Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Going back to India!

I am so under prepared for this holiday. Despite spending the best part of three months planning my getaway to India, I still have not booked my hotel room nor have I secured a ride from Guwahati to Shillong. For those that do not know the geography of the North East, I am landing in the region's gateway and heading off to the hills. A three hour drive at the best of times.

Oh, and I still do not know how I am going to get round to Calcutta....ohmygosh, Calcutta! Oh man! Well, it will be the fifth biggest city I have visited (after Mexico, Cairo, Shanghai and Jakarta), so I am expecting the usual belch of megacity fun! Plus, being an India city, the delights of the local street food!

All right, I have a rough plan in my head, and I am going to do the five things I recommended to the casual visitor while I was last in India. To recap:

1: Meet the Khasis. I am off to Shillong for a couple of days and so will get a chance to sample the unique culture of these great people.

2: Hop on a train. I have to get to Calcutta somehow, right?

3: Cross a bamboo bridge. Maybe not exactly bamboo, but I am planning to do one very special river crossing while on my travels.

4: Catch a flick. Oh yes! A must do!

5: Eat well: My tastebuds are tingling in excitement!

See you back here on October 13th,

El Director!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Da Crew! (Comic)



I love those guys. Really. Well, maybe not that much. But, I had to immortalise the folks behind the camera. The ones, who normally, do not get the glory, but who have as much 'fun' as anyone else on set. The crew!



Right, El Director is off on holiday and so the comic strip will next be up and running on Monday October 19th! Until then...;)

'Da Crew'

Sunday, 20 September 2009

I have a headache

I do not like shifts. And Autumn. A deadly combination of evil and more evil. Voices annoy me. I feel lethargic. And, I have the overwhelming desire to hurt fleas. But most of all, I want to cut my toenail. It is bugging me. As I was sleeping, it was chaffing on my duvet. Annoying little thig. The hypersensitivity of my left foot bugs me from here to Croydon. Expect more tomfoolery anytime soon...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Storm in a City's Tea Cup

Wow! If not living in London is akin to being at the centre of the universe, the lack of real news has meant that two extremely trivial London matters have gained national attention.

1) The changes to the Tube Map:

There is no River Thames. There are no more zones. There are too many wheelchair blobs. That is the general prognosis of what has happened.

But what we are really talking about is a local metro network changing a couple of details on its schematic diagram. More important than Dafur? Or the current health of the British economy?


2) The end of the London Paper.

From 3pm onwards, an army of (mainly) Indian students are out on the streets of London distributing freesheets to all that pass them by. Many ignore them, I usually take from one and chuck it in the next bin in order to help those guys out.

The newspaper itself is fine for whiling away a few minutes on the tube, but there is very little reason to keep a copy. Nothing serious in it, just the previous night's celebrity bashes and the occasional quirk about either the West End/Madia Vale. In about three weeks time it will be 'The London What?' rather than Missed Connections, although I do feel sorry for the people who are loosing their jobs, particularly the distributors, unloved and little thanked despite being exposed to the elements.

---

So there you have it. The largest city in Europe, the engine of the world's fifth largest economy. Trivial pursuits rather than lofty ideas. The dream is not that great...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Those 'green shoots'

Recovery.

Hope.

Stability.

Cutbacks.

Don't believe the hype, wait until after the next election. Then, the real fun begins...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Bicycle Diaries (Autumn)



Shockingly, I have had this bicycle for over a year. And for eleven months, it has run pretty well. In fact, it is the longest lasting bike that I have ever owned. Now remember, I use my bicycle almost everyday. Not because I am some fitness freak (although there is an element of health to consider), but mainly due to convenience and expense. Petrol is shockingly expensive in the UK, and has risen to over a pound a litre (for anyone in the US, that is around $8 per gallon, for anyone in Europe, that is approx €1.40/l). As this week, I had to repair my bike instead of ride it, I have spent the best part of £20 on petrol, and that is not even driving everyday. This is not an expense I want to occur.

