Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Pacific

Last night, we finished watching the box set of The Pacific I got for BB last Christmas (well, we still have the bonus DVD to watch, just to be completist about it!). We had watched Band of Brothers a few years ago (with the same actor who's the US marine-turned-Al-Qaeda-plant in Homeland!) and I liked it, despite the violence, the blood, the guts. I think I liked The Pacific even more. I had read some reviews that were not great, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. (I have no idea where I saw those, as it won plenty of awards, according to the Wikipedia article). And yes, it flips flops a bit between chaotic scenes at the front and life back at home or on leave. It's not as focused on the action as Band of Brothers. There are a few romances too, which men who're only interested in the war thing might not like so much.

But what worked for me is that it's based on real-life stories, the war years of John Basilone, Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie. We watched the field guide features after each episode, and they helped us make sense of the chaos of war that the men experienced, putting each episode in its historical and personal context. It was very useful, as I have to admit that for the first couple of episodes, I had trouble figuring out who was who - men all look the same in combat fatigues and helmets!

Like Band of Brothers, or Saving Private Ryan for that matter, it shows all the horror of war, the sheer fear and terror, the senseless killing, the lack of sleep or food or basic sanitation, the chaos, the civilian casualties, and also the unlikely friendships that emerge.

Recommended viewing for any history teacher who is struggling to engage their students. And it will put them off war for ever (if they ever thought that war was a good idea).

I'm not a war-movie fan. Give me a girly weepy movie any time (Truly Madly Deeply anyone?). But The Pacific was good.


We watched 50/50 on Friday night, our start-of-weekend treat! The Big C has proven that you can make a comedy about cancer. 50/50 uses a similar mix of comedy and pathos. Adam is a 27-year-old nice guy, too nice, a bit boring, tidy, in a relationship that's run its course, who discovers he's got a malignant tumor, for which the odds are 50/50. His painter girlfriend says she will look after him, but you can see the fear in her eyes. She wants out, but won't admit it. She brings him a dog, and you know that he will end up with the dog and no girlfriend! Adam's mother makes a big drama about it all, but then again, Adam's father has Alzheimer's and it can't be too easy for her. Kyle, Adam's friend and colleague, is constantly on the lookout for new ways to pick up women, whether it's Adam's prescription hash, his dog (a lovely placid lurcher with big sad eyes), or books about cancer, he is most imaginative with ways to lure women. But he's also the best friend possible. He's there when Adam needs him, he helps him shave his head at the start of chemotherapy, he brings him out to clubs and encourages him in his attempts to pick up a girl. In the meantime, Adam goes to a therapist, but he is her third patient and she's got a lot to learn.

None of this sounds very funny. But, trust me, it is. It's a lovely movie, funny and sad. Most of all, it's the story of a friendship that not even bad odds can break.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Modern Family

Again, we're way behind the curve. We've just started watching Modern Family! The story of three branches of a family:

  • Yummy Mummy and husband and their 3 young-to-mid teenage children
  • Gay couple and their adopted Vietnamese baby daughter
  • Older man and his young sexy Colombian wife and her son from a previous relationship

The setting is a big Desperate Housewives-ish - they're all quite wealthy, have lovely big houses and nobody is worried about their job or feeding the children. But it's the funniest thing I've watched on TV in a long time. It's filmed in a strange mix of fly-on-the-wall and candid interviews. Like one of these reality tv programs that follow the real lives of a family - I've watched some of these on Channel 4, nothing as idyllic as this big happy family.

Each episode is short, less than half an hour, so it's perfect for our lunchtime viewing!

PS: I think the picture above is from this year's Emmys - some of the children have grown quite a bit!

Monday, September 24, 2012


If you're ever looking for a quick something to watch on the Internet, I recommend wigs. Stories about women, relationships, love, doubts, and probably plenty more. I've only watched 3 series so far, so I don't know what's in the other series and short movies. I've watched Jan, Jennifer and Georgia, three beautiful, funny, stressed women.

