Basil, Halle Berry, and Doors Open to feral cats!

What a weekend it has been! In basil news… The basil is coming to resemble a beanstalk.

In other news, it was Doors Open Day in Glasgow this weekend. On Saturday, I went to The Briggait, Glasgow’s Old Fishmarket, and now home to many artists’ studios and theatre production companies, as well as installations, and many other enterprises relating to the arts. It is a great building and I spent a lot of time there pottering about. After that I went across to Theatre Nemo. This is a really interesting place that has been set up to help people with varying mental health issues to express themselves through a variety of artistic forms in particular using animation. From there I went on to the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, the oldest surviving music hall in the UK, and where Stan Laurel made his artistic debut. Here I met a human spider. From there, I went to City Chambers, and got my camera out to take a novel view of George Square. Although, obviously the best view of George Square is of City Chambers.

And then on the way back I had a bit of a sneaky peak at Cloud Atlas being shot which stars Halle Berry. Unfortunately, she was off for the day by then, but I got a pic of her stand in (before I realised it was her stand in), and some battered up cars.

On coming home, due to the physical health of a neighbour, I opted to take on the responsibility of a feral cat called Blossom. Well, she may become a flat cat, just one that doesn’t live in the flat. That same evening I hopped between three birthdays and a leaving do, which included telling a friend as a 30th birthday present he’ll be fighting a shark. That’s a lot for a Saturday.

Now, I must go and get ready for directing at Write, Camera, Action!, and I must feed the cat…


Why call yourself a slut? You have other people to do that for you.

Sign reads: Society teaches “Don’t get raped”, rather than “Don’t rape”.

The Glasgow SlutWalk was held on the 4th June 2011, and I attended with about 200 other people – a varied mixture of men, women, and children.

Over the past few months I have read and listened to a variety of debates over the SlutWalk movement: Is it highlighting a problem or adding to it? Is it doing an injustice to the feminist movements that have gone before it? Is it giving men free reign to call women sluts? And what message is it giving to young women and girls? Despite its name which is intentionally provocative, the messages at the heart of the SlutWalks are sensible and relevant. The SlutWalk phenomena began in Toronto, in retaliation towards a statement made by PC Michael Sanguinetti at a Health and Safety talk, “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.” Quickly glancing these words you could perhaps mistake Sanguietti’s statement as a poorly worded tale of caution, this is certainly how some journalists have interpreted it: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writes for The Independent, “The Canadian policeman surely was only saying women need to be sharp and savvy.” However this statement does not scan as advice on safety, it reads as: don’t be the problem. And he did not mince his words either; he admits in the same breath that he had been warned against voicing this opinion, and who by? Other police officers who do not share his viewpoint, or members of the force wary enough to have foreseen the flame it would ignite.

The main issue here is that this statement was made by a law enforcer in regards to the safety of women, and as a number of articles have shown this quoted opinion is shared by other members of the public and the media. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in her article, How does dressing like a ‘slut’ help protect women? asks “Does it make any sense for us to teach our daughters that they can get pissed and wear whorish garb and still expect to be completely safe?”. This question puts the emphasis on the wrong people, and in spite of good intentions towards women, I feel completely misses the point. Rape is illegal, dressing “like a slut” is not illegal, no one has taken to the streets to fight for the right to wear provocative clothing! People have walked in peaceful protests for the right, no matter how extreme their fashion tastes to not be violently attacked or vindicated for crimes they have not committed. This is not about fighting for short skirts and high heels it is about standing up for women.

