Jan 112013
 

The opening passage from what is currently chapter ten of my upcoming book. At the moment in ‘first draft’ stage and un-edited…

I read a passage in Jon Richardson’s book It’s Not Me, It’s You:

I could quite happily get through a 40-year marriage without ever suspecting that my partner went to the toilet at all…”

I totally know where Jon was coming from. Totally. I’m all for sick and inappropriate jokes. Niggers, Pakis, the Welsh. All are fair game. Necrophillia, Peadophillia and the Welsh shagging sheep can be pretty funny in the right circles at the right time, but toilet talk? I just don’t. I’m very British about going to the toilet. One pretends one doesn’t. Of course, everyone shits. I’d just rather they didn’t and if they have to I’d rather they didn’t tell or show me. A wee I can deal with just. As long as the girl (or boy) I’m with is having a delicate tinkle and not pissing like a horse. I can even pee in public. In a wood on a long walk with friends as long as I’m behind the statutory tree. Shit is another thing altogether. A steaming pile of smelly turd that scrapes down the toilet pan leaving greasy streaks that needs to be removed as soon as possible. A lingering stink, from some people so bad one can almost taste it. Shit is awful!

Imagine then my horror, when dog-sitting for Elizabeth, (that’s Ee-Liz-A-Beth not Elizab’th) to find that not one toilet in her house had a loo brush. Just a bottle of bleach.

“Loo brushes are disgusting” she replied when I plucked up (from somewhere very deep inside) the courage to enquire why not.

“What the fuck! Greasy shit streaks over white porcelain aren’t?” I thought.

“Just put bleach down the pan” she carried on.

Yeah right, ‘cos that will clean the bowl in about, what? A day? As well as the dogs I was ’sitting’ I was also looking after two teenaged girls. I was horrified to think either one of them might use the bathroom after me, an inevitability, and find my horrid brown stains and know it was me and not the others sister. Even the Queen shits. I know that. It’s just that I doubt she advertises it or wants a phone-camera pic of her last one showing up on Twitter. I bet the Queen has a loo brush in every and each of her two hundred or so toilets across all of her estates.

Like the Queen, in my house, I have a loo brush in every toilet. All one of them. I, like Ee-Liz-A-Beth find them pretty disgusting but (unlike Elizabeth) a necessary evil. To reduce the vileness I have bleach in the container you put the brush in. That way I figure the brush is permanently being cleaned. Sure, it’s going to get shitty but at least I’m attempting to lessen the germs and vileness.

I’d loved Elizabeth for years. I mean really loved. Really really loved. Could I live in a house where the loo brush was banned, even for a short two weeks? I was going to find out. I wondered to myself, if things had been different, would Elizabeth and I have argued about loo brushes had we ever lived together in our own house. We had certainly discussed living together once-upon-a-time, we even discussed marriage! Who would have won? Would I have capitulated and lived in a loo brush free house, buying gallons of bleach on a weekly basis? I have no idea.

I’d love to know what you guys think… (Names have been changed to protect the guilty).


Dec 152012
 

Colour me wrong but I’m a bit tired now of hearing about how Jacintha Saldanha committed suicide. Today it was second billing on the news after the Connecticut shooting tragedy.

Connecticut ‘IS’ a tragedy. It deserves to be news. My heart goes out to the parents that lost children; however old and also goes out to the survivors.

Jacintha Saldanha isn’t really news. Maybe it was, the first day, due to the connection with the Royal Family. But. Get over it already. Between 4000 and 6000 people commit suicide every year in the UK and the news doesn’t give a toss about them. Jacintha was obviously suffering some form of mental illness. Millions of people are.

The death of Jacintha is merely sad… For the news to be fair it should also list the names of the 11 to 17 other people that will also kill themselves today.