Secondly, the car is very unreliable in terms of traffic. Am I going to get somewhere? How long will it take? Will I get a parking space? All of these things must be taken into consideration. Despite the greater speed of a car, the distances that I am travelling means the time saving is not as much as I think. And I have to leave extra time to account for traffic. On a bicycle, the travelling time is pretty much static, dependent on how tired I am rather than how much traffic there is. Driving in London is an exercise in futility, especially in the daytime, where the time saved is negligible.

But this week, I have had to undertake some repairs. As you can see from the photo, the rear wheel is different from the front wheel . That is because, my back wheel buckled a few weeks ago, so I did a straight swap between my old bike wheel and current one. It is fine for now, although I will have to replace it come winter, otherwise I will skid on the frost.

Also, my saddle broke. This is quite embarrassing, but basically, I do not always cycle with my hands on the handlebar. Early mornings, late evenings, there is no traffic, and so with the roads to myself, I will wobble all over the place without balancing myself in the correct riding position. Great if coming off night duty, and hey, I look cool, but it is awful for the bike. Hence the buckled back wheel and the fact that I managed to shear through the half an inch thick of solid chrome that my saddle bar was made of.

I did go to the cycle shop, but obviously they have not heard of the current rate of inflation. Like the rest of real world, inflation was not a few pounds increase, but a hundred pounds extra for exactly the same model. I was prepared to pay £200 for a bike (the amount I use it makes it worthwhile). But £300 was not even conceivable. So instead I bought a saddle post and clip and repaired the saddle myself. I will also have to spend cash on a new back wheel, bringing the current cost of repairs up to £90. Expensive, but considering this bike still has a lot of life left in it, and the amount of mileage I also get out of it, I hopefully will be able to get another good year's worth of riding out of it, but there is no way in hell I will pay £300 for a bike.

Come on, this is London, and anything that expensive is going to get stolen before I even put the locks on.

But winter is coming, time to ready the bike for the last part of 2009...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A wander along the Thames Path...

A couple of weekends ago, I found myself with a free Sunday afternoon. Needing little more encouragement, I set out on what was to be the last warm day of 2009, and headed along the last couple of miles of the Thames Path from the Greenwich Peninsula down towards the Thames Barrier in Charlton.



This part of the river is still fairly industrial, as is evidenced by the working wharves that litter the river bank. Shale, shingle and gravel are piled up high in order to supply London's construction industry (still going despite the recession). There are also some pleasure spots, believe it or not, yachting marinas and the like. However, this remains a very different river bank to the more popular reaches upstream. Few visitors make it down this far into South East London, and so the path retains almost a wilderness type quality to it.



However, do not think that this is a wasteland. After all, this is London and space is at a premium in this city. The river bank is well utilised even this far downstream, and although it was fairly deserted on that Sunday, it can be seen from wandering past this area, that this part of the Thames is a working area. London is not famed for its heavy industry, but it does exist in part throughout the city, you just have to look for it. And here, along the lower reaches of the river, there is plenty of industrial capacity, strewn across the water's edge.

But this wander, was not just to see London's 'manly jobs' but also a satisfaction of curiosity. After all, the famed Millenium Village lies along the Thames. Supposedly an attempt in providing good quality, low cost homes to Londoners, there is more than a whiff of corruption in the air, as it seems that us taxpayers have sponsored a brand new set of riverside apartments for sale at ludicrous prices...am I the only one in London to question why no ordinary Londoner can afford to live here, despite the fact that it was subsidised by my taxes?



Enough of the bitterness. I can't be bothered to rally against corruption. Let me get some more soma and have a look at what my hard earned cash paid for:



Moving on from the balcony lifestyle, I always like to tell a story, or wind up with a tale of intrigue when on my wanders through London. And this part of the Thames Path is no different. This forgotten part of one of London's greatest treasures is on the frontier of the North Sea. The Thames Barrier stands at the end of the Thames Path and protects the capital from the ravages of flooding. Opened on the 1980's, it is one of the greatest examples of forward planning envisaged by this country. Shocking considering the usual ineptitude of the UK's planning policy, but the Thames Barrier really does perform an essential function. It saves lives. Since its completion, it has been raised numerous times to protect London from the storm surges of the North Sea. As we enter Autumn and the threat of storms and spring tides loom ever closer, we will be entering the phase when the barrier will probably be raised up more than once. We take this structure for granted, but without it, London would be no more better off than Bangladesh. But silently, reliably, this magnificently built structure allows the city to sleep safe at night, and despite global warming (with rising sea levels), the barrier still has a few good years left in it...