It's like reading perfectly-crafted short stories. You immediately get sucked into their world. You don't know all the details of their lives and relationships, but you feel like you know them instantly. You wouldn't necessarily want them as a best friend, but you like them straight away, you want things to work out for them, you want them to be happy.

Perfect for a slow day!

More urban art photos

BB took some nice photos too at the Sandyford Urban Art Festival:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It's pouring paint!

When paintings don't go too well, the trick is to move on to something nice and easy and satisfying. What could be more enjoyable than pouring paint?

I came across this little video, and it looked so simple! - Note that he doesn't show you the crucial bit - between pouring the paint and the first swooshing back and forth!

My first hurdle is that I didn't have self-levelling acrylics. But never fear - a quick mix with a dollop of Liquitex Pouring Medium and a dash of Liquitex Flow Aid, plus a little water, and I had paint more or less to the right consistency. It was a little too solid, to be honest, and my first draft showed patches where I'd had to push the paint along with a painting knife.

That didn't stop me, though. After taking a photo of my original attempt, I had another go, right over it. That's the beauty of acrylics. They're opaque and you can have as many layers as you want. I used the same ingredients, but this time with a touch more Flow Aid, and I had paint sloshing all over my canvas with great ease. A bit too much, even. In the end, my problem was that there was a dip in the centre where the liquid paint started gathering. But it's certainly given me the taste to do more. I've run out of Pouring Medium, though, so it will have to wait! And I must buy rubber gloves. It's very messy business!

Festival of Urban Art - Sandyford

BB took me on a mystery outing today. Just across from the Beacon shopping centre, in the area at the back of the Celtic Tiger unfinished buildings. We had noticed some work going on there over the last few weeks, and we thought that maybe Nama was going to finish the work, but it was all boarded up, and we'd quietly forgotten about it.

No better place for street art! There was a Festival of Urban Art happening there over the weekend, with graffiti artists and (loud!) music all performing for our pleasure! Fantastic works. Go and see them before some stupid guys tag all over them!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dublin Culture Night

Last night was the first time we attended Dublin Culture Night!
Great buzz all around town - so much to do.

Went to Evensong at Saint Patrick's Cathedral (I recommend it!), then on to a quick peep at Christchurch.

Onto Temple Bar, where there was a lot happening - A man with a guitar and an invisible man playing the drums on a street corner. Listened to a choir at the Meeting House Square, where we also had a look at the National Photographic Archive, with interesting pictures from Northern Ireland in the early eighties by Sean Hillen - loved the photo of a black British soldier taking a break from the riots, leaning against his armoured vehicle and closing his eyes for a moment.

Went to the Olivier Cornet Gallery for a taste of avant-garde electronic music by Rachel Ni Chuinn (and Rachel was wearing colours to match John Fitzsimons' paintings, currently on show at the gallery!).

(Would have liked to go to Eric McGrath at the Oxfambooks shop on Parliament Street but RTE were recording and we would have had to stay for half an hour and it was clashing with something else, so we had to make a choice)

Then onto Trinity College for the Science Gallery - perfect night to walk through the grounds of Trinity, lovely clear sky. Big queue for the Long Room, so we skipped that. There was an even longer queue for the Wax museum. Couldn't believe that people would queue for so long for that! I've never been, so I can't judge! But that won't stop me from having an opinion!

Every restaurant in town was packed, so we got the Luas to Dundrum and wrapped up the evening with chicken kare lomen and chicken katsu at Wagamama's

Phew! An exciting night. I normally stay at home and watch a video, so this was quite a change from my normal routine. Must mark the night into my calendar for next year!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Google Maps

I use Google maps regularly. They're great. Love them.
I've just noticed that they have now included the names of houses - in areas where there are no house numbers! I'm impressed! How much work did that take? Can you write code for that? Or did someone go through all the Google Street View footage and write down the names of the houses?
Impressive or what!

View Larger Map

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


How have I managed to live without Pinterest all those years?, I ask! I had applied to it a few months ago, but never heard back from them. Then yesterday, I was looking a the Boden site and they were using Pinterest to show outfits, and then I saw a button "Sign in with Facebook", and I was in!

