Saturday 31 December 2016

The Best Laid Plans...

I dunno about you, but I always seem to decide to make changes (big and small) in the last few days of the year. Without calling them resolutions, that is exactly what they are. Who am I kidding, after all?
While it will be great if I adhere to every single one of these, I'm sure I'll be happy if I  manage to stick to half of them.

Hopefully, they'll be the more important ones.  

Thanks for reading, see you next year!


Friday 30 December 2016

Friday 30/12/16 - The Year The Music Died (RIP George Michael), An Antidote to This Year's Misery, & This Weeks's Wristwatches.

What a friggin' year it's been. I can't think of any generation that hasn't been hit by the deaths of notable people this year. 
If you're into music, we started the year by losing Bowie back in January. Prince followed a few months later in April. If you limit this list just to musicians under the ago of 70, just about every musical genre lost a band member this year;
- Vanity (Denise Matthews) , a protege of Prince. 
- Joey Feek, country music singer.
- Phife Dawg, rapper. 
- Glenn Frey, co-founder of The Eagles.
- Greg Lake, guitarist of Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

If you add a few who were over the age of 70, then we lost Merle Haggard, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Leonard Cohen, as well as founding member of Earth, Wind and Fire, Maurice White. Not to mention Beatles Producer George Martin.
This past week saw the death of British singer/songwriter George Michael and Rick Parfitt, co-founder of British heavy rock group Status Quo
If you're into music in every way, shape or form, my condolences to you. 
You've had a very rough year, my friend. 

That's just the music side of things. Add in Muhammad Ali, Harper Lee, John Glen, Fidel Castro and the deaths this week of Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds the very next day, and you find that no corner of popular culture or world history was left untouched.
A quick stroll through the Wikipedia list of notable deaths of this year makes for sad reading. 
Quite a few names have resonated with me. I've already written about Bowie and Prince. The death of The Thin White Duke really knocked me for a loop. I still find it hard to believe, and it's almost been a year since Bowie died.
As I said last week, I can mourn the deaths of elders like George Martin and astronaut John Glenn, but I can also reason that both of them achieved a great deal in their time and both lived to a ripe old age.
With people like Bowie, Prince, and now George Michael, it is all the more wistful because you just know that they still had plenty of fuel left in the tank. They still had more to do.

I can't say I was ever a big George Michael fan, but I had the 12-inch vinyl of the Wham! single Young Guns and, whenever I think of my late teens to mid 20s, I can hear this song blaring from stereo speakers at every single party that I went to throughout most of the Eighties.
So, I tip my hat to George Michael. Another talent gone too soon.
There's one day left of this wretched 2016 and I fear that nobody's safe.

I was curious to see how Ryan Gosling would fare in a film like this. I have to admit that I do like him as an actor. And he's a sharp dresser too.
He's soon to be seen in the long-anticipated Blade Runner sequel, due out next year, and co-starring Harrison Ford, who reprises his role as replicant hunter Rick Deckard.
Gosling was great in La La Land. Mrs Teeritz informed me that he practiced piano for two hours a day, six days a week, in order to master the instrument for the required scenes. And it shows. I've always admired actors who immerse themselves in the Method to prepare for a role. Robert De Niro and Daniel Day-Lewis are renowned for going to great lengths with their characters before the cameras start rolling.

Emma Stone was astounding in this film. I'd like to think that she'll win the Best Actress Oscar in March, but she faces some heavy competition from three-time Oscar Winner Meryl Streep, and Natalie Portman, who appears as JFK's grieving widow in Jackie. I'd like to think that Stone will win, but I suspect that the Academy voters will consider a slice of 20th century history to be more significant than a musical. Still, with the kind of year 2016 has been, maybe some escapism is exactly what is needed.
Stone gives a great, multi-layered performance in this film. Something I noticed about her when I saw The Amazing Spider-Man (Dir: Marc Webb, 2012) -in one of her early scenes with Andrew Garfield, we get a close-up of her face and she appears to be 'lit from within'. This is a phrase I heard in some film documentary years ago. The narrator was talking about the stars of Old Hollywood. Emma Stone has this. The screen seems to light up whenever we get a close-up of her.
She has worked with Gosling in two previous films and they have a nice chemistry.

