Saturday, February 28, 2009

I overheard this brief snippet of conversation between two young women browsing the DVDs in Blockbusters today:

Browser One:
"Oh! I didn't know this was a (certificate) eighteen!"

Her Friend (in a reassuring tone):
"Yes - but it's only because of the violence and torture in it."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Six or seven weeks to go till Baby Number Three is here* - our midwife, Caroline, is talking about it being time to leave her emergency kit with us** in case things happen too fast for us to get to the hospital - and we still don't have any idea of what we are going to call it - him! (or her).

Well, Merriol and I don't. Holly has very definite ideas about what she (or he) is going to be called, though the definite idea she has changes from day to day. For a while it was 'Honeysuckle', then it became, 'Stephen', 'Stephanie', or 'Henry'.

My current favourite (thanks, Caroline***) is 'Thundercats'. 'Thundercats Baldwin'. I like it! It has a really nice ring to it. Holly objects on the grounds that "It would be too difficult for a six year old to spell - she would write 'TCats' which is silly."

Daisy likes 'Thundercats' but then she thinks that 'HobNob' is a good name for a baby - she has also wanted to call it, 'Olive', 'Bindi', 'Matula', 'Noodles', 'Tissue', and 'Hair-clip' at various times over the past few weeks.

Merriol who is lumping the baby round has expressed no preferences (that I've noticed) though she has done a brilliant job of shooting down all my suggestions so far. If non-verbal disapproval was a martial art this woman is Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Jet Li rolled into one. Brilliant ideas crumble to dust with one raised eyebrow and a slight widening of the nostril. (When she's really not liking something it's one eyebrow and one nostril - and not necessarily on the same side of her face.)

We have several weeks to go yet.

I hope her face can stand the strain.

Strictly speaking it's here already (at the moment it's in Glasgow shopping, having just been to an Arctic Monkeys gig.)

A rubber sheet and one of those sink plunger things?

A different Caroline.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Breakfast conversation this morning:

We're having wraps for tea tonight, is that okay?

Yes, sounds good.

Yeah, I found this really good recipe from Czechoslovakia - well it's from a region of Czechoslovakia really. Czechoslovakian regional cooking.

What is it?

We're having Bohemian wraps for tea.

I think she prefers it when I'm depressed.

If I had really had my wits about me I should have said it was West Indian regional cookery ('Bahamian wraps for tea') but I didn't think of that till just now...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

No blog entry tonight - but I have done another one and a half thousand words of the novel. God, it's awful.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I have just spent the evening working out how to export multiple paths from Photoshop into Illustrator. I finally worked it out! Just in case I forget overnight - or in case you have been wondering how to do this thing - I'm filling the blog up today with a tedious How to Do Something Really Not Very Interesting In Photoshop tutorial

1. Get both the Path and Layers palettes visible at the same time and open the image (Caroline Monroe in At The Earth's Core, yum yum! - What? You think I watch all these crappy movies because Doug McClure is in them?)

Gaussian Blur and Posterize till happy (or not, it isn't essential).

2. Use Wand Tool [W] to select an area. Fill the path with the foreground colour - this is not necessary but it helps to keep track of what you've done and doesn't affect the exported paths.

Convert selection to a Temp Path using New Work Path button.

3. Convert the Work Path to a permanent Path by dragging it onto the New Path icon.

Repeat ad nausiem.

When all areas have been selected and converted into Paths, go to File > Export Paths to Illustrator

Make sure All Paths is selected in the dropdown box.


Open the .ai file you just created in Illustrator.

Well. That was three hours well spent...

All I have to now is remember quite why I wanted to do this tremendously tedious thing in the first place...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why is it women are obsessed with the way things look?

This broad, blatantly sexist assumption is bought to you today by Merriol's long-running campaign of gentle, not so gentle, and downright blatant hints - in earlier, less enlightened days it would have been called 'nagging' - that I should get my hair cut for some baffling reason. Why? I have no idea why she wants me to get my hair cut. It doesn't need cutting - I had it cut last year - sometime - I think - and it's been doing an admirable job recently of keeping my head warm during some of the coldest weather we've had around here for years - and I do like having a warm head. Okay, I may look like a Muppet having ECT but that doesn't seem to bother anyone else. The only reason I could get out of her for why I should get my hair cut is that she thinks it would 'look nice'. I'm not sure I want to 'look nice'.

Damn! I just did a bit of fact-checking - I stuck my head around the door and asked her why I should get a haircut, just so I couldn't be accused of misquoting her - and she changed her tack:
"Because you look gorgeous with it short."
Damn! 'Gorgeous' I could live with. 'Gorgeous' is tempting. In Merriol's books 'gorgeous' Puts me up there with Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., and that bloke from ER (not George Clooney, the other one).