There are concerns that these walks may be dangerous to how men view women, and how women feel they should behave. I think the only real danger from these walks is in stirring up some debate, and that can only be a good thing. Understandably there are some concerns voiced by feminists about these particular strategies for gaining greater sexual equality and liberation, everybody has a different way of doing things – when fighting for the right to vote the Suffragettes and the Suffragists had conflicting tactics but it was at least towards a common goal. However, the articles that read as though penned in a moment of clarity as the voice of the people, imagining they have caught feminists out in their own word play, these articles tend to highlight the problem. Brendan O’Neill writes for the Telegraph, “These are prudes disguised as sluts”, in his article These are the most anti-social sluts on Earth. He states, “The SlutWalk organiser says that one of the “main messages” of her campaign is that “a woman’s appearance is not a sexual invitation”. But it is. When women wear revealing gear in a pub or a nightclub, they are definitely issuing a sexual invitation. And why shouldn’t they? They want to pull, get off, cop off or whatever the crazy kids call it these days.”

He then helpfully goes on to explain how the chatting up process works with a man spotting an attractive woman and offering to buy her a drink, or issuing a come-on. I think what O’Neill has failed to realise, with his male and somewhat outdated perspective, is that thousands of women have not taken to the streets because they are unfamiliar with nightclub etiquette, nor that they are misguidedly protesting on behalf of women who do not want their help, they are marching for themselves. And in doing so they are not trying to stop men from being able to talk to women, they are not trying to stop men from having sex, it is about women not being told what they mean by their appearance, and about not having to play a game of Russian roulette every time they step outside their door in anything more revealing than a full-length anorak.

The British Crime survey shows that over 80% of rape victims know their rapists. The outfits worn by most rape victims are not what would ever be classified as “whorish garb”, however, it is only once someone is raped that this factor starts to be scrutinised. It is alright for someone to wear a short skirt unless they get raped whilst wearing said short skirt because then they become the instigator of a violent crime. It evades logic. Semi-naked women adorn billboards and the front pages of magazines, and men, women and children are exposed to this on a daily basis. The intention of these female images is to project a sexual invitation, and to play to male fantasy in order to sell things, so when a man sees a “fantasy” woman he may project onto her this “sexual invitation” – but we are not selling anything, and we are certainly not giving anything away. Women constantly face the brunt of pressure laid down by society to act and look a certain way, but not only are we expected to live up to these expectations, we are expected to take the responsibility for the effects of them. France recently hit the headlines with the French ban on the niqab, this was implemented for the protection of Muslim women and because covering up in this way was found not to be in keeping with French values. As one given reason is to protect women from oppression, it seems ironic that she is then the first in the firing line if found wearing the veil. If a woman wears too much she is oppressed, or frigid, and is she wears to little she is a slut. In Brendan O’Neill’s article he also takes offence at the SlutWalk organisers admonishing wolf-whistles and comments hurled in the street, “as if a builder saying “nice bum!” is an act of unspeakable violence”. Is this a real opposition? Defending the rights of builders to shout “nice bum!” in the street. Comments of this nature are rarely received as complimentary as it is not a normal form of communication, and they are often designed to single a woman out – if a group of men were to shout “nice suit” at a middle class man walking down the street, he too would feel singled out and threatened. We live in a democratic society: women are not asking for a troop of thought police to reprimand men, they are asking not to be issued with or forced to live by a dress code. We will not be pigeon-holed as victims, nor will we allow victim blaming because society isn’t willing to tweak its outlook on the laws of femininity.

Germaine Greer in an article for The Telegraph says, “The rejection by women of compulsory cleansing of mind, body and soul is a necessary pre-condition of liberation.” In Ancient Greece and Rome, it was considered better if a woman was raped than committed adultery as then only her body had been defiled and not her mind. Lucretia was upheld as a woman of true virtue – she was raped by one of her husband’s friends and after detailing the attack to her father she committed suicide so that no other woman in the future may be able to use her as an example to cover up their promiscuity. Laws have changed, men and women have changed, but this notion of virtue still hangs heavy in the air. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown commented in her aforementioned article, “I bet there weren’t many women on the march who endure domestic rape or have been trafficked”. I don’t know about that but there were definitely women who had had first-hand experience of sexual attack on the Glasgow SlutWalk, as one woman spoke up about it in a speech made to the crowd. In denying the voice of the SlutWalkers seems to be further highlighting that the more ‘virtuous’ victim is viewed as more worthy of our sympathy. No other crime, in a court setting at least, sets about scrutinising the virtuous qualities of a victim, to see if they are worthy of having their assailant brought to justice.

