Wednesday, December 25, 2013

That time of year.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you've had a lovely day.


Thursday, December 19, 2013


I have amassed quite the list of books I've read over the past year.  I'll make a quick note of the ones I can remember here and a little later I'll be back to give them a little review.  I figured I'd share a little about them and see if they'd interest you like they did me.

The ones I can remember at the moment (and in no particular order) are:

The Moneyless Man.
Operation Mincemeat.
Agent Zigzag.
Leningrad:  State of Siege.
Eight Lives Down.
Nerd Do Well.
Various Sherlock Holmes stories.
Jesus Wants to Save Christians.
American Sniper.

Right now, I'm reading Fighter Boys.

I've been reading more this past year than I have in all of the years leading up to it.  It's been fantastic!  On my reading list before we leave for the States, I have Child 44 - because I'd like to, for once, be one of the people who say that the book is better than the film.  I've also got the four book trilogy from Douglas Adams that I'm going to read while in transit.

I'll write a little about the books in a later post.  For now, apologies for not having been on in a while.  It may be for the better, since I would have only posted rants about how I wish Head Office had the ability to fly and then suddenly did not have the ability to fly.

I'll also need to add some tags at the side of the blog, since I have three more labels to show - poetry, rant and now - books!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

27 today!

It's my birthday!

That is all.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

The way to work.

To travel this well-trodden path once more.
Sauntering, stumbling, shuffling.
The journey familiar but in due course
I pass new people and see new things.
Things I thought I knew for sure were never there,
but now I'm second-guessing their previous existence.
In the distance my goal.
My destination.
Between us a vast expanse of pavement.
Without concentration I'll be there in seconds,
but writing this keeps me focused on how far I have to go.
So I think I'll stop.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Exchange Year. Part IV.

The last of the Exchange year updates!  The fourth part of my time over at the University of Central Missouri.

I hope you've enjoyed these posts and that they make you want to go.  And if you're already going to be going out to a far away land, I hope that these encourage you to get involved with the people and experience real [country you're going to].

Here we go:

One of the assignments we had was to draw a still life picture that emulated the style of an old artist and almost mirrored one of their pieces.  I looked at Degas' ballerinas.  I got a torn piece of cardboard (the best, in my opinion, material to draw on with pastels) and scribbled out the horse skull and various fabrics that I had set out for my still life.  I loved it.  I made half a dozen practise sketches on differing sizes of cardboard.  I love drawing with charcoal and pastels.

This guy again.  Brian Freeborn.  A fantastic man and a great friend.  He and his wife showed me so much hospitality and friendship in the time I was studying there.  When we went back to America a couple of years ago, we stopped by their house on the way and chilled out with them for a week.  It was fantastic.  Here, we're going to his for the weekend and spending time at a lake that one of his best friends lives near.

We went through Danville.  That made me happy.

This is one of Brian's best friends - Trevor Hawkins of Mammoth Media.  He lives in a gated community around Lake Lotowana and it is one of the most beautiful places to live that I've ever seen.  Everyone who owns a house there has a dock on the lake.  A parking space, if you will.  We fished off Trevor's deck for hours and had a proper laugh.  In the summer, they jump off the top of the deck shelter into the lake.  It's weird.  I went out there on a boat one night with them and we were all swimming in the lake.  The water holds heat very well but it's something that I'm not used to being from a country where our water is tepid - at best - for the first inch of whatever body it's found it.  The lake we swam in was probably the temperature I have my showers.

Fishing with Trevor is humbling.  He's a cameraman and editor for an outdoor show, so he just  knows where the fish will be.

On the side of the lake were some rocks.  Upon one of those was this guy basking.  I asked Trevor is it was poisonous.  Just before he finished the word "No", I was already grabbing for the snake.  Life goal achieved - catch a wild snake.

The World War II memorial - affectionately (and not in the least bit disrespectfully) known as Kansas City's penis.  Because it looks like a giant stone penis.

Fairly long exposure of Kansas City at night.  I love a good long exposure shot.