I have a love-hate relationship with these "Sign in with Facebook" buttons. They are so handy - one username, one password. No need to fill in all sorts of information about yourself. But then, you're asked to allow push notifications and access to location information and all sorts of things, without really knowing what it all means. Recently, I specifically unticked an item marked to allow an app to post on Facebook on my behalf. And do you know the first thing that app did? Post on Facebook on my behalf. I hate that. Really hate it.

But enough of that. Back to Pinterest.

It's a bit like Delicious, a handy way to keep track of things you find on the web, but visually. It's more about creative inspiration. Whereas Delicious is ideal to keep all the technical solutions and exercise ideas I have discovered over time, Pinterest is about beautiful pictures and colours and textures. For me anyway. I love collages, and it's like a big collage to which you can keep on adding. There is nothing to stop anybody from creating a board with YouTube videos on how to replace an iPhone screen, I guess. Some people will use it for recipes. Not me. But you never know.

The nice thing about Delicious, is that you can save your links offline, so if they ever go bust, you have a record of all these links. What happens if Pinterest closes down? Same as Facebook or Blogger, I guess, you're snookered. Unless you printed a copy. That's very 20th century, that. But I have done it. Which reminds me that I haven't printed my blog in at least a year. Better go buy some ink!

One gripe - why do I need iOS5 to install the iPad Pinterest app? That's a shame that. I'm not planning to buy a new iPad, but I don't want to update the iOS, as I know from (second-hand) experience that a whole lot of things will stop working if I do that. Newer isn't necessarily better. But try telling a developer that! I'll just have to continue using it with the iPhone app on my iPad, and I have a handy Pin It button in my Google Chrome on my laptop, so I guess I'll survive!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lola Versus

Don't know why it got bad reviews. I enjoyed Lola versus. It was a sweet, funny movie. It's not going to change my life. It doesn't need to. Lola's fiancé breaks off the engagement three weeks before the wedding. She falls to pieces. Her friend is there to support her. She falls for her ex's best friend, but then it doesn't really work out. She has sex with her ex. That doesn't work out either! She has sex with a weird guy. Nope, doesn't work out either. And then she grows up. And accepts that life isn't so bad after all. No Walt Disney Princess ending. Just life. And New York never looked so beautiful.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blue Moon

After struggling all day yesterday with a watercolour version, I managed two quick drawings of the Blue Moon scene that I found on the National Geographic website a couple of weeks ago, one with Art Rage (below) and one with Paper (left).

Watercolours can be so unforgiving, but so beautiful when I finally get it right. This one will be a while I think.

Believe it or not, the masking of the moon worked quite well. But the reflections in the water were a complete disaster. I tried to mark them with my Masquepen, with the fine tip, but it got very blotchy, nothing like the delicate effect I was trying to achieve. It turns out the fine tip is blocked. I tried to clear it, but nothing will do. I'll need to buy another one. Masking fluid is very frustrating. The idea of it is great, but it rarely delivers the fine lines I want. I've tried a few different brands, but always come back to the Masquepen. My problem is that I don't use it very often, and of course, by the time I get to wheel it out, it has clogged up. But anyways, even if the masking had worked, I still would have had the problem of adding the coloured reflections. Then my trees got all out of proportion, and really chunky. Not a pretty sight. I think it all started with my choice of paper - I should have gone for a smooth hot press paper, as I'm trying to achieve a smooth effect. Or maybe I should go for a chunky look, using oil pastels, like in the ArtRage one above? Decisions Decisions!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pinterest source

I was reading an article about ideas for what to do if you're facing the dreaded blank page, thinking "I have nothing to say that people would want to read". Yes, it happens to bloggers too!

There was a mention of Pinterest in there, and also a mention of So I tried it and found that my blog gets two Pinterest mentions, one with a picture of a Shomera, and the other with a picture of Jean Byrne and a lovely little write-up. I was chuffed! Thank you,

If you have a blog or a website, try it out!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pumpkin soup

Well, I did make my pumpkin soup yesterday! I chose a recipe from Aine McAteer, of course, a coconut pumpkin bisque. I think I had made that soup before, but with the really big pumpkins, the Halloween ones, and let me tell you, there is no comparison. This little pumpkin tasted good. It smelled of melon when I diced it, and it was so sweet.

