The Singing Detective

Hey y’all πŸ™‚

Do you remember when I won those tickets for a Dennis Potter film screening of my choice at BFI Southbank? You know… the same day I ate a grasshopper. Well, I chose the July 26th screening of The Singing Detective. Not the 2003 film starring Robert Downey Jr; the original miniseries from 1986. As in all six episodes. Screened over the course of about 8 hours. Mmyep. The screening was followed by a Q&A with a panel that included director, Jon Amiel, and the star of the series, Michael Gambon. That’s right: Dumbledore #2 (for those of you who — like me — couldn’t remember him from anything but Harry Potter prior to this screening).

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At the time of the prize drawing at London Review Bookshop, there were still a few screenings left for the Faith & Redemption portion of the BFI’s Dennis Potter retrospective. However, the words Sex & Death are f’n attention grabbers, amirite? And when I reviewed the descriptions of the remaining screenings (and my calendar to see when I’d reasonably be able to attend one), the Sex & Death programming beat out Faith & Redemption for me fair-n-square. The Singing Detective caught my eye in particular because, according to the BFI, it is widely thought to be Dennis Potter’s masterpiece. As a Dennis Potter n00b, I figured, why not start with his best work? The event began at 11AM and concluded at about 8:30PM (this includes the screening of the entire miniseries, a few intermissions, and the Q&A panel at the end). I was worried that the BFI wouldn’t let me use my free ticket for such a special screening. Luckily, it was no problem πŸ˜€

The Singing Detective follows a writer of Detective Fiction named Philip Marlow (sound familiar?) who has a chronic case of psoriasis as well as psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is a condition which causes extreme skin irritation. The arthritis that sometimes results from this is inflammatory and makes the joints immovable. Philip Marlow is bed-ridden, with fists clutched closed and skin that is boiling red and flakes painfully from his body. Moving in any way is ridiculously painful — at one point, he says that even the tears that run down his face when he cries hurt his skin. He’s also a very angry man who shouts abuse at most of the people he’s forced to interact with (some of whom are admittedly boneheaded), and whose only solace (now that he can no longer use his hands to write) is working out a new detective story in his mind.

Marlow’s present is intercut with the detective story he’s working on, flashbacks to his childhood, and hallucinations. Each story strand is propelled by musical scenes where characters lip-synch to old tunes that are eerily appropriate to the story. The Singing Detective is surreal, yet in certain, sharp moments, so emotionally honest it hurts. Michael Gambon is outstanding. His performance made me feel suuuper guilty aboutΒ  thinking of him primarily as Richard Harris’s HP replacement up to now.

The surreal quality of TSD reminded me a lot of Jacob’s Ladder, and of David Lynch’s work, too (though Singing Detective predates most of what I’m thinking of). Dennis Potter himself had psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (once, they had a dermatological expert visit the set to check the authenticity of Michael Gambon’s makeup; the dermatologist, not knowing who was who, instead headed straight for Dennis Potter) and said (and I’m paraphrasing) that The Singing Detective was like scraping his bone marrow out with a spoon and giving it to the world. Each story strand bleeds into and informs the other. Visually, you’re left with a whirlwind that makes it almost too easy to share Marlow’s feeling of helplessness — and to imagine how haunted and helpless Dennis Potter might have felt sometimes.

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L to R: TV writer (but not for this series) Peter Bowker, Singing Detective producer Kenith Trodd, actors Janet Suzman and Michael Gambon. On screen above: series director, Jon Amiel.

The panel was interesting. Michael Gambon was hilarious, but he and Janet Suzman’s main contribution to the discussion was their insistence on how grateful they are to have been part of the series. Kenith Trodd shared memories of Dennis Potter — who mostly came on set whenever there was a problem to solve — and also reasons why Potter’s great talent still resonates today. Jon Amiel shared memories of and insights on the entire experience. Peter Bowker was basically there to give the perspective of someone who is both a writer in the business and a fan of Dennis Potter’s work. I really enjoyed hearing what everyone had to say. It was like hanging with friends in their living room.

Gambon and Suzman apparently didn’t interact with Dennis Potter often (he dealt more with the producer and director than the actors). In fact, as far as they could remember, he didn’t say much at all. But Michael Gambon did tell us that once when he and Potter chatted briefly, he told Potter that he liked cars. Every day after that, when Potter spotted Gambon on set he’d ask, “So what d’you think of the new Ferrari?” I just think that’s really sweet, haha. I know how hard it can be to talk to other people, so the fact that, even as a man of few words, he went out of his way to show he’d listened and to speak even when it wasn’t necessary is pretty cool πŸ™‚

The Singing Detective is an epic emotional roller coaster. But as draining as it can be to watch (especially all in one go — yowza) it absolutely gives back as much as it takes out of you.

