Water Lilies

This week I finally got around to watching the film Water Lilies. It’s a coming of age film about two girls, aged about 15, and their discovery and exploration of the feelings that the move from childhood to adulthood evoke, including masses of attraction and confusion.

It’s taken me nearly 10 years to watch it because there are only so many coming of age dramas one can watch before the cringe factor becomes overwhelming, and I obviously had reached my limit, but I’m glad I finally made the time for it.


The two leads are best friends – one is well developed and large for her age, and one is skinny and less well developed. The skinny one falls for the captain of the local synchronised swimming team (a girl with a reputation as a ‘slut’), while the larger girls falls for the boy who is going out with the captain of the synchronised swimming team. Ah, love triangles!

So, our scrawny heroine makes a deal with the captain to sneak into swimming practice so she can watch them, and in return she helps the captain sneak off to liaisons with her boyfriend. D’oh! And of course, as life isn’t simple, it soon transpires that our captain isn’t quite the sexually experienced woman she appears to be, and she is not naive to the feelings of our heroine. But, thankfully, neither do these revelations transform her to the good girl that might imply – all the teenagers in this cinematic world are confused.

Meanwhile, our larger heroine is receiving some of the frustrated attentions of the attractive boy, who isn’t getting what he hoped from in his interactions with the swimming captain, while she struggles horribly with accepting her own physicality.


Highlights for me were many, but a few stand out.

A pool party at which all the boys have, inexplicably, underpants on their heads. This struck me as so essentially true, describing that dividing line of childhood and adulthood.

And again showing that move from childhood to adulthood,  one of our heroines casually bounces on a trampoline in a garden on the way to sneaking out with her friend. You feel that 6 months earlier there would be no angst, and 6 months later there will be no bouncing.

A couple of scenes also show so well the horror of puberty. The larger girl’s embarrassment at a party, in an incredibly well portrayed scene, as she realises her dancing has resulted in large patches of sweat under her arms. And another scene where she waits to be alone in the swimming changing room in order to hide her naked body from the rest of the team. Who would be a teenager again?

I also loved the total absence of any significant adults in the world we are shown. The view is from the girls themselves: parents and other adults are incidental to that world.

This view also allows for some portrayals of the intensity of feelings. A wonderful scene in which our scrawny heroine has managed to get into the pool to watch practice, showing the synchronised swimming team with close focus on the object of desire, and then feet, then splashing, then underwater. The camera reflecting the intensity of the watched experience. Now, I’m no film expert (did you guess?!), but it’s techniques like this that make me want to be.

And a quick word on the ending. It’s not happy ever after, it’s not certain, it’s not clear: it’s just exactly what being 15 is all about.

In summary, in my view, worth seeing once, but probably not twice.

Get a Kindle and read trash

A few years ago, I took this photo of an ad for a Kindle.

My thoughts at the time, were:

“Here’s an odd advert. First, the typography of the list of amazing kindle benefits is horrible. But then I noticed the text on the Kindle, from A Perfect Proposal. The first page if this book is not great literature. This looks like chic lit. So, I guess this ad is targeted at female commuters. Fine. But it just made me think of all the rubbish books I could fill my kindle with and how depressing that would be.”

Since then, I can confirm I have filled my Kindle with total trash. It’s perfect for it!


Becoming Unbecoming

BECOMING_UNBECOMING-716x1024I’ve just finished reading Becoming Unbecoming by Una. I had put off reading it for a few months in the fear it would be horrendously depressing. It’s not. It is, however, astonishing at drawing (ha, see what I did there?) links between different aspects of society and the impact society has on individuals. In particular around gender and expectations placed on women in society.

It’s also probably the most accessible piece of writing I’ve come across to help explain why I find the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard such dangerous newspapers. And explains in terms far clearer than I can ever muster why I have a total sense of humour failure when it comes to the ‘just a bit of a laugh’ rubbish that some comedians come out with when talking about women.

Amazon suggest buying it with Misogynies by Joan Smith – another excellent book.

Nescafe Azera To Go – how is this not illegal?

nescafelattetogoI’m not one for crazy over regulation, but surely the madness of selling cups of instant coffee, including the cup, requires some response?

A blend of Instant Coffee, finely ground roasted coffee beans with Skimmed Milk Powder, Sugar and Vegetable Oil.

NESCAFE Azera Coffee To Go Latte:

Feel confident as this delightful barista style blend is made from the finest selected coffee beans. Our dedicated team roast the beans and then finely grind them, before carefully blending with instant coffee and skimmed milk powder, giving you a delicious frothy latte. Simply add water to Be Your Own Barista.

A mere £4.59 for four.

