman; Bushman's Cave; Eartha Kitt. 


Culture

This brilliant and bizarre interview with Michael Keaton in small-town Montana

Eartha Kitt on love and compromise

Good for the soul. New Yorkers roller dancing to William Onyeabor over at Nowness.com

Chris Hadfield's Reddit Q+A from when he was on the International Space Station. (Side note: I interviewed Chris Hadfield this week and it was everything I dreamed of and more. He's one of those people who is consistently fascinating and articulate- poetic, even. Even though he had this tired look in his eyes, of somebody who was essentially just working, and repeating the same ideas over and over and giving a lot of himself, it was amazing to speak with somebody who has been to actual space and looked at us all from above. You can listen to the very short interview here, just as long as you're patient with my early awkwardness and inability to get my words to match the ones in my head. Babysteps.)

Issa Rae, Gina Prince-Bythewood and Lena Waithe in conversation

Food

I Was A Teenage Little Chef Supervisor

Spine Trolley's utterly brilliant #soupreviews

Listening

It's that time of year when we all naturally take a look over our shoulders at the last 12 months and reflect on the things that we did, didn't do, and the things that we liked along the way. For me, this year was especially big on a-u-d-i-o, and so this is a bumper edition of some wonderful things I've listened to. After moving into my flat in June, and choosing to go without internet, I've spent a lot of my time demolishing podcasts and listening to the Radio. There have been epiphanies and sex advice with the Savage Lovecast whilst cooking dinner, wet eyes listening to the 2014 Reith Lectures, evening walks with my headphones and Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow and the Nerdette women, and hanging washing and then eventual apathy with Serial. There's also been a heap of new music I probably wouldn't have otherwise discovered after a new guy joined us at work and got us all listening to NTS. I also met Nija, who runs the wonderful In The Dark Radio nights here in Manchester, and who has introduced me to some wonderful radio documentaries, all in the setting of cosy, pitch-black rooms in pubs and back rooms around the city.

Singing Together with Jarvis Cocker 

No Man Left Behind; one of my favourite listens this year; a story of deep-cave diving and death in Bushman's Hole, one of the deepest freshwater caves in the world.

Japan Blues

Ann Powers' Top 15 albums of 2014; I relish lists like this, full of albums I've missed, or artists I've never heard of.

Shamir's Northtown EP

Shadow of Blood by Lena Platonos. Very sexy; how I imagine the soundtrack to Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin holidaying on a Greek island might sound.

Steve Gunn's Way Out Weather. Pretty country, fairly Bill Callahan, the sort of album that makes me wish I was a man, living commando in one pair of denim jeans, against an Annie Proulx landscape (but free of the death and angst), a few healthy repressions, and lots of horses to whisper whoahhh to. Start with this;



Snacks

The 10 best John Barry soundtracks

City of Sound

If you're looking for Christmas present ideas, my good friend Charlie is making and selling beautiful jewellery

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Porcupine Dilemma


This is Sigmund Freud's porcupine, a bronze figurine the size of a hand, currently on loan to the Wellcome Collection as part of their Sexology exhibition. I visited over the weekend as part of one of my quarterly London trips, which always coincide with a need to get out of Manchester for a long weekend, gallery-binge and catching up with friends; more and more of whom are now living in the Big Smoke. Probably one of my favourite parts of the exhibition, this little porcupine usually sits on the desk in the Freud Museum, alongside the other statues and antiquities, and represents the 'Porcupine dilemma':

"This bronze porcupine was kept on Sigmund Freud’s desk. He thought it represented the prickliness of human relationships. Porcupines crowd together when cold; however their sharp quills cause them to move away from each other when they get too close. This forces them to shift closer and then further apart until a balance of proximity is found. Freud used this to illustrate how people can both benefit from and be harmed by those they are most intimate with." 

