Sunday, November 26, 2006

Three Brief Reviews

My cultural leanings of the past week:

David Hockney Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery. Brilliant. While the large, bright canvas portraits were great, I actually prefered the informal ink on paper portratis of Hockney's lover. There is something about art so simple and sparse, yet inherently fluid that gets me. It's the same with the prose of writers like Ondaatje and Berger. Nothing extraneous to clog up the essence of a work.

The Isabelle Huppert season is on at the National Film Theatre. Last night I saw the stark portrait of a collapsing relationship - La S├ęparation. Also brilliant. And again, nothing extraneous in the filming of incredibly intense emotions. Such a relief to see a film that is so unHollywood.

Drunk Enough to Say I Love You at the Royal Court Theatre. Nowhere close to brilliant. My own prejudice perhaps as I don't particularly like Caryl Churchill's work. But an evening at the Royal Court, housing one of my favourite bars in the city, to celebrate the completion of my thesis chapter was welcome in any event.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Things I Currently Love v.3

1. Care packages from friends. Today's included a gorgeous O'Henry Bar that will be saved for a special occasion. This will likely be next weekend's viewing of the latest downloaded episode of Grey's Anatomy.

2. Speaking of Grey's Anatomy, remember that episode from the first season where Izzie went Christmas crazy and irritated everyone else? That is me (already established here). I couldn't wait any longer and put up my very cute Christmas tree, over my equally cute London flat fireplace.

3. The never-ending chapter of my thesis that I have been working on all term will be finished and handed into my supervisor tomorrow. I have become positively paralytic while writing it, so I can already sense the wave of euphoria that will hit tomorrow.

4. I stayed at a friend's place in Kent over the weekend. I woke up to the noise of massive kitchen activity on Sunday morning and when I investigated, I encountered my apron-clad and flour covered friend shouting, "Pancakes! Canadian pancakes!" What a thoughtful treat - complete with maple syrup to boot.

5. More travel planning? Yes! Weekend in Bilbao at the end of January has been booked. One more museum to tick off on my quest for the Guggenheim Grand Slam. (New York, Venice done. Bilbao in January, and hopefully Berlin in March. Hooray!)

UPDATE: Who am I kidding? I've already eaten the O'Henry Bar.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

893 Days...Tim Harvey Arrives Home

I blogged previously about Tim Harvey's amazing journey from Vancouver to Vancouver by zero-emission means. After 893 days, he finally cycled into Vancouver, completing his two and a half year adventure around the world.
If you can't wait until his book about the journey is published next year, you can catch up with tales from his inspiring trip on his website. Congratulations Tim!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

One Word Meme

Taken from the wonderful blogger Hilaire.

You can only type one word. No explanations.

1. Yourself: Absorbent

2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend: Imaginary

3. Your hair: Ponytail

4. Your mother: Brilliant

5. Your Father: Gentleman

6. Your Favorite Item: MacBook

7. Your dream last night: Airport

8. Your Favorite drink: Blanc

9. Your Dream Car: Jaguar

10. The room you are in: Bright

11. Your Ex: Unspoken

12. Your fear: Loss

13. What you want to be in 10 years: Connected

14. Who you hung out with last night: Bryn

15. What You're Not: Uninvolved

16. Muffins: Lettieri

17: One of Your Wish List Items: Cambodia

18: Time: Considered

19. The Last Thing You Did: Sneezed

20. What You Are Wearing: Exhaustion

21. Your Favorite Weather: Crisp

22. Your Favorite Book: Dalloway

23. The Last Thing You Ate: Croissant

24. Your Life: Unbelievable

25. Your Mood: Centered

26. Your best friend(s): Hilarity

27. What are you thinking about right now: Thesis

28. Your car: Unnecessary

29. What are you doing at the moment: Procrastinating

30. Your summer: Purpose

31. Your relationship status: Irrelevant

32. What is on your tv: Blair

33. What is the weather like: Windy

34. When is the last time you laughed: Yesterday (And I'm breaking the rule here. With ferocity and tears.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Death, Style & Champagne Cocktails

My beloved five year old iBook died on Wednesday. Everyone has told me that I should expect one computer crisis during the tenure of my PhD. Oh god, I hope that this is it. I am obsessive about backing up my work, so I didn't lose anything of importance, but most of my notes about the film chapter I'm currently writing correspond to the digital clock on my laptop DVD player. So I have had to spend hours fast forwarding and rewinding DVD's on my television to find specific scenes over the past few days. Tiresome. But...I have purchased the new, gorgeous MacBook. Refusing to buy one with a UK plug, I have to wait for my Canadian laptop to be Fed Exed to me, so it should be a few more days until it arrives.