Feb 122012
 

When asked what the best camera was, Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist Barry Staver said, “It’s the one you have with you.” Photographer Chase Jarvis liked the quote so much he went out with his iPhone and created a book, an app and a website around it. Recently, ‘living legend’ Annie Leibovitz called the iPhone 4S “the snapshot camera of today.”

I’ve already said myself how owning one and using one has rekindled my love for photography. The iPhone’s simplicity rocks! It only has one button; shoot. If you want more, more you can have in the way of apps; Camera+ gives you shoot, focus and exposure. You can edit on the fly and post your photos to all of your social media sites or keep them to yourself in the Camera Roll.

Annie Leibovitz described the iPhone as accessible, easy and the modern version of the “wallet with the family pictures in it”.

Grrr to the fucking gadget!! Fuck Apple and fuck Steve Jobs. I resisted the whole iPhone thing for so long until ultimately I saw the photos a 4S could take and I wanted one. So much thought has been put into the camera. There are rumours, that knowing how important a part of the iPhone the camera is, Jobs was in talks with the Lytro inventor Ren Ng about including the Lytro technology in a future rendition of the iPhone.

I could have waited until the iPhone 5, and then waited until 6 then 7. I’d have waited forever. It’s called procrastination, so I climbed aboard the 4S. And now. Now. The fucking thing has taken over my life a little. So much so that I’ve gotten a little responsibility back and started to blog again.

That’s right, blogging is part of the Neolestat experience and it isn’t updating a Facebook status. It’s a small step forward. I’ve started a 365 photography project and I have ‘productivity’ apps. All down to an 8mp, f2.4 gadget, phone aside.

Problem is though, at heart I’m an artist and in the real world, f2.4 should give you some smidgen of creativity. A little depth of field as it were. But, with such a small lens, what was I expecting? As a photographer and as an artist I’m always looking for more. I love taking snapshots but I also love creating images that fall within the realms of art; images that have effect, technique, colour, and composition. I bought my first DSLR so that I could add depth of field to my images. That’s a fact. A DSLR purely to be able to incorporate depth of field into my photography.

So, seeing as the iPhone is going to be my goto camera until some modicum of success means I have the spare change to be able to go out and buy a Leica M10 and the new Canon 1Ds X I need a way to improve on the iPhone’s ‘kit’ lens as it were: It’s with the Olloclip that I mean to do this.

Olloclip

The Olloclip

Designed by Patrick O’Neill the Olloclip is a 3-in-1 quick-connect lens solution for the iPhone 4/4S that includes a fish-eye, wide-angle and macro lenses that work with both the still and video cameras. Made from CNC machined aircraft grade aluminium, precision ground glass and soft plastic the Olloclip isn’t a cheap lens solution but it’s certainly the best and worth every penny. As a Kickstarter project people had faith in it as a blueprint alone and so far its funding is at 454% of the original figure asked. It seems that Kickstarter is the place to go to fund an iPhone project… Hang on a minute while I register!

Cleverly designed to be one product rather than 3 separate lenses banging about in a pocket or bag the Olloclip is fashioned to clip on and off the iPhone with ease and is engineered to be foolproof with regard to lining up the lenses. It’s soft plastic body means that no matter how many times you slide it on or off the phone you are never going to damage the glass front or back. Like the previously reviewed product; the Glif, the Olloclip is designed to work on a caseless iPhone so for an all in one tripod and lens solution the Olloclip and Glif are an ideal pairing.

To operate the Olloclip, simply slide it onto the iPhone and enjoy the wonderful fish-eye lens with it’s approximate 180 Degree field-of-view and shoot some rad and gnarly skateboard trickery! Or don’t. I just threw that old cliché in for the sick boarders that want a convenient solution that doesn’t weigh them down. As with even the most expensive cameras and fish-eye lenses there is a certain amount of vignetting, don’t hate on it, love it. It’s part of what makes shooting fish-eye so much fun.