The SlutWalk movement is just a group of people saying fine, we’ll take the badge of slut, but we will wear it as we want to, and yes unfortunately that means we’ll make a big song and dance about it so that we’re heard – as Germaine Greer puts it, “taking part in what looks like an endless “vicars and tarts’ street party is not just bad-ass. It’s fun.” Obviously this ironic style of retaliation ruffles feathers, after all women are also often accused of not having a sense of humour, but when people take an objection to what you wear, and take that more seriously than what you are trying to say, what else is there to do, if you didn’t laugh you’d cry.

Sources mentioned:

‘How does dressing like a ‘slut’ protect women?’ – Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

‘These ‘SlutWalk’ women are simply fighting for their right to be dirty’ – Germaine Greer

‘These are the most anti-social sluts in the world’ – Brendan O’Neill

Sign reads: Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no.

Basil! Yes dear, just coming!

My basil plant in his new pot

Today I repotted my basil plant for the second time because he’s grown an unprecedented amount since the last time he was repotted and as he’s been using the window as a sort of support system. I am not a very green-fingered person, it is not my forte. But this basil plant has become an interesting challenge. I know basil plants are supposed to be difficult to keep alive so now that I have brought him back from the brink of death after he withered from the full and flourishing plant that I originally bought at Morrisons I’ve become quite interested in him. Although, I’ve been eating his leaves less too, which somewhat defeats his true life’s purpose.

I’ve never seen a basil plant like him before, these two brown stalks launched into the air, and now are flourishing at the top like a small tree, only he can’t support himself, he’s all top-heavy, so I put him into a new pot today, the only one he could go in – it’s a bit big and resembles a small child in clown shoes, but hopefully he’ll be happy. I also stuck knitting needles in with him, and tied the feeble stalks to them to prop him up. He’ll get better use out of the knitting needles than I would have done, I’d never intended on knitting with them anyway, I thought they might make a good cross structure for a hanging mobile.

Once he was repotted he also became a willing model to try out the new close-up filters for my camera. I’ve been playing about with them as I develop an aesthetic for a new project I’m working on. The results of this are below – he’s a photogenic wee thing…

Other close-up filter play - wall map.

Tintin time

Head shots!

I’ve started revamping my website, started as in it’s nearly there, but there’s some tweaking still to do.

However, I have posted up my head shot rates, and I am encouraging anyone who wants any other photography work to e-mail me. If you give me the details of your shoot, I will give you a quote asap.

Here are some of the head shots I have taken over the last year:

Acting head shots like the one directly above are £115 for a 45 minute session plus a CD with at least 3 retouched images, for other head shots, modelling shots, poster designs quotes are available, just e-mail