Some of the other wonderful materials on show include Marie Stopes' 'Tabulations of Symptoms of Sexual Excitement in Solitude', a very neat hand-drawn graph chronicling her own sexual pleasure over the course of a month. At one point she notes a 'desire to be held closely around the waist til corsets become tempting, tho normally they are abhorrent', and then there's the fortnight when she's 'fearfully tired and overworked' and her libido noticeably flatlines. Throw in beautifully graphic illustrations of ladyparts on the inside of clam shells (perfect) which were given to newlywed brides, a very funny scene from Woody Allen's Sleeper which sees Diane Keaton trying to seduce him while he cleans his clarinet and a fascinating interview with a bunch of students from Mount Holyoke College (where I actually studied for a bit) about sexual identity and Women's Colleges and it was just about the nicest way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon in London. Standing in a big crowd of people, shoulder to shoulder, all chin-stroking whilst peering at penis-shaped water jugs; there's something about that which is nice and cheeky and good for the soul.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 11

It's been almost two months since I last posted. Things have been plodding along nicely and I'd barely realised it's been so long. There have been lots of nice goings on, like seeing Philip Glass play earlier in the month, a trip over to Liverpool to see Le Gateau Chocolat's Black as part of Homotopia Festival (seriously recommend you seek Le Gateau Chocolat out if you can; the most honest, witty, wonderful piece of theatre I've seen recently). There was a big, exciting reunion with university friends which saw 40 of us crowded around a friend's table in East Finchley, smashing at kilos of crabs with rolling pins, catching up with those back from months of travelling around the world and generally falling back in love with each other. Back in Manchester, and now that it's growing colder, I've been nesting at home, writing, exploring new podcasts and getting my head around my prehistoric storage heating system. 

At work, we were involved with an exciting project involving an artistic takeover at the beautiful Central Library with lots of free and unusual interventions, something I was so proud to see happening in our city. I often find myself disheartened by the fact that truly public spaces in cities seem increasingly few and far between; with many of them privately owned and councils quick to sell a scrap of land off to another developer rather than reserving it as a place for citizens to just sit and be. I'm always on the lookout for more public spaces to enjoy without having to justify my presence by consuming coffee, and libraries and churches are the last bastions. For this reason, it was refreshing to see lots of talented people use the library space to share their work for free, with people who might not otherwise ever get a chance to see it.

Alongside all of this, I've been popping down to Bristol on the train to spend time with my Granny who is feeling increasingly unwell, but as fabulous as ever. Last month we sat on a bench in the local park, all wrapped up against the Autumn chill and laughed that our relationship with each other will probably be the most successful, loving and understanding that either of us will have. Last weekend we stayed indoors curled up on a giant floral sofa each and talked about how long it's taken either of us to get to grips with female anatomy, how bizarrely detached we were from understanding how our bodies function. "We must have learned about all of this in biology?" "We were fifteen, I suppose we felt we had more pressing things on our minds..?" 

Without further ado, then, is a new edition of the Weekend List. Do what you need to do. Pop the kettle on, wrap a blanket over your shoulders and read, play and listen. 

Illustration by Phoebe Wahl, "Mama of Dada" Beatrice Wood and Nick Drake. 


Culture

“I have issues with the idea that if someone does or says something wrong that there is no coming back, and that is the kind of person they are now and always. That’s never been true for anybody that wants to learn and wants to grow.” Ashley Ford being interviewed as part of Women on women writing online, a new series from cool Guardian intern Sarah Galo.

"When I am creating, I love my body." Phoebe Wahl's brilliant body-positive illustrations. (Thanks to Kate for the tip.)

"The second kind of freedom to me that is important in the media if the idea of giving freely. When you feel or sense that someone is giving you something not out of profit, but out of self-respect, Christian charity, whatever it is. That has a very powerful energy. The Guardian, in my understanding, was founded by an endowment by a successful man with a social conscience who wanted to help create a voice for what I call the little guy. So they have a kind of moral mission or imperative. This has given them the latitude to try to be interesting, thoughtful, helpful. And they bring Edward Snowden to the world stage. Something that is not pleasant for a lot of people to hear about, but we need to know." If you haven't listened to Iggy Pop's John Peel Lecture for BBC 6 Music yet, save it for Sunday night when you're pottering about and getting yourself mentally prepared for Monday. It's a good sentiment to absorb before the start of a new week. (Alternatively read the transcript here)

Sustainability and sex, or the very cool Father-Daughter team behind natural condom company Sustain.