One of the best things in my life right now is Friday Night Club. FNC consists of me and three fabulous girlfriends who go out together most Friday nights and lose ourselves in cocktails, bottles of expensive wine, great Thai food and endless gossip and celebrity conjecture. (We are very sad about Reese. We are thrilled for Britney.) This past Friday was particularly welcome for my computer-induced bad mood and I discovered that throwing back £15 champagne cocktails at the Savoy will cure anything.

And the best part of my weekend after FNC is the Sunday Times Style Magazine. I'm sorry - the latest couture and high street fashion, beauty tips, snarky gossip, interior design gorgeousness, delicious recipes, wine advice, and horoscopes all in one place? Serious love. And even better when like this morning, as I'm still lying in bed debating the pros and cons of getting up, a friend texts to tell me I'll love a specific article in Style. I got up.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Photographs from the Middle East

Here are the best of my Dubai photos. You'll notice four distinct areas that we visited - they even seem to have different colour hues and tones in the photographs. The opulence and wealth of the Jumeriah Beach end of Dubai where the Burj Al Arab is located and the over-the-top spectacle of the Mall of the Emirates contrasted with the traditional Arabic feel of the spice souq and the sparse beauty of the desert.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The New Rothko Room

Yesterday I spent much of the afternoon in the Tate Modern, checking out the renovated galleries. I was a little worried about how they would deal with the Rothko room, but the new home for these paintings is absolutely brilliant. When I was a Masters student at Kings College London in 2000, the Rothko room was my refuge. I would often visit the gallery about twenty minutes before it closed and head straight for the Rothkos where I could sit alone and in silence between the huge canvases.

The new room is smaller, which is originally the size of space Rothko intended for these works, and the walls are painted the perfect complimentary light grey hue. Now the paintings seem to ooze out of the walls and if you sit there long enough, the paint seems to ooze out of the canvas as well. In this wonderful article about the new room by John Banville, he describes this effect as the colours seeping "up through the canvas like new blood through a bandage in which old blood has already dried. The violence of these images is hardly tolerable." Yet, I could sit in this room for hours - losing myself in these paintings or having the paintings disappear into me.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Buy a Diamond, Get a Free Pepsi!

As noted in the last post, my five days in Dubai were mind blowing. I've travelled to a lot of places around the world, and I think Dubai is possibly the most unique city of the bunch. The mix of traditional Arabian life next to staggering wealth and more skyscraper construction sites than I have ever seen, a huge desert still inhabited by Bedouin next to a gorgeous turquoise ocean and a bustling sea port.

Some highlights were visiting the Spice Souq, a safari out into the desert, haggling over prices for the cheapest designer bags that made me wish I had brought a bigger suitcase, lunch on a pier several hundred metres into the Persian Gulf with stunning views of the Burj Al Arab, and the infamous Gold Souq.

The Gold Souq was something else - we went at night and hundreds of stores selling pearls, diamonds, and every kind of gold you can think of that is weighed right in front of you was on offer. Indian brides were shopping for wedding and dowry jewellery, women clothed in the niqab were buying handfuls of diamonds, and little me was bargaining over a simple, yet gorgeous, white gold and diamond ring. When we eventually agreed to a price (ridiculously cheap...just amazing) the storekeeper insisted on finding me a pepsi. Not entirely sure why...because I was North American and he assumed I would want a pepsi? But it turned into this complete farce as he was yelling at his colleague to find me a pepsi, which I didn't even want, but have now actually brought all the way back to London. It turned into the slogan of the evening (photo above): Buy a Diamond, Get a Free Pepsi!

The desert safari was spectacular. We went dune bashing, which generally would not be my thing, but turned out to be a blast. We went to a camel souq where I met the little fellow below, and later in the evening I rode one. I also smoked a sheesha, but that's another story.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Back From Dubai

Utterly exhausted and still in awe of a mind blowing trip. More tales from the Middle East and photos when I recover from the 3am departure time of last night's long flight.