When you tire of all that fish-eye goodness, slide the Olloclip off, turn it around and slide it back on. Wide-angle for the win. Tire of that, unscrew the wide-angle lens and you have a perfectly functioning x10 macro-lens. What I do assure you of, is that with three options you’ll never tire of using them all and the standard iPhone lens will seem just that; standard.

Raisin Muffin

Giving Birth to a Raisin (Olloclip macro) Shot and edited with Camera+

Measuring about 20mm (0.78 in) across on average, weighing only 20 grams or 0.7 of an ounce, having lens caps for the wide-angle and fish-eye lenses and coming with a micro fibre cleaning cloth that handily doubles up as a carrying bag a there’s absolutely no reason to leave home without it and more to the fact you’ll probably find that you look for excuses to leave home with it. You’ll become a keen landscape photographer, an URBEX photographer or most importantly you’ll get that fish-eye on, dust off your skateboard and get grinding again.

I can’t gush about the Olloclip enough. For my Canon 1Ds Mark II I only had three lenses. I had the 24-70 f2.8L, the 70-200 f2.8L and the 85mm f1.2L. Now I have three lenses for my iPhone and didn’t have to spend in excess of £5800 ($9140 with today’s currency exchange rate). With an Olloclip attached I’m a happy iPhoneographer!

Skateboard Deck

Longboard Truck (Olloclip fish-eye) Shot and edited with Camera+

Feb 072012
 

I said this on Facebook and no-one bothered to comment, so, either, I have no friends or perhaps it’s one of those “Doh! Did you imagine any different?” comments, but, since buying my first iPhone, a 4S, I can’t imagine life without it.

It won’t ever roll a cigarette for me but it’s enough that I can Facebook and Twitter in front of the TV without having my PC in my lap. It’s got a timer that helps me cook and I do enjoy a bit of Angry Birds. However… Although it seemingly syncs my whole PC; music, photos, films, books, notes and calendar it’s the camera that amuses me the most.

Not completely surprising, seeing that I’m a photographer, but I am utterly surprised at A) how good the camera is (I bought a Nokia N8 purely because on paper it had the best camera on a cellphone, I was underwhelmed!) and B) how it seems to have completely rekindled my love for photography.

I love the quality of the images and I love the apps; Camera+, Hipstamatic, Instagram, TiltShift, 8mm, Shoebox, Vintage Cam and PS (Photoshop) Express. I love that I can take a photo, edit it on the phone and immediately post it up on Facebook or Twitter. I can fire up Hipstamatic, give the phone a shake to randomise the film, lens and flash combo, aim the camera, press the shutter button and immediately I have a Holga/Diana style photo without the need for either sending a medium format film off for developing or doing some serious Photoshop editing on my PC.

What’s not to love?

Oh… The iPhone is tiny, it doesn’t feel like a substantial camera in your hand. It doesn’t have a 1/4-20 UNC thread to attach it to a tripod head, it doesn’t stand up on it’s own easily even though Apple gave you the option to use the supplied headphones as a remote shutter button.

Although it has a digital zoom, it doesn’t have a macro mode, nor a wide angle mode nor a fish eye lens. If you drop an iPhone it’s more likely to break than your average prosumer camera and if you use the camera for more than fifteen minutes you’d better take a way to recharge it on the fly.

Have you ever tried to watch a movie or catch-up TV on your iPhone? Did you wander around the house looking for a non-slippery surface to stand the phone on? Did you try balancing the phone against a banana for the optimum viewing angle? Did you look for a portable non-slip surface AND a banana so that you could watch catch-up TV in bed? Did you wish that there was a better way? Did you wish that better way was also a 1/4-20 UNC thread so that you could watch TV or shoot photos with your iPhone attached to a tripod? I did.

You did too? But for the life of you couldn’t find a solution… Enter the Glif+ the solution you’ve been searching for!