Water For Elephants: film review

A predictable and instantly forgettable film based on the novel by Sara Gruen, starring Reese Witherspoon, and Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame. Francis Lawrence’s third feature Water For Elephants centres around Jacob Jankowski (Pattinson) a young Cornell university student who ends up without money or home, and is taken under the wing of the Benzini Bros’ circus. Jacob, becomes the travelling vet, often working alongside Marlena (Witherspoon) the circus’ star attraction and wife of the owner and ringmaster, August (Christoph Waltz).  At the heart of this film should be a love story that emerges between Jacob and Marlena: it is on all the posters, it is made pointedly obvious by their paring together and jarring dialogue, and yet the onscreen chemistry fails between them. There is a more striking passion present in Marlena and August’s marriage, though this becomes confused when we approach the middle of the film, and the beginning of an inevitable “love” affair, and August is suddenly made the antagonist of the piece. Throughout August shows an impatience and a lack of compassion for his employees and performers, however at this turning point in the film, the sudden violent rage he exerts upon Rosie the elephant seems out of character. In the novel it is discovered that August is schizophrenic, yet this revelation is removed from the film. A glimpse at the novel offers more depth to these characters than a two-hour film managed; the screenplay has done away with a key character and stripped those remaining of all personality and motivation. Marlena is a married woman, and Jacob is a young man whose life has taken an unexpected turn outwith his control, their affair could be confused, frantic, and thriving with moral ambiguity, instead it is a farce that we are asked to believe spanned over decades. Presumably the producers decided that the allure of their two stars, which will be enough to attract a large audience for the film, would also be enough to draw the two characters together. And in order to keep within the fairy tale guidelines of a Hollywood romance, and reprieve Marlena for her sinful breakaway from the bonds of marriage, and Jacob’s betrayal of his boss and friend, August starts to show these more maniacal tendencies. Unless you have an overwhelming penchant for imagery of the circus and performing animals, and a high pain threshold for everything else, I would strongly recommend giving this film a miss.

Scre4m: film review

It is hard to say what was scarier: seeing the latest in the Scream franchise or being at a midnight showing for it in the centre of Glasgow – luckily no-one had come in adorning Ghostface masks, so perhaps I will vouch for the former. It seems to be a new trend to quash the idea of a completed trilogy franchise with a new fourth installment, and I think it would be fair to say that when that happens critics are ready and waiting for a flop. However, unlike Scream 3 which was criticised as being the horror film it had previously tried to parody Scre4m is back on form with self-referential quips, and manages laugh out loud satire with up to date references relating to today’s youth culture and social networking. Most prominently with Robbie (Erik Knudsen), who jointly runs the Woodsboro High School cinema club live streaming a “Hall Pass” for anyone who wants to watch his daily encounters.

One interesting element of this horror franchise is the continual return to one victim, but with a new killer(s). Each of the Scream sequels has therefore relied on a spate of copycat killings to keep the masked “Ghostface” alive as a character in its own right. It is proposed by the younger characters/would-be victims/would-be killers (for therein lies the ambiguity of this particular take on the horror genre) that the latest Ghostface will be filming their killings; they also lay down the law on what they believe the new rules will be as to who is “allowed” to die. Without ever actually breaking the fourth wall and talking to the camera, it is this outline of the rules within the horror set up that makes Scream unique. And so as the familiar faces of the hapless yet fiesty victim Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), writer and reporter Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), and investigating officer Dewey Riley (David Arquette) return, they have to compete with a new generation of teens re-writing the rules of their perpetual cat and mouse game.

The teens are all big horror film buffs, with the seven fictitious “Stab” movies being cult favourites – based on the “real” events in Woodsboro as documented by Gale Weathers. Kevin Williamson the original scriptwriter and director Wes Craven have made something interesting here with the film’s ability to laugh at itself by creating a parody of its own parody, whilst also providing a self-evaluation as the original unfolds. The third film, which was written by Ehren Kruger with limited input from Kevin Williamson, came shortly after the Columbine High school shooting, which resulted in heavily reduced violence, and criticism for straying from its original form. I am not a particular fan of horror myself, but the humour and the whodunnit teen slasher element makes it seem safe bet, and I imagine this makes it more alluring for a wide audience. Yet, as the latest film stays true to, the Scream films depict many abhorrent scenes of bloody murder. These scenes are often then juxtaposed with surprisingly blasé attitudes from youths who have witnessed the distressing slaying and loss of their nearest and dearest. However the lighthearted take on copycat killings, and the characters awareness that their lives are imitating fiction, rather than the other way round, is the element that the Scream franchise gets right. In one sense it is a spoof, and is mocking the teen slashers and even incidents like Columbine, but it is also identifying how terrifyingly withdrawn a teenager who attempts to be a copycat serial killer is. Therefore it is has to show real brutality to depict that although it is making light of the issue, murder is still dark, and violent, and messy. The dialogue in this film can be silly and over the top, but the humour in places is also very sharp and witty. Scre4m will never be hailed as one of the cinema greats, but it is worth watching, for like the facade of Ghostface there is something much more deliberate and calculated than the mask would have you believe. And it will keep you guessing until the end.