Newspapers. I love them but just don't have time to read them any more. When I was younger, and didn't have kids, I took The Guardian every day, did the crosswords, and read every page top to bottom. Not only did I know what was going on in the world, but I cared about it too and had opinions about things. Now I have kids, and no time, my newspaper input is limited to the local Sundays, The Herald on Sunday and Scotland on Sunday. It takes me all week to read them in dribs and drabs as and when I get the time.

Sometimes, to save time, I manage to avoid reading articles in case whatever they happen to say gets in the way of the headline:

Some detour

Monday, February 09, 2009

Eight weeks to go and Merriol is getting bigger by the minute. For reasons best known to herself and the fashion industry she is wearing a lot of horizontal stripes at the moment. It's a bit like living with an animated Bridget Riley painting.

Merriol and Seahorse 1 (2009)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I bought some DVDs today. Blockbuster's second hand bins are four movies lighter than they were this morning. Nothing spectacularly interesting but I do now have a copy of Citizen Kane which means I can bin my ratty old VHS copy - complete with 1980s commercials.

One of the movies I bought for the princely sum of £2.50 was Atonement. I don't know what DVD cases are like in the rest of the world but UK boxes come with a little panel that gives anxious parents the opportunity to have a guess at the bits they might not want their kids to see. Warnings that the film 'Contains language' have often baffled me. Unless the film is acted only by penguins, molluscs, or people from Birmingham of course it's going to contain language, how else are the actors going to communicate? Atonement's little box promises that it

'Contains very strong
language, bloody injuries
and moderate sex

I am so glad that that has never happened to me.

But then again, I know better than to ask...

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Just watched the TV news for the first time in a week or so. Apparently it has snowed in England for the first time for a couple of years and nobody knows what to do, this being such a rare event.


It's headline news. Reporters wearing full Arctic gear standing in various parts of the Home Counties wittering on about 'blizzard conditions', and 'widespread disruption' while behind them a whole two inches of rapidly melting snow throws the whole infrastructure of a nation into chaos. Apparently - and I find this totally surreal - 15,000 people have phoned the emergency services over the last couple of days because people have been throwing snowballs! "Come quickly! There's a man armed with a fluid ounce of frozen water terrorizing the neighbourhood!"
It always amazes me how quickly England grinds to a halt. Rain, snow, fog, wind, sunshine, any weather conditions at all out of the ordinary and the whole fucking system just collapses.

Natasha Kerplunkski: (Fwaaaaar!)
Emergency services have been strained to breaking point by the prolonged period of slightly overcast weather. Over now to Ken Luton with the latest. Ken, start walking towards the camera... Now!...
Thank you, Natasha. Yes, as you said, and I am now going to needlessly repeat, emergency services have indeed been strained to breaking point by the prolonged period of slightly overcast weather, and it's going to get worse; the Met Office tells me that there is the extreme possibility of slight drizzle this afternoon. Earlier today I spoke to some of those affected...
Bloke, leaning out of his car window:
Well it's diabolical innit? I mean they should do somefing. No one's doing nuffing. I think it's about time the government stepped in and sorted it.
Nice Lady, outside an office:
It's all Europe's fault. We didn't have this sort of thing happen before we joined.
Old Lady, standing outside the butcher's on the high street:
Oh it's dreadful. I'm devastated. I haven't been able to leave the house for days.
Some classic British whining there. And with things set to get even worse as the slight drizzle sweeps across the country I put some of these points to Doctor Anne Leper of the National Institute of Easily Available Experts. Doctor Anne Leper, as an expert from the National Institute, what are the dangers of these sort of extreme weather conditions?
Anne Leper:
Speaking in my capacity as an expert I would say there is the possibility of what we experts call Passive Increased Moisture Absorption.
And in layman's terms?
Anne Leper:
In layman's terms - and I don't want to over-simplify things here, but there is a slight danger that things left outside in the drizzle may, possibly, under some circumstances - become a bit moist.
What sort of things might become dangerously moist in this manner?
Anne Leper:
Absorbent things mostly.
Like pets?
Anne Leper:
Yes... pets could possibly be affected in this way... yes.
Thank you Doctor Anne Leper. And with that dire prediction of dangerously damp pets - it's back to the studio... Natasha.
Anne Leper:
When do I get my fifty quid?
Natasha Kerplunkski: (Fwaaaaar!)
Thank you Ken. And now a round-up of the other, less important, news - Tokyo was at the receiving end of a 30 megaton atomic bomb this lunchtime as World War Three enters it's third day, the Nikkei-225 index fell 66.88 points on the news to 7972.06 points - the worst day's trading since last Tuesday when hostilities commenced...