The cinematography was beautiful too, capturing the streets of Los Angeles in dusk-lit hues and its night-life in shadows and light.
It was a great film to see. Refreshing in many ways, and a reminder of why we should go to the movies more often in the first place. 

Another film I was looking forward to was the new Brad Pitt movie, Allied, directed by Robert Zemeckis. I have always found him to be a highly competent director and, while I haven't liked everything he's ever done (What Lies Beneath was a tad lacklustre), I can't fault the technical prowess of his films.

I was a little underwhelmed when I first read the premise of this movie- a Canadian intelligence agent begins to suspect that his wife may be a German spy- I began to think; 'Uh oh, Mr & Mrs Schmidt.
However, I was both surprised and entertained by this film. For the record, I happen to think that Mr & Mrs Smith (Dir: Doug Liman, 2005) is a great film. One of my favourites. I can't count how many times I've watched it, and I have two different DVD copies of it. It's one film that I'll write about at some point.

Allied is a sumptuous film to look at. Zemeckis is known for his use of CGI and in this film, he and his team perfectly recreate wartime Morocco and England, but with a certain sheen added to every frame. The night skies of London are dotted with barrage balloons and criss-crossed by searchlight beams as German bomber planes try to avoid being peppered by tracer rounds from the ground. 
The first hour of the film takes place in French Morocco where Canadian Max Vatan (Pitt) partners up with Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard), a former French Resistance fighter. They masquerade as a married couple prior to undertaking a mission to kill the German Ambassador stationed in Casablanca. 
By the end of this first part of the film, they have fallen in love, gotten married, and had a baby daughter.
The second half of the film deals with Vatan's suspicions that his wife may not be who she says she is. There are some very tense moments, as we watch as Vatan tries to get at the truth. 
Composer Alan Silvestri's score perfectly suits this film, often adding to the tension, and the cinematography by Don Burgess is sharp as a tack. 
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are great together in this. Sure, the filmmakers may have been aiming for a Bogart/Bergman vibe (it's no coincidence that the first act takes place in Casablanca), and comparisons will no doubt be made by reviewers and film historians in future, but if you put Casablanca/Bogart/Bergman out of your mind, this film is very entertaining. Besides, the allusions to the Bogart/Bergman film are ever so slight anyway. 

It was my son's birthday this week. Time to get him a wristwatch of his own. Here's a rare shot of his hands keeping still while holding a PS4 controller;

Oh, my wristwatch for this week was the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean. I finally managed to take the Oris Diver Sixty-Five off my wrist long enough to put something else on;

I was happy with how some of the photos taken with the FM2 turned out. I've switched over to the Olympus OM2n for the next roll of film. 

And, a final shot for the year, with the watch on my wrist;

So here I am. It's eight-thirty pm on Friday night. Thirtieth of December, twenty-sixteen. Twenty-seven and a half hours left of this year. 
It has been a good year in lots of ways. I finally got back to work, in a job that I'm enjoying very much. We took a family trip to Europe in September (still working on that post), and everybody under this roof has their health. And that's the most important thing, after all. 

Anyway, I want to wish you all a safe and Happy New Year. I hope that 2017 treats you kindly, and gives you more of what you truly want and what truly matters. 
I'll leave you with a snap-shot from an Esquire Magazine interview with Woody Allen, who's been using the same typewriter since he first started writing when he was sixteen;

It certainly is. I used a similar- if not the same- model, a 1951 SM2 to write the short type-cast above. 
Works like a new machine.

Thanks for reading, gang, and have a wonderful New Year!

Friday 23 December 2016

Christmas Eve, 2016 - This Week's Wristwatch.

And here's the tiramisu dessert that I made last weekend, in honor of the recently departed A.A Gill. 
I cut out some card-stock to make the lettering.  Then I laid it on top of the dessert and gave it all a liberal sprinkling of cocoa powder before putting it in the fridge for a few hours. 
Later, I used tweezers to carefully peel off the letters. It almost worked out perfectly.
Yes, I have too much time on my hands.
I'm currently reading his memoir, Pour Me: A Life, and enjoying it. It is in this book that he writes about his missing brother, as mentioned in my post last week. 