But before I go, let us not think that South East London is all work and no play. After all, this is London, albeit a part of the city that even few Londoners bother venturing to. And yeah, I must admit, beyond Greenwich, much of London is pretty grim. There is not much to look at, there are no large attractions, and travel around here is difficult at best. Still, here is a little something to brighten up the riverside...



Getting there and away:

On weekends, don't even think about it. The nearest tube is North Greenwich, and of course, the Jubilee line is only weekday only service.

Woolwich is a bus ride away from the Thames Barrier and of course has the very funky new extension to the DLR up and running. Otherwise, you are subject to the whims of Southeastern. You know what, better to stay at home, and let 'El Director' take you on an armchair tour instead...

Monday, 14 September 2009

Milk! From Outer Space!



I really liked doing this, both as a short film and as a comic strip.

Originally, Nick came to me and asked me to shoot Jay and Kay in the back garden, just chatting, and most importantly, having the milk bottle 'disappear. He then told me to 'trust him'. So I did. A few weeks later, he brought me the animation sequence and so was born the two alter egos of Silvertop and Goldtop.



The reason why I have enjoyed this webisode so much is that the story is continued in the latest incarnation of Caution Wet paint, Jay and Kay Save the World! Yep, give me a chance, and I will string a story out far beyond the stars...into the realms of madness!

Milk! From Outer Space!


(el d.)

Sunday, 13 September 2009

'Uncle'

It's fun talking with my uncles. All three of them (one on my dad's side, two on my mum's). They are all very cool in their own unique ways.

Uncle one is getting quite elderly but seems to be stuck in the hippie era, in a good way. Despite living in a war zone, he has a fresh demeanor, everytime I chat with him, he is always 'all right', taking life in is stride and defying medical advice to live well beyond any of his siblings' years. He is the master of everything that is cool, since I was a child he has had these easy going attitude and even in his advanced years, his relaxed look at life keeps him surprisingly fit ad nimble. A practitioner of yoga, and a man who takes regular exercise, uncle number one is a very cool person.

Uncle number two is on the otherside of humanity as far as stress goes. He is someone who has been through it all, and survived and thrived to tell the tale. A very successful person in his business life, he has had to learn things the hard way. Again very cool, always caring, and he makes me smile when he gets stressed. I have learned over the years not to take notice, and so have the other people close to him. I admire him a lot for what he has done with himself, and he serves as an inspiration for me.

Uncle number three is again, a very cool person. There is no-one else I know who is as likeable as him. He has certain charisma about him that people automatically hit it off with him. Wherever they are from in the world, whatever the time, this uncle is the person that you want to know. But, he does not take advantage of this. Generous in spirit, it is always easy to get on with him. The rest of the family all agree with me when I said that no matter who you are, you will automatically get along with him, such is his great persona.

All three of my uncles are fun people, and I have been close to them since my childhood. Although I have grown up, I still get on with them, as easily as when I was young. I will also listen to what they say - surprising, as I rarely listen to anyone. My uncles are very cool people, and they have brought a lot of joy into my life. And, surprisingly, I will take the time out for them. No matter what. That says a lot about my uncles...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

So...

...there you were, all smug in the spring, thinking you could take over the world with your 'contacts' and your 'genius ideas'. You decided to 'lord it over me', with your 'superior' knowledge, smarts and supposedly greater artistic qualities. And yet, in the intervening six months what have you done? Come on, I want to know, what have you done with your life!

In spring, you thought you were better than me, you thought you could outsmart me, you decided to compete with me. So I let you be. After all, I've had enough of your company. Your arrogance, the way you decide to fawn to the people who spit on you and your ideas. And your pettiness. Maybe it is because you are scared at being left in the shadows, that is the reason you curse the sunlight?