The thing is, no one knows how to deal any more with weather that stops them driving their cars from their centrally-heated houses to their air-conditioned offices, with maybe a short visit to the enclosed shopping mall on the way home.
People just don't know how to read the weather any more. Even the weather forecasts on radio and TV are all about how the weather will affect 'driving conditions', not what it will be like to stand in the stuff and how wet and cold you will get. Maybe I'm just lucky in that I live out in the country and in a part of the world that has very variable and interesting weather - two miles up the road from my house there are snow gates on the road, gates that get closed when the road is impassable just to stop idiot tourists who can't understand that thick snow is a bitch to drive in 'going for it', not making it, and freezing to death in their cars (and then moaning that no one came to rescue them afterwards).

North of the border, every time England grinds to a stop like this everyone just raises an amused but despairing eyebrow, takes the day off work, and mutters 'Fucking t shirt weather that - southern poufters.'

I'm going to play Six degrees of Kevin Bacon with all my films this year. I'm not going necessarily to choose them because they have a connection with the previously watched but I intend to forge some sort of connection between them all no matter how tenuous.
(This notice will self-destruct sometime in mid February like all other New Year resolutions.)
  1. I Walked With a Zombie - This is turning into an annual event. I started last year by watching a Val Lewton / Jacques Tourneur RKO B-movie too. Screenplay by Curt Siodmak who also wrote the story for:
  2. Earth Vs The Flying Saucers -
  3. Nosferatu - Three movies into my 'Six degrees of Kevin Bacon with all my films this year' thing and I have bowled myself a real googly. How do I get from a crappy 50s invasion paranoia movie to a German art-house reworking of the Dracula story? My first attempt: Morris Ankrum who played the heroine father in Earth Vs appeared in an episode of the Bat Masterson Western TV series and Dracula could turn himself into a bat! Ta-dah!... I know. I'll have another go tomorrow. But Nosferatu starred Klaus Kinski who made a lot of movies. Several of them, like For a Few Dollars More, with music by Ennio Morricone - who composed the most amazingly trashy score for:
  4. Danger: Diabolik - Brilliant piece of cinematic comic book nonsense.
  5. Spacehunter - Molly Ringwald in 3D! God she was annoying enough in two. Note to self: if ever I find myself casting a moviethat need to be watched wearing polarised cardboard glasses, watch this again - then go cast an actress with actual breasts that might work in 3D.
  6. Matilda -
  7. Dark Planet - A stupid stupid SF movie set in a far distant future where space fascists blast away at everything in sight with late twentieth century automatic rifles while trying to survive some of the shoddiest special effects since the opening credits of Blake's Seven. All of which must mark some sort of low point in Michael York's career. The sort of movie even Malcolm McDowell would have turned down.
  8. A Night at the Roxbury - Stupid stupid movie which made me laugh.
  9. Flight to Mars -
  10. Bugsy Malone - One of Mrs JM's favourite movies.
  11. Glen or Glenda - Like Bugsy Malone the first feature for the director. The director in this case being the great Edward Wood Jr. A truly heartfelt, unique and utterly demented movie.
  12. Jail Bait - Ed Wood's most mainstream and least idiosyncratic movie which means that it still retains many of Wood's hallmarks, like the odd cutting, the long long pointless takes where people cross rooms back and forth for no real reason, the stilted dialogue, and wooden acting - but looses most of the weird shoddiness that is so appealing in his work. It's boring. The most noticeable thing about Wood's 'style' in this film is the total lack of cutaways - those essential little insert shots that show the audience in close up what the under-rehearsed actor is interminably fiddling with on the other side of the room. An actor opens a desk drawer - cut to a shot down into the drawer to show the gun in the drawer and a hand taking it out. Cut back to the wider shot and the actor puts something into his pocket. The presumption is made that the actor has put the gun in his pocket. Don't do a cutaway and the actor has to wave the gun around in an unnatural way to let the audience see what it is he is doing..

    A not very good actor getting into an uncomfortable
    position to show the audience something.