Once again, my desk was in need of a Spring clean. Took me less time than I thought it would. Still too much crap here and there, but it's a lot better than it was. 
Now, let's see if I can keep it that way. I want to get some writing done while I have some time off from work.

The circa 1967/68 Nikon F Fotomic SLR that I've been using has produced some nice photos, but really, how many photos can I have of a sleeping cat? 
I've loaded up the recently acquired FM2 with some film. I'll put this camera through its paces and see what kind of results it yields. 
Then, I'll go through some of my other cameras and see if there are any that I can move along. I have three Olympus Trip 35 rangefinders, for example. I'm sure I can sell one of them without missing it. 
I've now been wearing the Oris Diver Sixty-Five almost exclusively since I got it. Might be time to give some other watch a bit of a run. Not sure which, though.

Here's the Tower Chieftain III. Works like a charm. I'm a little tempted to maybe give it a paint-job, but I'm not sure. Probably best if I just leave it as is.

Well, that's another week down. The sun is out and it's a little muggy outside. Think I'll stay indoors and just chill. 

I hope you all have a pleasant and very Merry Festive Season, dear readers, no matter what you celebrate at this time of year. 
Stay safe and thanks for reading!

Friday 16 December 2016

Friday 16/12/16 - RIP Mr Gill, Will 2016 Kindly F*ck Off, Please?, & This Week's Wristwatches.

A few weeks ago, my wife brought home a copy of the September issue of US Esquire Magazine. Clint Eastwood and his son Scott graced the cover of this issue and there was a great joint interview in it. 
Further along in this issue was an article by A.A. Gill, titled The Missing Ingredient. 
The first two paragraphs are all about food. Exotic ingredients used in the preparation of some elaborate and debauched meal. Gill writes, by way of painting a picture;
I woke up, my head on the sticky table, the radio chuntering, a streak of congealed, thick blood smeared in front of me as if a desperate, gory hand had gone to grab something- a knife perhaps- in self-defense or fury. And there was the knife. My own large French iron cooking knife, heavy as a rabbit.

He goes on to write about the meticulous preparation of this banquet. He was cooking a grouse. He then adds that he actually prepared this entire meal twice. There were two dead birds in evidence on the table. Feathers everywhere. Blood sprayed along a wall. Various condiments and sauces created for this repast. And yet, he didn't turn on the oven. Also, this meal had been prepared for no list of guests. Guess who's coming to dinner? Nobody, that's who.
You see, A.A. Gill created this feast while in a drunken stupor, at the height of his years as an alcoholic. 

Okay, quick break. Last weekend, I briefly wore the Rolex Submariner;

Really need to get this watch serviced sometime in the next few months. 

Back to Mr Gill. The article was all about his brother Nick, an up-and-coming talented chef who was beginning to make a name for himself in France and who one day just disappeared off the grid. He told A. A. that he was leaving Britain "and not coming back", and then he vanished.
A.A. has spent almost two decades wondering what might have become of his brother. 
It is a heart-felt piece of writing. You can feel the despair and anguish that A.A. feels in not knowing what had become of his brother. They shared a closeness growing up;

My father would leave twenty pounds on the kitchen table every Friday night and disappear, and I would shop- I was a frugal quartermaster, shaving enough for beer and fags- and Nick would cook. He must have been thirteen.

It is a beautifully written article. Wistful, funny, eloquent and, having seen how the author's own life story has ended, just plain sad. 
The article is excerpted from Gill's recent biography, Pour Me: A Life, which chronicles his lost years at the bottom of a glass. I'm glad he managed to crawl up and over the rim. 

I can't say I've read much of A.A. Gill's writings. He specialised in food and travel writing, two subjects that I tend to gloss over when I come across them in a magazine. 
Although, I do remember reading a few pieces that he wrote for British GQ over the years and I recall thinking that he had a wonderful turn of phrase. And a razor-sharp wit.
Adrian Anthony Gill was diagnosed with "an embarrassment of cancer, the full English" (his own words) a few months ago and succumbed to it on December 10th. 
My wife told me of his death on Monday. "Oh no! Oh, man!", was my response. 
I'd raise a glass to you, Mr Gill, but I don't think that would be appropriate,sir. Instead, I'll make a tiramisu  this weekend. And save you a slice. 
Thanks for the wonderful words and wit. That was as sharp as your French iron cooking knife. The one that was as heavy as a rabbit. 