And yet, I have seen you do nothing in those intervening months. Talk is cheap, and while I have had the ballsiness to go out in the world and lift my ideas up to be scrutinised, what have you done? You have scuttled away, back to your little hole, in order to plot and plan some more. Grin. Go on, do that little grin again. Remember that little sly grin you gave when you started to tell me about your plans?

Well, I have put my plans into action. I may not be proceeding forward as I had hoped, nor may I be even going in the direction that I expected. But, at least I am going somewhere, doing something with my life, trying to become a better person. And yes, it is a scary journey, but I never try to hide my fears After all, this blog is a window onto my own soul. But you? Your plans have not even been enacted.

After all the mockery, those big words in the spring, where are you now? Scared. Alone. Hiding away. Biding your time, like some bitter piece of ginger, no good to anyone. Rotting away, with more 'ideas', more 'genius' plans. Keep smiling. Keep grinning with those thoughts. Those images. But try to put those plans into action. Unlike you, I will never mock someone for going ahead with their ideas, their hopes and their dreams. But I think you are a pitiful person. For you have not even had the ability to carry out those plans. What's wrong? Scared? It is scary, isn't it! Achieving the impossible. But that is what I strive for everyday.

If you had tried, shown that you had made an effort with yourself, I would not be writing this. Instead, I would have praised you, even supported you. For I do not hold a grudge with someone who wishes to make themselves better. As for you, jealous as you are, you will do anything to thwart me and my ideas. Not because you have come up with anything better, not because you are more talented than me, but because of envy.

For some reason, you look at my life and are jealous. Poor you, if only you knew half the truth of my existence. It is not an easy one, but unlike you, I will put my best face on for the public to see. I do not share my troubles with the world, as it is not their business. Only my family truly knows what thoughts go through my mind. And that is why I have that sunny demeanor. More importantly, it is why I keep going forward. As I know who to work with and who to rely on. Not friends or acquaintances, but my own flesh and blood. If only you realised that, then maybe you would have done something with yourself these past few months.

Eventually we will meet, probably in passing. A quick hello, some uncomfortable, looks. Maybe some sour words will pass from your lips onto my ears. But you have been left behind, and you know it. And it is not because I have leapt forward in any great way. It is because you let your own fears come in the way of your own inspiration. You have let yourself down. And what a shame that is...

Friday, 11 September 2009

Oi itunes - where's my green f**king button!

I use itunes as a media player. Recently, I downloaded the software update. So far, so good. It looks a little bit more 'funky', but it is still the same media player that I have always used. Now I want to 'minimise the player'. In other words, I want to turn it from this:



to this:



In the previous version of itunes, all you had to do was click on the little green button, and it would toggle the between the two sizes. You could go from 'big, maximised' itunes player to 'small, minimised' itunes player. You with me so far? In other words, if I wanted to browse songs in depth, I would maximise the player, select the song or playlist and then minimise it, keeping it behind all my other applications in the background. All with the click of a simple green button.

But this has now gone. That green button now does S.F.A. You click it and it shifts the player a few pixels to the right.

Now, I know that all the other applications will behave like this if you click the green button, but that is besides the point. I liked the fact that you could switch to the mini-player with the simple click of the green button. I do not want a standardised player, I want my old media player back.

I want it back with the little quirk, which was an instant mini player by clicking on the green button. I do not want to press the option key and the green button. I do not want to have to remember another keyboard short cut in order to view my itunes in a nice tiny mode. I want the green button back! And I want it now! I do not care about how fancy itunes 9 is, or how it will enhance my media experience. After a night shift, all I want is my green button!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Holidays!

Wow, I better get my butt into gear. With the visa and flights all sorted out, I'm back off to India in a couple of weeks - yey!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

'Transforming'

Looking back at the rehearsal footage for 'Jay and Kay Save the World', it was interesting to see both the differences and similarities between the end footage and how it all first started out during the rehearsal period. Rehearsals are essential to the film making process. Often they are glossed over, but they provide a valuable insight into how the film might progress as well as being able to correct any mistakes the actors/crew might make. For a director, rehearsals also give a chance to finalise the position of the main players in relation to the camera position(s). While rehearsals themselves take up time, they make the actual shooting process far more efficient. With a rehearsal, there is an idea for all the people on the set of what is happening and what to expect.