And I also finished my little watercolour, mixing more of the same colours for the background. I went for a lighter tone over black oil pastel lines in the front (a table, a tablecloth maybe?), and a darker mix for the back, which I lifted in places with tissue paper.

And I've been advised to show you a photo of the pumpkin too, in case you thought the blemishes on the right were an unfortunate painting accident! I didn't paint from this photo - I painted from life for a change, and it was at a slightly different angle, more from above.

And while I'm at it, here is a view of my two Ikea pin boards with my recent and future projects.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Magazines online

I can't remember exactly how I came across this. I think I was looking for Marie-France, one of the better French magazines, in my opinion, as I wanted to see the Fall colours. And I stumbled upon If all you want to do is flick through a magazine, you don't even have to buy anything, you can look at the pictures for free (the text is too small). And I see they have some online delivery for a cross-words book, which I must remember to download for Christmas.

And in case you're wondering: red, purple and emerald green.


Still playing with the same colours - amazing the range from just three pigments! When I saw this pumpkin in Lidl, I had to have it. I'm still planning to make pumpkin soup, but somehow, that wasn't as important as painting it! My shading isn't quite right, but it looks three-dimensional enough in black and white, so I decided to leave well enough alone. I'm not sure what background I'm going to give it yet. Maybe a mix of all the paints in my tray?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Hunger Games

We had heard a lot about The Hunger Games over the last few months. And we finally got to see it for ourselves. It's not a bad story - 1984 meets Gladiator meets Big Brother (the TV show!).

It's better than a lot of trash for teenagers nowadays. It's got a strong female lead, issues of right and wrong, a serious subject matter, what's more serious than life and death after all? It didn't entirely convince me, though. It lacked depth or something. Maybe the views of the mega-city were bad CGI. Maybe the way the city people were dressed was ridiculous. Or maybe there were too many characters and not enough time to develop them. We barely got to know Rue (was that really her name?) and then she got killed. And then there were riots. But why was there no riots in any of the other districts? After all, their young people were sent to take part against their will too, all knowing that only one of 24 would survive.

The Hunger Games themselves were wrapped up far too quickly for my liking. It's like they only lasted 3 days, or even less, as the producers could bring night quicker if they wanted to. So why was food so important? If I knew I would either be dead or back in a fancy hotel in three days, would I be so concerned about food? And I think I would have found it more interesting if what we were shown was the reality-TV version of the games, i.e. what the public in the districts and the city were seeing on their screens.

But still, it wasn't bad. The main girl - I never caught her name - was likeable, tough, vulnerable, beautiful, genuine, all the qualities of a reality tv contestant! I can imagine that the book is a real page-turner. Maybe I should have read the book instead? I might pick up the next two installments on my Kindle. It's a trilogy after all (PS: I've just downloaded a sample of Book 2 & 3 - I love downloading samples to my Kindle - if I see a book I might be interested in, I just download the sample. No need to hold on to magazine clippings or to keep a list any more. If I don't like the sample, there is no cost attached. And if I like it, the full version is only a click or two away. At that stage, I don't even look at the price tag. The guys at Amazon definitely did their homework on that one. It's a bit like buying apps from Apple - no connection whatsoever with the real money, just type in your password and the app is yours. And when you get the credit card bill, you've only got a vague memory of what it was you bought!).


Still playing with the same colours - PV19, PY184 and PB35. I didn't achieve the same subtle colours as in my previous effort, so I decided to jazz it up a tiny bit in Picasa, which always works wonders.

PS: the drawing is based on my Olympic Tulips. I think I prefer the original.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Siobhan Ryan, 11 Sept, tobacco dress

I guess this is more taupe than tobacco, isn't it? All the same, a very nice dress on Siobhan Ryan yesterday. And she is slim enough to carry it. I don't think it would work quite so well on me. Oh to be young!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jean Byrne, 9 Sept, Dairy Milk?