If you haven’t seen it, check it out!!!

Birthday Bliss

I didn’t really get up to much on my birthday, but I had a great day nonetheless πŸ™‚

I was super excited for my tattoo appointment as it was with an artist whose work I love. He’s a Frenchman called NOON and he jumps around between London, NYC, and Berlin as a guest artist at different tattoo shops. He also does private appointments back in France. I first tried to make an appointment with him in December, but he was beyond booked. He told me he’d be back in London in July and that he had openings then, which worked perfectly for me because the tat could be my birthday present to myself. I didn’t specify a day, just told him my schedule was completely free and he could choose the date that worked best for him. To be honest, I wanted to see if he’d choose my birthday by chance, and he did πŸ™‚ He set the appointment for 12PM. So I was tattooed at noon by NOON on my birthday πŸ˜€

I gave him a general idea of what I wanted — two girls holding hands; one with a monster mask, the other with a monstrous shadow — that he would later interpret in his own style. NOON draws, free hand, directly on the skin, but uses stencils for some of the patterns he uses to accent each tattoo. Since my skin is already darker than most of his clients, he opted for a “less is more” approach, not overdoing it with the patterns or colors, instead sticking to contrasting dark and light (with a drop of color here and there).

A bit unwieldy to photograph...

A bit unwieldy to photograph… This was the best I could do on my own. Sorry for the blurriness!

I Looooooooooooove it.

These are the protagonists in the novel I’m working on. Monstrous, murderous twins. And now I’m wearing them. So I guess this means I have to finish the book πŸ˜€

After swearing to NOON that I’d be giving him more of my money in the very near future, I bought a Banoffee Donut from Dum Dum, rode to Crystal Palace and hung out at the dino park for a bit, then headed back to central London for the best birthday dinner ever with my friend (and fellow blogger) Susan at Aqua Kyoto.

Susan sent me this photo of the restaurant.

Susan sent me this photo of the restaurant.

For some reason, Susan and I keep ending up at restaurants that serve “sharing plates”…much to our dismay. While it’s pretty much been decided that the official motto for our friendship is “Joey doesn’t share food,” this food was so delicious (not to mention gorgeous) that we didn’t mind bending the rule a bit that night.

Susan chose a lovely bottle of “Baby Gavi,” a type of white wine I’d never had before. But since it was my birthday, I went all in and ordered a cocktail, too.

The Fuji Crusta, made with Belvedere vodka, pear, pear liqueur, and lime.

The Fuji Crusta, made with Belvedere vodka, pear, pear liqueur, and lime.

Double-fisted drinking just makes sense on your birthday. In fact, it’s mandatory. And before you ask, yes, those sesame seeds did indeed drop down my shirt every time I brought the glass to my mouth. Totally worth it.

As a starter, I ordered the wagyu beef gyoza.

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I wish I’d taken this photo from a better angle because these dumplings were so pretty. No one flavor overwhelmed the others. Also, the outside was very lightly fried, so there was a bit of a crunch as I broke the dumpling skin; then all the meaty goodness just spilled out.

Susan ordered the tebasaki yaki: grilled, boneless chicken wings with ginger lime miso and wasabi. I didn’t try them, but they looked hella good.

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We also had:

Black cod & ebi tobiko roll with yuzu & miso.

Black cod & ebi tobiko roll with yuzu & miso.

Seaweed salad.

Seaweed salad.

A mixture of shrimp, rice, carrots, onions, and a couple of other tasty ingredients.

A mixture of shrimp, rice, carrots, onions, and a couple of other tasty ingredients.

Salmon roll topped with lobster & miso bisque.

Salmon roll topped with lobster & miso bisque.

And one of the best desserts I’ve ever had:

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There were strawberries, soft, spongey cake-like pieces, and the most refreshingly cold sorbet ever. I’ve no idea what all is in this dessert, and there were so many textures and temperatures to it. It was the perfect end to a great meal.

The food at Aqua Kyoto was delicious and the service fantastic. Our waiter was a kind, soft-spoken man, very attentive and willing to answer our questions. And with the drinks flowing and the conversation, it was just an all around great night. Susan also gave me a great card with a New Yorker cartoon on the front, from one cat lady to another:

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Basically, my first birthday spent in London was a success πŸ˜€

Happee Birfdae to Me: 28 Years of Life Lessons

Today’s mah birfdae!!!

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To celebrate, I’m getting some new ink by an awesome artist called NOON and going out to dinner with a friend. I’ll tell you all about the restaurant and show you the latest addition to my anatomical art gallery later this week. Today, I thought I’d collect 28 of the most important things I’ve learned so far and share them with you. Here goes!