Recycling Info:
Card – Widely Recycled Box
Mixed Material – Not Currently Recycled Cup
Plastic – Check Local Recycling Lid

How many of the rest of us need to diligently use Keep Cups to make up for this madness?

A part of me thinks I’m being wildly snobbish about this because I don’t get so outraged by regular take out coffee cups. But, I do use a Keep Cup, and at least you might get something nice from a take away, and you’re not actually at a kettle of your own at the time.

Are Twitter trolls the kids (bullies) you hated at school?

A few months ago I had the briefest of brushes with some Twitter trolls. Under the guise of free speech yada yada they sent some aggression my way about an opinion I dared to share on Twitter.

As a result, I got to thinking about who these people are, and started to wonder if at least some of them are the bullies and mean spirited people I used to avoid at school. That would make a certain amount of sense to me: there were people who thought tripping other kids up in the corridor was funny, and would rip you off in a playground deal because you weren’t sharp enough to mistrust them. They’d call people names and laugh at the weak kids. They were bullies. At varying levels, sure, but bullies. And something happened to those kids when they grew up. But because I avoided them, I wouldn’t know what.

I assume some of those kids just grew up and experienced some more of life and became compassionate people with open minds. Some of them are probably my friends in adult life.

It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if some of those kids turned into the people who think hurling abuse at people on Twitter is funny. And spend their time finding women who have opinions they don’t agree with, so they can be brought down a peg or two. And of course it’s not all black and white – some of them probably hold down really great jobs, have nice stable family lives and a circle of friends who likes them. Just like some of the bullies at school did. But they’ll still be hurtling abuse on Twitter like people with no social skills.

And then I wondered if those people are, in fact, the majority. Are these the people who read the Daily Mail and the Sun?

And then I got depressed and decided not to think too hard about it anymore.

Silver Linings Playbook – an unexpected joy

A few years ago I made a decision to go to the cinema far far less. This came after experiencing a spate of mainstream films full of violence and terrible female characters shown in cinemas full of people chatting and checking their phones. I reasoned good films would make it to Film 4 or iTunes, and the films worth seeing would bubble up somehow. My life got better, as did my bank balance.

As a result, I see a lot of films a long time after general release, and yesterday I watched the Silver Linings Playbook. This had hit my radar early in 2015, as it was Oscar nominated, but it sounded a bit… bleak. It’s not.

It’s a story of a man, Pat, with mental health problems, released from a psychiatric institution and brought back into the family home by  his mother. He is fixated on reviving his marriage, despite the restraining order placed on him, and goes about attempting to better himself to prove his stability to his wife. Through a friend, he meets a woman, Tiffany, who has also experienced mental health issues, and they form a friendship. You can probably guess the rest.

What I liked about the film, though, was the sense of how many people are struggling mentally in so many different ways. Yes, Pat and Tiffany are extreme examples, but Pat’s friend is putting himself under absurd pressure with his own wife and job, Pat’s father is almost dangerously superstitious, Pat’s brother, wildly successful in professional and personal ways also finds himself virtually unable to communicate with Pat.

Ultimately Pat and Tiffany, through their honesty (in most areas) and acceptance of the other person’s complete being, including their illnesses, are able to connect with each other. And perhaps underlying the film is this idea of acceptance – of weaknesses of all sorts, in all the relationships we see. Tiffany lies to Pat in quite a significant way, but he is able to understand and forgive that. There are no ‘sorted’ individuals here, but that doesn’t mean they can’t love each other and have happy families. It’s refreshing. And recommended.

Sherlock and the mystery of the massive ratings

We watched Sherlock last night and I was reminded why I don’t like it. This was an episode that appeared to be set in Victorian England, so I was intrigued. However, I felt disappointed by the:

  1. Plot. It looked like this could turn into a reimagining of Sherlock with these actors and these high production values, escaping the plot rabbit holes that the modern day version created. And then it just added to the modern day version rabbit holes. I don’t enjoy the endless cycles of doubt, and it feels self indulgent.
  2. Drugs. I don’t think it’s cool or interesting to see people do drugs. It feels like it’s been added here as an edgy thing to do with a TV series that would otherwise easily turn into kids’ TV. I don’t feel it adds anything.
  3. The women. It tries. It obviously really tries. But I find the women in Sherlock dissatisfying. Perhaps the origins of Sherlock Holmes make it impossible to really insert proper women. This episode actually tried to deal with the suffragette movement, but managed to remove all the female voices from the issue.
  4. Moriarty. Oh, who cares! If every episode is going to be about Moriarty, where is the mystery?

Ultimately, I found myself asking: is this TV for me? I think probably not, which is fine, but I really struggle to see what the big deal is about.