The French ban on the veil is implemented

On 11th April 2011 a ban on covering the face in public places came into full effect in France. The law effects both the genders, but is specifically aimed at the removal of niqabs, worn by Muslim women to cover their facial features. There are between five and six million Muslim people living in France, although it is believed that less than 2000 of them actually wear the niqab. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy states that the law has been brought into place to secure the values of France, believing that niqabs undermine female dignity and are a breach of public security. When the votes were cast in Parliament last year, there was an enormous majority in favour of the ban with 335 votes to 1. The one opposing vote was made by Daniel Garrigue, who said, “To fight an extremist behavior, we risk slipping toward a totalitarian society”. And herein lies the problem, no matter what stance you take on the niqab or the veil morally, can you defend a decision in favour of human rights, when the law specifically removes human rights from certain individuals?

Women wearing the niqab may be arrested and taken to a police station to establish her identity, and could face fines of up to 150€. However, police may not forcibly remove the veil, and if a woman is taken to a police station they may not detain her for more than four hours. There are, however, much stricter laws in place for anyone found to be forcing a person to cover their face in public, a fine of 30 000€ may be imposed and a prison sentence of up to year, which may be double in the case of a child. The niqab is not obligatory in Islamic law, and although this is the first European country to ban it, it is a constant source of debate among Muslim scholars; it is banned in some Muslim schools, and outlawed entirely in Tunisia. The contention comes from a variety of beliefs as to what a woman’s awrah (her intimate parts) consists of, some believe that only the head and body need to be covered, and others beileve the awrah also includes the face and hands.

Following the instigation of the bans in France other European countries including Denmark, Italy, Spain and The Netherlands are considering implementing similar bans. Those visiting France will also be subject to the law and could be fined if they breach it. Many believe that this will have a damaging effect on the tourist industry particularly larger hotels who are regularly visited by Muslim guests wearing a veil. French citizens arrested on these charges may also be asked to partake in citizenship education in place of, or as well, as a fine. This is usually intended for non-citizens wishing to become legally and socially accepted in the country. In Saudi Arabia, women are not required by law to wear the niqab, however in many Saudi cities, they may be harrassed by the religious police if they do not cover their faces. This French law although prescribing the opposite action is using the same methods of indoctrination. The new law that prohibits anyone from forcing a person to cover their face against their wishes seems fair, but will be much harder to implement. And in fining the women in the first instance this seems to undermine the greater law at play. For if they are victims imprisoned within a veil, as Sarkozy has intimated then punishing them for this “crime” seems unfounded, and if they are not victims and wear the niqab as part of their own beliefs, then this is a law stigmatising women. With regards to a ban for the sake of security; terrorism laws are already heavily infringing upon human rights, and in many European countries where freedom of speech is supposed to be intrinsic within the law, civilians are finding some of their civil liberties being taken away from them. To censor somebody by forcing them to wear a veil or niqab or to insist that they do not is a crime against their liberty, to target and stigmatise one group of people is a crime against equality, and to suggest that this cultural difference is wrong and a threat to security is to deny the hand of fraternity. I believe in empowering women throughout the world, so that men and women may be equal and afforded all of the same opportunities. I think that the niqab and the burkha do stop women from interacting with others and can unfortunately section them off from other members of society, but where does Sarkozy imagine the women who decide to wear the niqab will go? To obey French law their only option is to remain at home. It is hard to justify enforcing the removal of a niqab condemning it as a form of fabric imprisonment if it will force women to remain in their homes where they will not be seen and can no longer be heard.