The Glif

The Glif

Made by Studio Neat and being a Kickstarter success project, the Glif is made from recyclable rubberized plastic and is basically an iPhone 4/4S accessory with two primary functions: Mounting your iPhone onto a tripod and propping up your iPhone at various angles. It’s small enough to fit snugly in your pocket or backpack. It has a 1/4″-­20 thread that fits any standard tripod or camera mount. The Glif is designed to work with a “naked” (caseless) iPhone.

Glif Stand

The Glif as a stand

Additionally (and the package I have) the Glif+ comes with the Serif which will keep your phone safe in more extreme situations. When you are not using the Serif, it fits snugly inside the Glif, making it very compact.  Also the Glif+ comes with the Ligature, a simple keyring loop that attaches to the tripod thread on the Glif.

The Serif

The Glif and The Serif

If you have £19 ($30 at the time of press), burning a hole in your pocket, forget buying more apps and buy yourself a physical product. Buy the Glif+. Us iPhone users are all the same; I’m guessing that you’re never really more than a room away from your phone and I have to say that now my phone is never more than a room away from it’s new best buddy; the Glif.

As a stand for watching movies, catch-up TV or FaceTime it clips on and off in seconds and is far better than a banana for getting the viewing angle spot on. As a tripod mount it clips on and off in seconds and even with the Serif attached (which I have tried safely with a Gorillapod tripod clipped to my bike) it is small enough and secure enough to allow for charging and/or using the headphones as a remote shutter button which is crucial if you want to avoid camera shake and which is surely the whole point of a tripod mount? That is, unless you’re lazy like me and while lying in bed, on your back, use a small Gorillapod perched on your chest to watch BBC iPlayer…

In summary; The Glif+ isn’t the best £19 I’ve spent in my life, (that was for a hand-job in the back room of a strip joint by a red-headed teen with awesome boobs) but it sure comes a close second. The Glif is better than a banana and I for one wouldn’t be without it now.

Get one… You know you want to!

Feb 072012
 
Muffins

Muffins (Hipstamatic for iPhone)

200g Plain (not self raising) Flour
150g Caster Sugar
½ Teaspoon of Salt (I use sea-salt)
2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder

85ml of Milk
80ml of Vegetable Oil
1 Large Egg

150g of mixed fruit (Raisins, Sultanas, Mixed Peel, Cranberries, Blueberries – Whatever). I personally use a similar mix to that which is used for Fruit Cakes or Christmas Cakes.

Alternatively for texture 130g of mixed fruit and 20g of chopped almonds. This option’s a doozy!

Sometimes I substitute 40g of the flour for finely chopped hazelnuts.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (the top four items). Doesn’t have to be fancy mixing, I use a wooden spoon, but make sure everything is mixed well.

In a jug, beat the milk, oil and egg until everything is combined well. Sometimes I add 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence.

Using the wooden spoon mix the liquid stuffs into the dry stuffs to make a batter. Don’t overdo the mixing… You’re not looking to blitz everything into extra smooth paste, just make sure everything is mixed well. If you scoop some up with the spoon it should drip off a bit like that ‘slime’ shit that was popular in the 80s. You definitely don’t want the batter runny like a liquid.

At this point, sometimes I add a couple of tablespoons of honey or golden syrup. Experiment!

Fold the dry fruit into the batter. Again, fold, not mix with a mixer.

Spoon the mix into large muffin cases. I find that 1 heaped tablespoon and 1 heaped teaspoon is ample per case. This recipe should fill about 8 cases.

I put the cases in a metal tray that’s made for small tarts/muffins. I guess there’s enough spaces in my tray for 15 cakes so I use 2 trays as to not crowd the muffins. I space them apart and use this tray to keep the muffin cases stable and roundish.

Bake for 20 mins in that preheated oven you preheated. Check if the muffins are done… A wooden cocktail stick pushed into the middle of a muffin should come out clean with no gooey stuff left on it.

Leave muffins to cool on a wire cake cooling rack or similar. Make a cup of tea and enjoy a neo-muffin afternoony snack. Yummy!