1. As embarrassing as it might be, it’s really OK to make mistakes. Everyone does it (despite what they’d have you believe).

2. Just because an animal’s cute does not mean it won’t bite the hell out of you.

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3. The things that make you “weird” to your peers when you’re a kid are the things that will make you stand out as an adult.

4. Learn to cook. It’s just a good idea.

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5. Trust your gut. If something makes you really uncomfortable (as in, gives you an icky feeling), don’t force it on yourself. But…

6. Take risks (as long as the odds of survival are in your favor).

7. Be kind at every opportunity without regard for how kind the other person has been or will be to you.

8. Do the things you actually WANT to do (this includes jobs). Life’s too short to spend it making everyone but yourself happy.

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9. Learn to love being alone, and take advantage of it! There’s nothing like having the freedom to do what you want when you want.

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10. Explore! The world, strange/interesting subjects, your cat’s ear canal; whatever.

11. Don’t care too much about what other people think,

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but…

12. Do consider the advice (and feelings) of the people who know/love you best.

13. Set goals regularly. “Realistic” or not.

14. Listen and observe.

15. Don’t be afraid to let go of friendships that no longer suit you.

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16. Try new things, so you can…

17. Learn at every opportunity.

18. Getting older is a privilege.

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19. While logic’s important, it’s not always appropriate.

20. Spend time with people/do things that make you laugh.

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21. You don’t have to understand, but it’s important to try.

22. Being lazy = cheating yourself.

23. Take the time to nurture someone/something and see how it makes you feel.

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24. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

25. Make sure your trust is earned; don’t just give it away.

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26. Making a genuine connection with another human being is an amazing gift. Don’t take it for granted.

27. Appreciate every moment of happiness.

28. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being who you are. Nobody can do you like you can.

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I sometimes let myself get sucked down into the mire of “UGH, I haven’t accomplished this yet. I am SOOOO far behind” blahblahblah. But really, when I think about it, I’ve met a lot of personal goals, and done things I never imagined I would. Life is weird. And sometimes devastating. But it’s also amazing. I have some wonderful memories, and I can’t wait to make more. Here’s to turning 28! πŸ˜€

The Best and Worst of Summer

Full disclosure: Summer is my least favorite of the seasons. But there are things I like about it, so I’m going to be a good sport (even though I’ve been sweating like an elephant being smothered by a fatter elephant in this heat) and make a list with a little bit of YAY! and a little bit of DeargodNOOO.

BEST: Ice Cream (and other frozen goodness)!

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To be fair, I’m the kind of person who doesn’t let the fact that it’s -5 ΒΊF outside stop me from enjoying the sweet, creamy goodness that is ice cream. However, I will admit that it tastes even better when the sun is roasting you alive and the air around you is so humid and close that it feels like you’ve got a wet blanket on your face. While I tend to favor fruity flavors, I don’t really discriminate when it comes to freezy things (especially if it’s hot out). When I was a kid, though, my absolute favorite flavor was Baskin Robbins’ Daiquiri ice cream. It’s a seafoam green-colored sorbet and when I first tasted it I had no clue what was happening in my mouth, but I wanted more. So far, my favorite London ice cream encounters have been the Bubblicious Sundae at Creams, and the Rhubarb Ripple Cheesecake flavor from Chin Chin Labs.

WORST: Hay Fever.

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Not being able to breathe through my nose is one of, if not THE, worst thing about summer for me. I literally want to rip my nose off my face and have my sinus cavities steam cleaned. Vicks Sinex Micromist nasal spray has become my BFF. The itching’s not so great either. Ugh. Allergies.

BEST: Beach Appreciation!

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When it’s toasty out, there’s nothing like getting hit by a cold spray of ocean mist. Just the scent of sea air is enough to boost my level of happy all the way to 100. It’s definitely harder to enjoy the ocean when it’s already cold outside (trust me, I’ve tried). But on a warm day, not much compares to sitting barefoot on a blanket by the water with a book, a cold drink, and a pair of sunnies perched on your nose. Going to Brighton was so much fun, and perfect for this time of year!

WORST: Da HEAT (with NO air conditioning).

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I prefer being cold to being hot because, while you can always add layers, there’s a limit to what you can take off (unless you’re 1) by yourself, 2) with someone who doesn’t mind getting flashed, or 3) an alien capable of unzipping your skin and flinging it over the back of the nearest chair). I never thought air conditioning would be one of the things I’d have to miss when I moved to London, but after enduring that ridiculous heat wave (and rolling around sweatily in bed for HOURS trying to get to sleep at night), I can say with total confidence (and just a lil’ desperation): I MISS AIR CONDITIONING!!!! I took it for granted that when I got to my flat, the a/c would be here waiting to welcome me into its open, frosty arms. That was my bad. I should’ve done more research…and bought a fan. Luckily, it’s started to cool off lately, so you won’t have to see my barbequed bod on the news anytime soon.