See for yourself, the similarities and differences between the rehearsals and the final cut:



Click here to watch!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Quantitative Easing



This strip is a one off, for now. And I will see how this one is received, but I was feeling a little bit political, and so without further ado, I present Jay and Kay's take on the current state of the UK economy and farce that is known as Quantitative Easing. Enjoy!

Quantitative Easing

Monday, 7 September 2009

Canary Wharf Film Fest '09

Unfortunately, my time this year is rushed and filled with madness. Nevertheless, I did manage to see a show at this year's C. Wharf FIlm Festival and in particular, I caught the 'showcase' In other words, the winners of the 'big' film festivals worldwide. As a film maker, it was interesting to see what was the cool new things on the block. For me, my favourite short was 'Lies' which was a winner at Sundance and Vennice. A really great documentary, and fascinating to watch.

There is still today left at the CWFF, but for me, I will have to wait until next year to get my East London flicks fill!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Egg Rice

I like my rice. Really, I think it is a marvelous grain. Filled with the delights of the paddy field, this labour intensive food is something that I cannot live without. For me, it is the ultimate source of all pleasure that is to be found on a plate. Pasta is bland, potatoes too bulky, bread too boring. Yes, I can deal with teff, but I am not Ethiopian enough to eat it on a daily basis. Corn is fine, so is barley and oats, but let us be honest, there is none of the fluffiness of rice involved with any of those grains. Rice is simply a delightful food, no matter what type of rice is on offer.

And rice can go with absolutely anything. It is such a versatile food. It can be eaten at any time of the day, especially for breakfast! I can't live without it. Just like tea, it is an import into the UK which if halted would simply ruin my day.

Unlike tea, I am pretty good at cooking rice. But I cheat, I use a rice cooker in order to make sure that nothing of mine gets burned. In fact, I probably use the rice cooker second to the kettle in the order of kitchen implements.

But one thing I am poor at is Egg rice. The best egg fried rice I ever had was in Zhengzhou city. It was 2002, and I came off a twenty four hour journey from Hong Kong. Absolutely shattered, I showed, changed and headed to the nearest restaurant to the hotel. I asked for some tofu and egg fried rice, something I could easily order in Mandarin. Since that day I have tried to find an egg rice that was equal in taste to that plateful. I can remember everything, the smell in the air, the people serving that rice, the absolute deliciousness of that particular meal - singular. I have tried to emulate it and failed. But do not worry, I am still hunting for a bowl of egg fried rice that equals that in delight! The hunt is still young...

Saturday, 5 September 2009

I want to be Khan

My favourite character from history, and one of the coolest people that has ever graced the planet, Ghengis Khan. Or if you are Persian, than the worst thing since the Greeks. Ether way, I have to like this guy's style. He had it all, the wide open steppe, horses, a cunning wife, a tyrannical mother and most of all a thirst for travel.

All right, maybe I am Romancing the Stone here, but there is definitely something to be admired when looking at Ghengis Khan's life. I think I am going to have to buy a book soon...

Friday, 4 September 2009

'London-on-Sea'

The River Thames, once past Teddington Lock is a tidal river. In other words there are moments when the level of the water rises (high tide) and moments when the water levels drop (low tide). The River Thames, throughout most of London is not so much a river, but n inlet of the North Sea, subject to the same whims and ways as the larger body of water to the east of England.

So, it should come as no surprise that there is a beach on the River Thames. At low tides, you will see finely washed sand throughout the whole length of the river from Teddington to Southend (culminating with the beach at Southend Pier).

I am not going to advocate stripping off and going for a swim in the river and a bit of sunbathing along the South Bank. The tide rises fast, and you can get stuck very quickly on the foreshore. But just to show I am not lying, here is a picture of the beach on the Thames, London's very own seaside.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Crossings of the River Thames 25: Blackfriars Bridge



This journey finally enters the City of London and onto Blackfriars Bridge, the only Bridge named after a monastic order, the only Bridge along the Thames that also acts as a confluence of two rivers and possibly the most dangerous bridge in London for cyclists. This is partly due to the 'don't give a s**t' attitude that pervades the Corporation of London's thinking to us two wheelers. Trust me on this, The City is the most rotten borough in London for cycling in. However, if you like British films, this may be the bridge to cross on two wheels.

