Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Leap Year

Ahh, it's the 29th February. It's that extra day added to every fourth year that makes up for all the extra minutes created 12 months due to the solar year not quite being exactly 365 days long. It was even worse in the time of Julius Caesar, where a year only had 355 days, and every 2 years an extra 22-day month was added!

The 29th February is the day that a girl can break with tradition and ask a man to marry her. In Denmark it's the 24th of February, and should a man refuse her proposal, tradition says he must buy her 12 pairs of gloves. You would think by now women would have updated this to be shoes or handbags instead.

What a romantic month February is, first Valentines Day and now this proposal-of-marriage day at the end of the month. I wonder if anyone has fallen in love at the start of the month, sent the Valentine on the 14th, and then rounded it off with an engagement at the end?

It is believed that this tradition goes back to a time when the leap year day was not officially recognised in English law. A bizarre notion. No doubt then if a woman was to propose on said day, it would not be legally binding.

I found a fascinating use of 29 February by Christopher Columbus in 1504. Failing in his negotiations with an island's people, and knowing that a lunar eclipse was due, which makes the moon appear red, he told the leaders that God would turn the moon red in anger if they refused to help. Naturally this came to pass and in their panic they agreed to his terms, and hence the moon returned to normal.

I also found that the first warrants for witchcraft were issued in Salem on 29 February in 1692.

So the day has significance in many ways, lovely, cunning and horrible, but it's probably the woman proposing that it is most remembered for these days.

Better hit the shops and get those gloves in.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

This was the title of a film directed by Stephen Daldry that I ventured out to see this evening.

The films centres around a 9 year old boy called Oskar, played by Thomas Horn, and his relationship with his father Thomas, played by Tom Hanks. However, what I wasn't prepared for is when his father is killed during the 9/11 attacks.

It is beautifully shot and a first class examination of how we deal with loss. It was a genius piece of story telling narrated throughout by Oskar. He discovers a key and believes his father had left it for him and it would lead to something that would answer all his questions to everything that has happened, which to Oskar, and everyone else for that matter, make no sense at all.

Sandra Bullock as Oskars widowed mother, and Max von Sydow as his long lost mute grandfather, put in fantastic performances. Indeed Sydow almost steals the show.

My only criticism of the film would be that it is a little long, however, that is balanced well with the great performances and cinematography.

Oskar is an unusual child, and at one point it mentions Aspergers. He portrays all of the elements in his anxious, obsessive and cold behaviour, yet is incredibly intelligent, and the events of 9/11 have only amplified his fear of the world.

As the story unfolds it becomes obvious this is Oskars search for closure. In his search to find the lock that the key fits, Oskar encounters a bizarre mix of characters. This is new York City afterall.

It would be a mistake to say this film is about 9/11. It would be closer to say it is about the effects on people by the unimaginable event. It certainly brings back memories of the day itself, and several people leaving the cinema were asking each other where they were on that day.

I was left wondering if the young actor Thomas Horn would next year be the recipient of the Oscar for best actor. Oscar for Oskar.

You heard it here first.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


Well, how many Valentines cards did you receive this year? On the day I could hear a creaking at the front door, so I approached it cautiously, and taking a grip of the handle carefully eased it open. A cascade of cards, flowers and presents fell through the door knocking me to the ground.

Then I woke up.

It had all been a dream. Instead the postman had delivered some mail of current offers at a local tool store. Ah, well, maybe next year.

I console myself that it's yet another of those commercialised events we have to endure throughout the year. And we don't even get a holiday on the day! It must be one of the only recognised celebrations that the banks don't take.

If you forget about it I'm sure your loved one will remind you, in a nice way of course.
It's steeped in tradition and was first established in the 5th century by Pope Gelasius, but it wasn't until the 15th century that it evolved into an occasion that lovers expressed their feelings and connection to one another.

Of course it has also evolved into a very lucrative business for flower and chocolate sellers, not to mention the greetings card industry. Online e-cards are now big business too; it is estimated that over 15 million e-cards were sent in 2010!

It's another way of connecting with people we know and love I guess. Now that social media has become a large part of our lives for sharing news and events it comes as no surprise.

The film I am currently up to my ears in editing also takes advantage of the social media explosion, and just today through Twitter a well written article appeared online all about the film. You can read that by clicking here.

I hope that the traditional ways of communicating and connecting do not disappear forever. I already miss the hand written letter from friends and loved ones. Thankfully you still can't send chocolates down the fibre optic cable. So if you've forgotten, I really don't mind. Just bring the chocs round anytime. It's not too late.

I'll be in all evening.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Market day

One of the challenges of working from home on your own is that you tend not to see very many people on a daily basis. In actual fact I can go many days without seeing anyone at all. This was not the case up to a few years ago, when I ran my own retail delicatessen, as I would meet upwards of two hundred people every day. I have a few friends locally, who themselves are self employed, or available during the day, and I think I take up far too much of their time phoning them with any excuse, just to have a conversation or meet for coffee on a regular basis.

So I've been on a bit of a mission to find something voluntary in my local community that will bring me into contact with more people, but I haven't had much success.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was offered the opportunity to take on the coordinators post for the local community's farmers market. Sadly it's not been doing very well, and numbers of customers and traders has fallen off sharply in the last few months. It is hoped that bringing my wealth of experience from my deli days to the market will help turn it around.

It demands about fifteen hours of my time each month, most of which occurs toward the end of the month in the lead up to market day. On the 7 April market I will be going all out to relaunch it with a new look, monthly entertainment and more traders.

Now all I need is good weather and hungry shoppers.

Speaking of weather; last week I wrote about Punxsutawney Phil, the worlds most famous groundhog. Well, I'm afraid Phil definitely saw his shadow, so 6 more weeks of winter folks!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Groundhog Day!

It's been a busy time recently. Together with a screenwriting friend, Innes McQuillin, I'm working on an animation short script for a new product launching through a Glasgow marketing firm. It's the first time I've tackled such a medium. It's strange not building-up to working with a full crew, out on location, but instead sitting in front of a 27" computer screen!

However, this week did see me directing again with a crew. Just for 2 days, at 2 different locations, but it was great to be back on set again. This was the first such piece of work since returning from America in October after my epic bike trip.

Of course, it hasn't exactly been boring in between. I continue to support my fellow adventure cyclist Pauline as her base camp manager. She is currently in New Zealand and will shortly head for Australia. The edit of the feature length documentary of our Trans-American adventure has been taking up the rest of my free time. The fundraising push has started, albeit slow, and to date we've raised $1415 toward our target (IndieGoGo link on the right). To some it may seem like a large target, but when you consider that a feature film documentary will be made for this then it's a drop in the ocean.

Recently, the Adventure Cycling Association in Missoula, Montana, ran a great article on us, thanks to one of our friends there, Jennifer. You can read the article here.

Before I set off on the bicycle trip I had an ambition to visit the small town of Woodstock, not far from Chicago. In the event we bypassed Chicago by staying north and crossing Ontario. I'd wanted to visit there because the town was the location for the Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day. There are a number of Groundhog Day celebrations in America now, but the most famous is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of the most famous of all groundhogs, Phil.

I love this film so much, and the event itself, that on Thursday 2nd February, in my small apartment in Edinburgh City, Scotland, I will be celebrating with a nice meal and watching the film.

Will Phil see his shadow signalling 6 more weeks of winter, or will it be an early spring?