Thursday, 13 November 2008

How Bond broke my heart

I went to see the long awaited (and considerably over-hyped) 'Quantum of Solace' last night, a little wary after mixed reviews (in both the media and from trustworthy friends) Admittedly, it had a lot to live up to after the visual feast that is 'Casino Royale', a film that simultaneously reinvented the Bond genre whilst respecting what audiences have always loved about their favourite misogynistic, alcoholic, gadget-wielding, all-action hero.
I'd read that this ('Q o S') film was 'action-packed', but this didn't prepare me for the visual diatribe that followed. It starts off with a car chase, shot so close up, I assume to drag you personally into the action, but what happens is that you lose perspective of what is going on: your brain doesn't have time to register what it's seeing. And this is the films major flaw: so many choppy shots that keeping up with what the hell is going on is futile. All these stunning locations and no time to take it all in.
It is an incredible waste of talent and missed opportunities, tying up loose ends with gaffa tape rather than a neat bow. Daniel Craig is an amazing actor, completely mesmerizing no matter what film he's in (much like Johnny Depp, Michael Caine, Kathy Bates, Judi Dench etc) yet this doesn't allow him to get any further into the Bond psyche. Ok, we know he's heartbroken, we know he wants revenge, but that's it. For the whole film. He famously performed a high quota of the stunts in this film himself and, to be honest, he needn't have bothered: the film is shot in such a way that you can't tell its him anyway.
This film is basically a Bourne film, flimsily repackaged: for what reason, I do not know. And I don't like the Bourne films: 'Oh I wish I could remember who I am but, ooh! I appear to be a weapons expert! And a kung fu master! And I can speak 87 languages fluently! And I can remember how to drive! And I bet I'm shit hot at knitting too!' Oh fuck off, Bourne, you smug git!
When I watch a Bond film, I want to see a film that's loud and proud of itself: cocksure and eager to please. It needs an emotionally-stunted central character, lots of big explosions, scantily clad, beautiful ladies (if Bond is beautiful himself, like Craig, like Brosnan, like Connery, we don't mind), ridiculous gadgets and gizmos hidden in mundane objects, crazed madmen with elaborate plans to rule the world, Aston Martins, (NOT BMW's or Fords), Saville Row tailoring, and a clear sense of its own absudity. I don't want gritty realism ('Q of S' is incredibly violent: loads of bloody punch ups and death) I want escapism, pure, shiny, simple and fun. So come on, Bond People! Sort it out! Give us what we want, plus something we'd never expect!

By the way: they should have used this theme tune:

Rant over: back to my crafting...

Friday, 7 November 2008

Panic and Brownies

I don't know about you, but I reckon that if you are going to break a New Year's resolution, you should do it properly by, metaphorically, slapping its arse whilst laughing at its shoes: 'Blog each week?! *slap* Methinks not! And by the way, your shoes are repugnant! MUHUHAHAHA' or something like that...

I just don't want you to get bored of me...

Any potential stalkers out there? Well allow me to give you a headstart and tell you where I'll be on Saturday 6th December:

Ok, Jesus and his Dad may have something about this rather bold claim, but it is in fact the name for a group of rather fabulous designers and makers, myself included, who will be selling their wares from 11-5pm at The American Church, 79a Tottenham Court Road, W1T 5TD. Read all about it here. I expect to see you there, or else a note from your parent, on my desk the following Monday.

I have been busy since we last met: honest! I've made these:

This lemur one was a commission from a chum at work , and it inspired me to make more. (I have a similar one for a tea drinker with exquisite taste in my shop.)

I haven't listed this one yet...I don't know why (must have been distracted by something shiny) It will therefore escort me to WeMake.

The Union of Craft Tea Cosy
(sold, but I will recreate its' patriotic joy at some point)

lavender hearts (3 available in the shop)

brooches for WeMake (apart from the centre one, which is for this)

I believe in magic! I bought this size 10 linen skirt at my local flea market for one whole pound, for the fabric obviously (unless I was hoping to find another one in order to make trousers, I think that would be obvious) and asked the utterly gorgeous, uber stylish and ridiculously talented Abi Bansal if she could perform fabric alchemy and turn my base metal skirt into a gold tunic.