Like the other bridges into the City of London, Blackfriars Bridge is wide and fast before suddenly ending in a maze of medieval streets and 1960's underpasses. Completely inappropriate for the city that it is built in, Blackfriars Bridge has an almost square peg, round hole quality to it. The Bridge does not seem to fit into the surrounding area. Sure, it is a lovely structure. And the current bridge now in its 160th year, still going strong, without a single weight restriction on it. One of those solid Victorian bits of engineering that proliferate London's urban fabric. But it seems disjointed when comparing it to the Southbank/Bankside areas and the offices to the North bank.



There is a lot of history in the area. The famed Blackfriars pub is on the north side of the Thames, and even for teetotalers such as myself, it is worth a look inside, just to marvel at the gaudy architecture inside. The pub marks the site of a Dominican order that gave the area and the bridge its name. The area surrounding the south bank of the bridge is just as interesting, with Blackfriars Bridge marking the unofficial border between the South Bank and Bankside, the twin hubs of mainstream art in the city. Venturing round the back streets nearby reveals some interesting bits and bobs, but I think I will leave the details to those areas for another blog post ;)



As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Blackfriars Bridge, is the only Bridge in London that marks a confluence of two rivers. In this case, the River Fleet meets the River Thames right under the arches of the bridge. Unfortunately I visited the bridge at High Tide and so could not see the famed sewer opening that acts as the mouth of the Fleet. But, if you want to get a view of it, then head to the river at low tide. For reference purposes however, you need to stand beyond those steps:



in order to see the Fleet's outflow into the main river. By logical deduction, and sheer fact as well, if anyone decides to follow the Fleet upstream, then start at Blackfriars Bridge and head north up Farringdon Street, but that too, will be another blog post for the future...

Getting there and away:

Bus routes 388 and N550 serve the North Bank while 381, N381 and RV1 serves the south bank. Routes 45, 63, 100 and N63 cross the bridge itself. The nearest tube is Blackfriars but that is closed until 2011! The mainline station is still open.



(The Thameslink work has currently closed the downstream footpath)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Crossing the Thames - an update...

Hampton Ferry
Hampton Court Bridge
Kingston Bridge
Teddington Lock
Ham Ferry
Richmond Bridge
Twickenham Bridge
Richmond Lock
Kew Bridge
Chiswick Bridge
Barnes Railway Bridge
Hammersmith Bridge
Putney Bridge
Fulham Railway Bridge
Wandsworth Bridge
Battersea Bridge
Albert Bridge
Chelsea Bridge
Vauxhall Bridge
Lambeth Bridge
Hungerford Bridge
Waterloo Bridge

as well as London Bridge, which I did 'out of turn' as it was its 800th anniversary in July.

And still to come are the following crossings:

Blackfriars Bridge
The Millennium Bridge
Southwark Bridge
Tower Bridge
Rotherhithe Tunnel
Canary Wharf-Rotherhithe Ferry
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Woolwich Ferry
Woolwich Foot Tunnel

There are two potential crossings that could also make it to the list. The first is the new ferry crossing that replaces the Jubilee Line on weekends to the Millenium Dome. The second is the new Blackfriars Station. If they exist before I finish this trek through London, then they may well make it onto this list...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The CWP Comic - Kung Fu Jay! (Part 2)



Part 2 of Kung Fu Jay. I loved shooting this particular webisode with Ari and Kuldip, as it was a complete laugh to do. I also managed to squeeze out two shorts from one shoot. I am particularly proud of this webisode, and it stands as one of my favourite CWP moments. Why? Well, all the webisodes were scripted from the feature length script. If there was a point in the script I was not sure about, I would write a sketch to test it out. There is a scene in the CWP script which requires a 1930's silent film to be slotted in. And the concept works beautifully, as you can see below