The Digital Human – Voice

The Digital Human is one of my favourite podcasts – always thought provoking about an element of our digital lives. I’ve just listened to the episode on voice, and one of the areas it covered was how distribution of voice online is far less prevalent than video, pictures or text. I have been aware of this for a while, as my first love is radio and in the early days of the internet I imagined a brave new world of radio broadcasts free of the constraints of radio stations’ demands. This didn’t happen, and I think these are contributing factors.

1 – Music rights. When media distribution online was new, there was a brief period of a few years when it seemed music programs, with a presenter, would have a life online. The reality of this, though, was that the rights restrictions around music made this impossible for the average amateur to do. This is the easiest way to do radio – some songs I love, and some chat about it. And it was impossible. Since then, Spotify and similar services have arrived that allow for curation of songs, but not the addition of voice. I long for informed music selection, combined with knowledgeable comments from a presenter. This is still the preserve of radio, but it shouldn’t be.

2 – iTunes. iTunes is the easiest way for most people to subscribe to audio content. And it doesn’t make discovery easy.

3 – Emotion. The Digital Human episode talks rightly about the emotional element of voice. It hits deeper than the visual. As such, the emotional risk of listening is greater, and you need to trust the audio you’re about to listen to. You make yourself vulnerable to voice.

4 – Time. A picture can be viewed in a split second, scanning a page. A video can be fast forwarded through. Audio tools currently widely available have no equivalent way to quickly parse the content.

5 – People don’t like the sound of their own voices. Because voice is so intimate, and because we don’t often hear our own voices, the experience of having your voice recorded is deeply uncomfortable for a lot of people. It’s also harder to quickly approve and delete or edit than pictures, so recording people casually feels far more invasive.

6 – Editing and quality. A picture can be quickly cropped or enhanced. Text can be easily edited. But good audio is hard to put together. People rarely make coherent whole sentences off the cuff that other people would be happy to listen to in a passive way. Think of the free form podcasts of people chatting that you download once and never listen to again. Creating good audio requires a similar skill set to video (a point the programme makes), but for seemingly less ‘gain’ than you get by learning to edit video.

7 – Offices and public spaces. I can browse pictures, text and even some video in an open plan office. Voice is more invasive of the space. And you really have to trust you’re not about to blast something awful into a shared space.

Having said this, I have hope that at least some of these obstacles can be overcome and audio will play a greater role in our digital lives. I agree with a point made in the programme that audio has a great role as ‘background’ content – exactly how I use podcasts when walking or tidying the flat. I think this element is under exploited and is where a great ‘gap’ for audio exists online.

Sushi and film distribution

A friend of mine recommended Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a fascinating film about the man who runs the only sushi restaurant in the world with three Michelin stars. It’s a good watch, even for someone like me, who knows nothing about sushi. It gives insights into what it takes to get to such heights, families, Japanese society, and even a bit on how the fish markets work.

As interesting to me, though, is Distrify. The film is available online through Distrify, who are providing a platform for filmmakers and rights owners to sell film rentals or purchases and make it easy for people to share the film online. This feels important to me – a step on from YouTube, iTunes and Vimeo and a real opportunity for film makers. I wish it every success.

Show me your money? I’d prefer decent management

I watched a documentary last night about a London plumbing firm trying to sort out its range of salaries. (Show Me Your Money, available on 4oD until early August.)

In the programme, the Managing Director encourages all staff to reveal their salaries and then negotiate amongst themselves to arrive at a more equitable distribution.

I am a huge fan of transparent pay policies and think they should be widely adopted. If you can’t justify your salary to your colleagues, and can’t live with the knowledge of what your colleagues are being paid in relation to you, there’s something wrong with the pay distribution. We don’t do it at JKP, but I’m not the boss.

However, there were some things in the programme last night that made me think this particular example is problematic.

  1. The pay discrepancies in place were, in some cases, shocking, and to me showed an incredible failure of management to allow them to come about. This wasn’t addressed. If your salaries are secret, it’s the responsibility of the company to ensure they are equitable, and the MD had completely failed in this duty.
  2. There was a case of a new starter in the call centre on £3k more than his colleagues who had been there longer. All but one of his  colleagues were women. Coincidence? It didn’t look like one.
  3. The fact that the most lowly-paid person in the company was a woman working in the canteen came as no surprise. It did surprise me, though, that she was being paid less than the recommended London Living Wage. Again, a total failure of management. Even after the pay increment at the end of the process, I believe this woman was still earning less than the London Living Wage.
  4. There was no pay review process in place. Pay rises came about as a result of going to the MD, talking about your kids needing something, and the MD giving you a rise. This is not a policy, this is a free-for-all. And, what’s more, it wasn’t even a publicised free-for-all. A portion of the workforce had no idea this happened, so stayed on the same salary for years.

In short, this is no way to run a business and it’s a mistake to use them as an example of innovative business practice.