BEST: Barbecuing (food, not people)!

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Grilled foods. Mmmm. Sure, you can eat them any day of the year, but you definitely can’t cook out on just any day of the year (unless you live in Southern California). Besides, it’s so much fun to be outside with your family and friends, chatting it up and inhaling the smells of smoked brisket, burgers, chicken and veggies on the grill. Then, you get to inhale the food itself (and fight your cousin for the mustard).

What are your most/least favorite things about summer?

Celebrating before the 4th, and some human connection on the tube.

I couldn’t find anything to do on the 4th that didn’t involve binge drinking to an eardrum-exploding techno soundtrack (well, nothing that wasn’t sold out anyway), so I opted to dip my toe in the Grub Club pool instead. The Grub Club website lists pop up dining experiences around London hosted by chefs who love to share their culinary gifts with eager foodies in a dinner party atmosphere. It’s a great way to meet people who love food as much as you do.

I read about The Great British American Chow Down on the Grub Club website while scanning for July 4th happenings and got excited. British-American fusion food on the 4th? To me, this sounded like the culinary equivalent of Great Britain yanking the US back to itself and mushing us to its bosom…until we merge into a delicious, mutant super-being. Awwww yeaaahhh — count me in. The dinner was at House of Vans in Waterloo, a retail spot and venue for visual art, music, and skateboarding.

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The GBACD was actually scheduled for July 3rd, but hey, it was still Independence Day themed so it counts (right???).

Our July 4th dinner took place in a room adjacent to the House of Vans cafe, The Wall SE1. The set up felt very quirky and intimate, with tables of different shapes and sizes. It was like being invited over to a friend’s for dinner.

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The menu definitely demonstrated how both Great Britain and America have become cultural melting pots. There were chiccarones (fried pork rinds) with avocado puree & Lemon Juice; country ham served with baguette pieces, butter, and Redeye mayo;

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shell on prawn served with sharply flavored pieces of pepperoni and a very mellow sweet corn custard (which balanced each other out nicely); “Bramen” or British style ramen with pork shoulder and an Onsen egg (served in a teacup — how British is that?);

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Buttermilk fried chicken (DELICIOUS and tender) with a buttermilk-based dipping sauce; Braised short rib with spiraled veggies on skewers;

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and refreshingly cold triangles of watermelon with peanuts, mint coriander & spring onion. For dessert, we had miniature strawberry shakes (which tasted more like smoothies to me), and mini fried apple pies with clotted cream ice cream (tastaaaayyyy). The woman sitting across from me was lactose intolerant, so instead of clotted cream ice cream, she was given a sorbet that we were all wracking our brains trying to pinpoint the flavor of. It tasted citrusy to me, but I couldn’t identify anything specific. One man at our table said “Tastes like there’s Amaretto in it”; another woman said she tasted orange. Finally, a guy with the right idea got up and asked the chef wtf was in the sorbet. Turns out it was an Orange and Amaretto sorbet called “Sex Bomb” by Drunken Dairy XD I’m definitely buying some of that…

I don’t have pics of all the food because the room we were in was underground and dimly lit, so most of the photos had to be scrapped (if anyone would like to donate a DSLR out of the goodness of their hearts, be my guest, yo). Also, I was pretty hungry.

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The people at my table were from all over: Turkey, Scotland, Ireland, and distant parts of England. All had since made London their home. It was wonderful to talk with them and ask them about this city that I’m still getting to know. Also, the woman from Turkey agreed with me that KFC is pointless without American-style biscuits (London, please remedy this terrible travesty ASAP). The best moments were when we were all laughing; those were the times when it really did feel like I was at a party with friends.

After getting a drink with some of the Grub Club folk, I headed back to Waterloo to catch a train home. While I waited, a cute, mildly drunk Irish guy started talking to me. And we kept talking as the train pulled up, as we boarded, as we rode, and as we switched to a second train. For the 20-30 minute block of time we chatted, it was like we were old pals. He kept touching my arm (and bumping into me — ah, alcohol). I laughed. A lot. He liked the way I said “Delaware” and “whatnot.” Before I got off the second train, he held out his right hand and I squeezed it goodbye with my left.

Once in a while, whether it’s at a dinner party or on the tube, you briefly connect with people you’ve never met before and will probably never meet again… and you have a good time. Lucky me — I got to experience both in one night.

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