Listening

I've passed the honeymoon period with Call Your Girlfriend; we're plodding along just fine but I'm looking for new podcasts that make me guffaw or feel as thoughtful as CYG did in the early days. This week I listened to Savage Lovecast while I cooked dinner. I downloaded, heard Dan Savage talking about reclaiming the word pussy, and dispensing advice to somebody trying to recover their sexuality after sexual assault I thought this is it. Thoughtful, pragmatic, intelligent and funny (if you can overlook the comedic level of adverts). Here's Dan on the P-word:

"Remember, pussies are strong, they chew up semen and spit out humans! It's scrotums that are weak and vulnerable... you give them a tap and the guy is on the ground. So we should use the word 'scrote' instead of pussy."

Paul Smith and Peter Brewis- Barcelona (at Eye Level);



Make Our Garden Grow 

99 Percent Invisible: Three Records From Sundown. Nick Drake special. 

Snacks

Alan Turing's Love Letter Generator is true romance.

10 Female Dada artists you should know

Gabriella Boyd.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Have Nothing To Wear is a lie and you know it


This evening I went over to Ali’s house and we stood on his balcony while he smoked and I mused on the fact that I’m starting to feel in a rut. I feel like I walk the same route from home to work, stopping at the same bars and coffee shops and going to the same cinema, where the people at the box office often recognize me but don’t know me (ah, the phenomenon of the regular, a cinema go-ers dream, but what for?) “February is when I get into my rut.” Said Ali. “Every February” And then I remembered just how bluesy I felt back in February and how comparatively un-bluesy I feel now and just thinking about what lies ahead, on the other side of Christmas almost made me feel bluesy again. “So I’m putting aside £50 each month until then." he said. "I’ll either go somewhere hot and inclusive and get slowly drunk by a pool, or just go somewhere different, it can be cold, just as long as it doesn’t rain.” 

Over the weekend I read an article about decluttering ones wardrobe; presumably because I wanted a vicarious taste of zen without having to make difficult decisions. I have lots of clothes and can’t remember the last time I applied some balance by letting some go. I zoomed through the ‘7 questions to ask’, resolutely not answering them. “Mm, yes, that is definitely a good question to ask.” I imagined a sizable pile of discarded wardrobe, of selling it and exchanging it for a brand new sizable pile. Then I got to work, rolled up my sleeves and dived into my drawers to survey the clothes I ‘meh’ at each morning. Watch me be resilient! I thought to myself, feeling not in the least bit resilient and instead sort of cooing over the piles of leopard skin, soothing colours and mini skirts. I let myself off the hook; if you really don’t want to let go of these clothes then you have to prove to yourself that you’ll wear them. (This is the self-directed internal monologue which has grown more sternly maternal since I started living along) No more spending hours cruising eBay and cultivating watch lists. No more starting the day with I Have Nothing to Wear because that is a lie and you know it.


I am often wooed by the excitement of new resolutions or schemes, often hatched at kitchen tables (or leaning on balconies with smokers.) The trick is following through with these plans. This week I am setting myself two resolutions: 1. Begin a holiday fund (saving at least £50 a month; a manageable starting point) and 2. Wear my wardrobe. Dig around and tease out the joys out of overlooked as if I was scavenging a friend’s. If you’re getting dressed and you’re faced with a dirty laundry basket and a drawer containing a sad, clean swimming suit then maybe maybe it is true that you have nothing to wear. Otherwise, dig, dig away. Equally, I’m going to have people over for beers instead of buying them out and be better at using my fresh ingredients before they go off. I can almost hear the first pulsing of feelgood montage music.