I love it, oh, everso. It hangs beautifully, the pockets are practical and at just the right height to pop your hands in comfortably for those moments that require sullen ambivalence, and / or lip balm storage. Check out her shop and her beautiful, inspiring blog and be touched by the Blessing of the Bansal: its what your life has been missing, quite frankly.

I've also made some tea towels (long story: all will be revealed soon) for those brand, spanking new group of craft renegades, ukhandmade. (who very kindly did a 'Spotlight' on me!) They're from a recipe by Lotta Jansdotter's 'Simple Sewing' and, whilst I know there is something 'Oh dear! Mum needs to start taking her pills again!' about making your own tea towels, they rock long and they rock hard. Admit it: you'd have them:

...and you'd be right too.

Ok, the 'Panic' in the title of this post refers to me getting ready for WeMake. (expect a minimalist style from the House of yumptatious...) Therefore, it is now time for brownies. (I know that's the real reason you're here.) But I warn you: if you are on a diet, navigate away from the page (unless, of course, you have a moment of clarity, in that you realise that your life will only improve, not when your thighs cease to rub together when you walk, but when you appreciate just how lucky you are to have any form of body at all, and that to waste life trying to conform to some narrow concept of beauty is futile, when you could be enjoying the warmth and joy that life, and a willing partner, are waiting to cloak you in.)

This is based on a recipe by Elisabeth Luard and is from the October edition of my favourite porn mag, Country Living. (I know its wrong, but I can't help myself...)
I have lost count how many times I have made this recipe already, at first, slavishly following the instructions (apart from the 75g chocolate: what is the point of leaving the last 25g?! Thwack it all in!) to what I do now: mixing it all in one pan.
I have used the strongest Green + Blacks chocolate and also Sainsbury's economy dark chocolate and it all works, baby! Just don't ever, EVER use cooking chocolate! As my beautiful, and very to-the-point chum, Vera once said to me, with a look of shock and disgust, 'Why?!?! Use real chocolate!' She is wise, and I haven't looked back since. (well, I did reverse round a corner last week...)
It also works with demerera sugar I discovered last week, after I ran out of caster sugar (when we run out of caster sugar, I have the same look of panic in my eyes when that my Mum used to have when she ran out of garlic: one part confusion mixed with two parts of fear. This shows just how much my Mum used/s garlic in her cooking, rather than reveal a fear of vampires.)
It works equally well with unsalted butter or cheap(ish) sunflower spread. (as long as you don't used reduced fat spreads, because they just don't do the job.)
And don't bother melting your chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of boiling water: I just melt it together in the pan: aah, bite me!
Ms Luard's recipe uses hazelnuts, but good old walnuts work well. I wager that pecans would be most edifying too, whatwhat.

Please feel free to print this off and put it on your fridge for ease of use. Personally, I'd be tempted to have it tattooed onto the inside of my eyelids, but I'm just a martyr to the baking cause.

The 'Surely there should be more effort involved?!' Brownies.

100g dark chocolate
125g chopped butter (it melts easier in small pieces) or 125g scooped margarine (you could possibly melt it by breathing on it: why not give it a go...)
250g caster sugar (or whatever sugar you have: its all good)
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
100g walnuts (or any nut that curries your favour)

Heat oven to 190oc / gas mark 5

Melt together the chocolate and butter, maverick style, straight in the pan over a medium heat.

Allow to cool slightly. (just the time it takes to either make a cup of tea, look for and download an obscure song from iTunes, or log onto Etsy, click on 'Community', then click on 'Forums', find the UK chat hidden away in 'Etc' and type in 'I'd have to disagree. I was quite ill for days as a result' and log out instantly.)

Add the sugar to the chocolate melaaaange and beat together.

Add the eggs to the sweet chocolate melaaaange and beat together.

Add the flour to the eggy, sweet, chocolate melaaaange and beat together.

Add the nuts to the flour-enriched, eggy, sweet, chocolate melaaaange and beat together.

Line a 20cm square tin (or the nearest you've got: I'm not a tin fascist) in the style of your choosing (I use reuseable Teflon liners, but thats just how I roll) and pour in the hip-enhancing goop.

Bake for 25 mins.

Cut into squares and allow to cool. I put mine in the fridge after about 20 mins to harden up the chocolate. I store them in there rather than storing them in a tin.

I know this is hard, but try not to eat the lot on your own, especially if you've used a powerful cocoa-charged chocolate, as you may get a little buzzy.

This is my gift to you: use it wisely.