    Cutaways like this also have the advantage of letting you cut between different takes of the same long shot (presuming you have more than one take which in this case looks doubtful) so you can cheat the action (ie cut out most of the interminable fiddling.) Wood never seemed to learn about these very useful shots. Or, for that matter, about cheating time. In Jail Bait we see several shots of people arriving at buildings and then entering them to visit people we have already met in the narration - there's nothing essential happening here, the director is just filling a bit of time and getting two characters into a room to have a conversation, he's not introducing a new character or place. It's simple movie mechanics. Standard operating procedure at the time for this sort of set-up would be to show the car driving up the house and stopping, then a cut to inside the house where the character to be visited would hear a door bell ring, and answer the door. There is no way, in real time, that the actor in the car could have got to the door but the audience accepts the jump in time without noticing. Wood on the other hand has to show every plodding step. In one long take, he shows the car coming down the road, drawing up to the house then stopping, the actor driving the car is then shown getting out, shutting the car door, walking slowly up the steps and then ringing the doorbell, THEN Wood cuts to the inside shot at a point where any competent director would be half way through the dialogue that is to follow. All this comes after having just watched the character driving the car tell someone in the previous scene that this was where he was going and this is who he was going to see! Boring and redundant! I may not learn a lot watching crap, but at least I learn a lot more than Wood did watching the good stuff.
  13. The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr. - a touching documentary of a man whose boundless enthusiasm coupled with a matchless lack of talent made him a hero.
  14. Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The 'Plan 9' Companion - A second documentary on Wood. (if the words 'Box Set' crossed your mind sometime in the last few minutes, award yourself a coconut). The documentary pretty much repeats most of the things said in The Haunted World of. There are, after all, only a limited number of people left alive who worked with Wood and some of the stories were repeated - as they must have been for many years - almost word for word. A little over long too.

    No matter what time of day you watch Plan 9 From Outer Space - it always feels like three in the morning.

  15. Plan 9 From Outer Space - By god, they're right! It's only half past ten and it feels like 3am!
  16. CQ - As a sneakily cheap six degrees - there was a visual reference to Danger: Diabolik very early on (John Philip Law also appeared in the film) which via the links I will (one day) forge between that, Spacehunter, Matilda, etc. brings us back to Plan 9 From Outer Space - I really am starting to think this was a very silly idea... CQ was directed by Roman Coppola whose father, Francis, produced George Lucas' first film THX 1138. Lucas directed -
  17. The Empire Strikes Back - and I fell asleep.
  18. Star Wars - My Kids see the original Star Wars for the first time. And I didn't fall asleep! This is the first time I've watched Star Wars in the past 10 years without waking up half way through and having to rewind rewind the bugger.
  19. Ong-Bak - Bought on eBay for 99p (including postage) because I was intrigued by the title, knew nothing about it (there was no description or picture in the auction) - and it was only 99p. Ong-Bak it turns out is a 2003 Thai martial arts movie with a paper thin plot but lots of fighting - lots and lots of fighting - apart from the occasional burst of exposition or watching people setting things up to be destroyed, most of the 105 minutes running time was spent watching our hero getting kicked in the face while he finds new and interesting ways of hitting people on the head with his elbows - in slow motion, from three different angles, like a sports instant replay. (Paul Whitehouse voice please:) "Let's see that again Geoff - Yes, you can really see how he kicks the little guy in the groin from this angle, and look at the sweat flying off his face in slo-mo here... marvellous."

    It is on it's way back to eBay. (Bugger knows how I'm going to get from Star Wars to this - or from this to anything else...)
  20. Bride of the Monster - A rewatch of another Ed Wood 'masterpiece'.
  21. Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle of Death - Attack of the Killer Tomatoes meets Apocalypse Now. With a bit more money (I think Killer Tomatoes had a bigger budget) and/or a a better director this could have been a funny little movie. As it was, it was an almost funny little movie. Any film that can make Shere Hite jokes in the middle of a sword fight has to have something going for it. I have totally given up on the Six Degrees thing.
  22. Year of the Dog - What promised to be a quirky little amusing movie turned into a tedious, woolly-minded, anti-vivisection trudge which wandered about all over the place not making it's shallow points very well or exploring any of the screamingly obvious issues it raised. Why, for instance, does our protagonist Vegan heroine, so incensed about the rights of chickens, cows, and goats to have happy natural lives, buy shelves full of dog food to feed her 15 dogs without apparently realising they are made from meat? Stupid and shallow. For a while I amused myself by counting the number of times our 'heroine' sighed meaningfully - but soon gave that up when I got into three figures. Avoid.
  23. Madagascar - Better than expected Friday night with the kids movie during which I laughed several times - to the bemusement of the kids who didn't get the jokes.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Shopping in Oban today, fuelled by one of my Damn The Torpedoes! Full Cholesterol Ahead! It's The Weekend! breakfasts* I came across this wonderful piece of packaging. (I get irony migraines from this sort of thing.)

Interior: Overly-designed Office: Day


How do we make a deep fat fryer
look wholesome and healthy?

Advertising Wanker:

How about we put happy white people eating Pasta
on the box. Spaghetti maybe, or possibly linguine .


Deep fried spaghetti?

Advertising Wanker:

Could be deep fried, could be...
I'll get a focus group together...

*Eggy bread fried in butter topped with crispy grilled bacon drowned in a shitload of maple syrup - the kids loved it.)

Missing CD? Contact vendor

Free CD
Please take care
in removing from cover.

Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

(this copyright notice stolen from

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