 In order to stay true to this resolution, I am publicly declaring my intentions, starting a ‘Take me somewhere with heat and Vitamin D’ money pot and I’ll update on the outfits I wear to work each day, just to prove that it’s possible. (Or if it isn’t) I’ll also make mark my calendar for the sake of progress-recording and maybe draw stars, because when it comes down to it, there is an inner child within us all who just wants a star chart again. God forbid, maybe I’ll create a hashtag. Something like #30daysofsteelyfrugality or #fortydaysandfortymothballs. I think I'm going to find this hard because there are plenty of things I have on my eternal mental shopping list. But I'm going to try to forge ahead. (*disclaimer; I bought a beautiful rollneck jumper earlier about an hour before I decided to kickstart a period of frugality. I've been thinking about it for a couple of weeks and bought it from the money I've made from my first, ever writing commission.) But I'll be wearing it with some golden oldies. Feel free to join this gang; it’s less awkward than the reality of a clothing swap, and sort of like a beckon onto the internet-dancefloor of cool women dancing in skirts they love again. *Pulsing feelgood montage music fades in*

Update: We are now an *actual* club (so far it's me, Camille of Unpretentious Bouquet of Parenthesis, and Fiona of Save Our Shoes) We're using the hashtag #oldootd and uploading what we're wearing each day onto Instagram. Come join our gang! It's inspiring to have fellow supporters/money savers/old clothes re-inventors to ride the wave with. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 10

Yesterday morning I took the train down to Hathersage in the Peak District and by 10am I was gliding through the water of the outdoor swimming pool there, blinded by the sun and steam. I've been wanting to do this for ages, and was pleased to divert from my usual weekend routine in Manchester which is nicely familiar but sometimes rut-ish. I so wish we had an outdoor swimming pool in Manchester, it's so much better to swim in the open air than a clammy sports centre. As a result, this Weekend List comes a day late, so consider this a Sunday spread. 

Clockwise from top left; My Dad and me, Southern Cemetery in Manchester, Britney's Instagram, Lou Stoppard and Penny Martin in conversation. 


Culture

An hour-long interview with Penny Martin via Show Studio.

"As I was running out of my apartment, I looked in the fridge and all I had was a leftover falafel, which is the only thing I had time to eat as I wrote it. I will forever associate Betty Friedan with cold falafel." The Art of the Obituary; an interview with The New York Times's Margalit Fox.

"She is no longer the physical technician she used to be, but the less she relies on her body, the more she comes to trust her sense of humour as the backbone of her brand." We Might Finally Be Meeting The Real Britney Spears. 

Family

"We got to the B&B late and they left out tea and cookies for us and we tiptoed around the house in the dark, looking at prints of whales and family photos, all the while eating our ginger snaps... We had, it must be said, and I'm sorry to tell you this, life affirming sex." Meaghan O'Connell's short piece about the conception of her baby. 

"I delight in telling her that one day she, like me, will experience the liberation of not giving a single shit what anyone thinks. But my joy is unfathomable to her, and one morning she storms out of the house when I pliez in my Y-fronts." Father and Daughter story by Rose Bretecher.

Style

The Ugly Project via Show Studio. Essays, interviews and 'object analysis' of odd earrings and clumpy shoes.

Listening

Steve McQueen on Desert Island Discs.

Lunch. (Episode 1/5) Bill and Bella meet every month for lunch and swap news. I listened to this 15 minute drama whilst I cooked a salmon stir-fry the other night and guffawed. (Only available for one more day)

Snacks

Funkiest shit ever. Clip from Sunil Dutt's 1981 film Rocky. I'm yet to watch this film but have been listening to composer RD Burman, and in turn his score for this film.

I completed a Women in Clothes survey. 

Lena Dunham's advice videos.

10 lessons I've learned in my career via Joanna Goddard.

Steely resolve! 7 Questions to Ask When Cleaning Out Your Closet.