Only a few days ago, Jean Byrne was wearing her beautiful yellow dress - great fit, great colour. I thought it looked fantastic on her. Not many people can carry yellow, but Jean definitely can.

But last night, she was sporting a new outfit, a purple satin dress, that I think did nothing for her. The sleeves are too frumpy, the front is too blocky. BB's first thought when he saw it was "Cadbury Dairy Milk". And I'm afraid he was right. Judge for yourselves.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

What might have been me

I bought Yvonne Cassidy's book What Might Have Been Me a while back, having enjoyed her first book The Other Boy a couple of years ago. Some authors (Jodie Picoult anyone?) keep writing the same stories over and over, with similar themes and characters. I'm a big fan of Jodie Picoult's books, so I'm not necessarily saying that it's a bad thing per se. But I guess I was expecting to find myself in familiar territory when I picked up Yvonne Cassidy's second book.

Well, it couldn't have been more different. An Irish person abroad was really the only connection I could find. This one is set, for the first part, in New York, then in Dublin, where Carla, the main character, has to come home after her mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer. It's about the choices one makes in life, or the choice to drift without making a break from a life that no longer is the dream it was supposed to be, it's about sisters, about friends who have grown apart. A much slower book than the first, too. It's not a big action thriller. Rather, it is a beautifully written account of life as it takes its course, with real people, real emotions, and no big dramatic finish. A slow burner, but a very satisfying read.

Evelyn Cusack, 4 September, dark blue dress

Evelyn Cusack has definitely been shopping a lot lately. So many new dresses! And all very pretty. I'm particularly fond of this blue number, which I think is quite flattering.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Just once in a very blue moon

I came across this beautiful picture on the National Geographic website. Always an inspiration! I think I could paint that. Mask the moon first, then paint a blue sky with a simple wash. Water reflections wet into wet. Then paint the trees with a dark mix of ultramarine, or indigo, and sepia. Remove the masking fluid and paint the moon a gorgeous orange-yellow. Sounds simple enough. Let's see if I can pull that off!

PS: the article is also worth reading!

Art Rage

I'm trying to figure out my next art project, and I'm doodling a bit, not quite sure what direction to take!

Here is one of the doodles, painted with ArtRage on iPad. Still exploring the same range of colours.

It was very soothing. Not sure I can use it for anything, though.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Evelyn Cusack, 1 September, Navy dress

Evelyn was looking lovely on Saturday night in her navy dress with cream piping. And she was the bringer of good news, as the forecast for the week is pretty good.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The foothills

I know that it's best to draw and paint from life, but I am often inspired by photographs I come across on the web.

This little watercolour is from a photo I found on the National Geographic site, if I remember correctly, one of these views from the sky. It was the perfect photo to experiment with my latest favourite colour mixes (PV19+PY184+PB35).

It looks better from a distance than close up, I'll admit. I'll have to get back to it from a different perspective, I think, with finer line work maybe, particularly for the bottom part, but I love the reds and purples in the upper half, so it wasn't a complete waste of time!

Frog vs Cat

I have no photos to prove it to you, but we had quite a big frog in our front garden yesterday!

BB had gone to the car to fetch something and had left the front door open, and I was upstairs, when I heard a screeching sound, like a hissing of distress. I ran down the stairs to investigate and found our cat poking at a beautiful frog. It was a good-sized frog, between 7 and 10 cm in length, khaki green with dark dots. It was trying to hide in the heathers, but our cat was intrigued, and would have poked some more if I hadn't grabbed him and brought him indoors straight away. Needless to say, he wasn't impressed, and spent the next hour running from door to door in the hope that I would let him out. By the time our cat was allowed outside, the frog had managed to escape, thankfully. I'm not sure where he came from. There is a big pond beyond our estate, an ideal spot for frogs most likely, but there are walls all around. And it would be a long way round. Unless a crane dropped it from the sky? An eventful day for that poor little frog, no doubt. I hope it survived and made it back to the ralative safety of its pond.