This has been a particularly nasty year with regard to those whom we have lost. Twenty-sixteen has taken too many angels before their time. Sure, I'm sounding flowery (or worse, pretentious), but while we can mourn the deaths of notable people who lived well into their late eighties and nineties, it has felt especially heartbreaking to endure the loss of talents such as Gill, Bowie and Prince because we are all too aware that they still had much to give. 
So, I personally can't wait for this year to end. It's been a real dog in some ways. But until January 1st, 2017, I don't think anybody's safe. Here's hoping for a happy new year indeed. 

Back to the wristwatches, I wore the Oris Diver Sixty-Five all week. Switched it from the steel bracelet to a black NATO strap;

Too much froth on that caffe latte. Good thing I wasn't paying for it. 
It's a pet-hate of mine when I pay for a take-away coffee and feel a half-empty cup. 
I hate paying for a cup of air. 
Probably one of the main reasons why we bought our own coffee machine years ago.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, all!

***I've tried like hell to find these photos of A.A. Gill on the web again, in order to add the proper attribution to the photographer, but I've had no luck this evening. I'll keep trying.

EDIT 17/1/2017 - The photographer was Tom Craig! He worked with Gill for the last ten years.

Friday 9 December 2016

Friday 9/12/16 - Short Post No. 5 & This Week's Wristwatches.

Another short post this week, gang. I find myself getting home from work a little tired as we barrel towards the end of the year. Work is busy, but I can see that the workload is starting to drop off a little as the office winds down.

It would be an understatement for me to say that this job entailed a slight learning curve for me since I started back in March. Still, it's been a great process and I've settled into the job, even though I'm still making a few rookie mistakes here and there. Gimme another six months and I should (hopefully) have it all down pat. I began the week with the Oris Diver Sixty- Five. I think it's been on my wrist nearly every day since I got it a month ago.

It's been a fairly accurate watch, too. I haven't tested it properly, but I think it hovers somewhere around seven or eight seconds fast per day. This is pretty darn good for a non chronometer-rated movement. From memory, it does show some positional variance, which is a good thing. Basically, positional variance is where a watch may run say, six seconds fast when placed down in one position- lying down flat with the dial facing up, for example- and then, it may run four seconds slow when placed on its side, with the winding crown facing up. 
What you do is set the time exactly to the second, using a reliable source like an atomic clock or any number of internet sites for this stuff-,, etc, and then spend a week or two placing the watch down overnight (while you're asleep) in these different positions (dial-up, dial-down, crown-up, crown-down, crown-right) and note down how much time the watch loses or gains over a 24 hour period. You may find that one position will make the watch gain and another will make it lose. By doing this, you can control the timekeeping to some extent.
Sure, it's not 100%, but it gives you a good indication of how the movement is performing.

I decided to switch to something a little dressier mid-week. Something a little more understated, a little more Cold War, a little more George Smiley-esque.
It's a watch that I hadn't worn much this year. The early '60s Omega Seamaster, with the Calibre 562 movement humming along under the bonnet. This is one of the oldest pieces in my collection, in terms of vintage and also with regard to how long I've owned it. I bought it back in 2001 (or 2002?) from Joe the Hungarian, a watchmaker who runs a little hole in the wall store in the city. Haven't been to see him in some time. Definitely due for a visit. His 'store' is pretty small, though. He sits behind a very small counter-top, working on watches and if there's somebody already in there, I always wait until they leave. That's how small his shop is. Two's a crowd in that place. 
When I bought this watch, I wasn't aware of how rare it was to find one in such clean and unmarked condition.

The dial on this thing is virtually unblemished and the hands are in beautiful original condition. Perhaps the only flaw is a scratch on the case-back where a watchmaker's tool must have slipped at some point in this watch's 54 year lifetime. 
It's probably well due for another service, but I think I'll wait a little longer before getting anything done on this one. 

I ended up switching back to the Oris yesterday. 

I used the Diorama Art Filter setting on the camera and this muted the dial colour a little, which was fine by me. It makes the dial look black. One thing I like about this watch is the fact that, despite the metallic blue edge of the dial, it can look black in subdued lighting. To me, this always feels like I've gotten two watches in one. 

I watched the latest Jason Bourne film. Gotta say that it didn't thrill me. It felt too much like the previous installments. Bourne wants to be left alone and live his life, but he also wants to regain his memories. Somebody in the Agency (who turns out to be dirty) wants to bring him in, dead or alive (preferably dead) , and they dispatch one or more assassins to take him out. There's a fight scene and there's a car chase before Bourne confronts the big bad guy who's been pulling the strings, and then disappears into obscurity. 
Matt Damon (whom I really like) has slagged off Bond on more than one occasion, but, if nothing else, the first four Bond films each offered something different from the previous film. 
I'd have preferred it if the Bourne films had stuck closer to Ludlum's story-lines, despite the fact that the books had Bourne going after a master assassin called Carlos The Jackal.

Anyway, another week down. And in just the last 24 hours, we lost John Glenn and Greg Lake. Twenty-sixteen, you've been an absolute bastard. Three weeks of this year left and I shudder to think who's next.
Glenn was the first US astronaut to orbit the Earth, back in 1962, and Lake was one-third of the 1970s prog-rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. I remember seeing the film-clip to Fanfare for The Common Man when I was a kid and thinking; Man, do they really need all that equipment?
And, of course, you can't see a profile of some downhill skier or bob-sled team during the Winter Olympics without this iconic music being used on the soundtrack.

Oh, and a Happy 100th(!) birthday to Mr Kirk Douglas! One of the last of the Keepers of The Old Hollywood Flame. Although, he debuted in the 1940s rather than the '30s, but I'll allow it 'cos he co-starred in one of my favourite film noirs, Out Of The Past in 1947.
Here he is, about to give George MacReady what-for in a still from William Wyler's 1951 crime drama Detective Story. I saw this film a couple of decades ago- at least- and it centred on a particularly stressful day in the life of this cop. We see the toll that the job takes on this guy and his marriage as he struggles to hold onto his wife while some loud-mouthed criminal taunts him from his cell in the police station. The loud-mouthed crim was played by Joseph Wiseman, in his film debut. He had a great haircut in this film. 
Wiseman would go on to portray the first cinematic Bond Villain Dr No.

Okay, eight-forty pm. Time to call it a night, gang. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Friday 2 December 2016

Friday 2/12/16 - Short Post No. 4 - This Week's Wristwatch.

Geez, my handwriting's sloppy. Man, that notepad was pretty cheap and crappy paper...First World problems. 

Work is still busy in the lead-up to Christmas. But that's cool. This shall pass, and it feels good to be getting things done. The watchmaker and I have made some changes here and there to the admin side of things. Repair forms and paperwork are now more streamlined and clear, with no wasted space on the page. I had been itching to make some changes to this aspect of my job, but every suggestion was shot down by my supervisor. Upper management has given me a little more autonomy recently, and meanwhile, the watchmaker was implementing his own admin strategies similar to those he utilised in a previous workshop. So basically, we now have a set-up that runs a little smoother. Still a work in progress, and small changes have been made as  we've moved along. It still needs tweaking here and there, but so far, it's a vast improvement on the old system. 

Took the metal bracelet off the Oris Diver Sixty-Five and put a cheap leather strap on it. It cost me ten Euro at the famed Sunday markets in Trastevere in Rome when I was there a couple of months ago. I'm still working on my post about that trip to Europe. I've only written about day one in Paris. That's gonna be a long post, thrill-seekers. 
Anyway, over the years, I've accumulated various bits and pieces and, looking through my spare parts box, I noticed that I had an Oris buckle in stainless steel. Sure, it had a few scuffs on it and it was still attached to the worn and tattered half of an old leather strap. 
So, a few minutes with the tools and onto my watch it went.

A small cup (or two) of Turkish coffee and a slice (or three) of Christmas pandoro cake. 
Sometimes, that's all you need. 

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.