This is one of the best place I've even been.  St Louis City Museum.  It's a museum in the sense that there are a few trays of insects to look at on the fourth floor, but not much more than that.  Eleven floors altogether and then a load of stuff on the roof.  The first three floors are full of obstacles of all shapes, sizes and origins.  I didn't take my camera inside because I wanted to get involved and run around like a kid.  And boy, did I!

Up top there is the view from the car park.  On the roof, yes, that is a school bus.  And you could sit in the driver's cab.  Which was fairly scary.  As you can see, there are a couple of planes, a fire engine, etc.  All real things that have been decommissioned or auctioned off or something.  Apparently, the guy who owns the building is extremely rich and although out of eleven floors, only three and the roof are full, he is constantly adding things to the place.  It's amazing.

Under that, a view from the bus!  You can go in that plane there and that ball pool at the bottom is full of dodgeballs.  Imagine a ball pool with balls the size of basketballs.  Imagine being in said pool and throwing said balls at anyone and everyone who also joins you in the pool.  Imagine no more.  It's right here.

In what was the most inappropriate use of two fire engines I'd seen up until that point, we drove past this.  There's patriotism and there's this.

St Louis.  The man himself.  On a horse.  On a block of stone.

St Louis' Gateway Arch.  Magnificent.  I think it'd be feasible to climb to the top on the outside but getting down would most probably kill you.

This is what I'd been waiting for - Sculpture II.  Bronze casting.  After waiting for five months to do it, I had no idea what to make when the time came for it.  A created this little dude and crafted a few weapons for him.  It was great fun.

Painting class was great, too.  We were encouraged to buy thin MDF and paint on it.  Much, much nicer than painting on paper.  I can't remember what the assignment was, but it led to me painting a triptych of telephone poles.

Another friend, another AR-15.  We were out hunting coyotes, but they didn't show up.  I think they probably knew what was going on.  Instead, we shot at a fridge.  You know.  Because that's almost the same thing.

Final piece for Drawing II.  The extreme angle assignment.

I was taken to this guy's house for a redneck night.  The worship leader at the church I was at was big into his fishing and wanted me to have a good go.  We went to his friend's house and fished until we could see any more.  After that, the owner of the house, Jack, taught me how to press bullets.  He buys his own casings, slugs, detonators and gunpowder and makes his own ammo.  He also uses a 44-40 rifle.  This calibre round can be used in a rifle and a pistol - it was the cowboys' calibre of choice back in the day because if they had a big bag of ammo, they could reach in and grab any round and they'd know it would fit their rifle if that was what they were reloading or their pistol if that was what they were reloading.

Also, I'd shaved my head.

We went to another cave.  In this particular cave, I think Moonshiners hid out during the prohibition.  It was pretty cool to see inside.  They'd obviously lit up the place so you could see the various formations and at one point, they switched off all the lights so we could see what the natural cave would have been like.  Safe to say I have literally never been in a place as dark as the middle of this cave.  What used to happen was that the guys going down into the cave would have what was just a candle in a bucket with it's bottom kicked out - a candle in a tube, essentially.  It could be pushed up to provide light in an immediate area or the bucket could be held with the hole to the side to channel the light incredibly accurately like a torch.  It was pretty impressive.

After my second year, I had the summer of my life.  My lady and I got married in June.  The happiest day of my life.  I cannot possibly describe how amazing the day was or how happy she makes me, but I'll spend the rest of my life trying.

All in all, it was a very very enjoyable year and I can't recommend it enough.  I had an absolutely incredible time and I think that you should go and sign up right now to go and do this next year.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fairweather Forecast.

I made a joke that includes my surname.  We have A BABY ON THE WAY!

I'm so excited and stoked and honoured and blessed to be able to be part of an amazing family.  My wifey and I just can't wait!  The expected due date is April the 21st - just two days before my wifey's birthday!  It's going to be an expensive April for me from here on in!


Now it's not twins - the kid moved around when the midwife was scanning.  At the top there we've got a nice profile and underneath we've got a couple of arms in the picture.

From what little I know, the baby is fully formed now; the only thing left for it to do is scale up until it's about ready to come out.

Easy, right?

Please don't tell my wife I said that last thing.


Exchange year. Part III

While I wait and whittle away the possible hours until my next engagement, I'll update my blog with the uni exchange photos again!  I may even make two posts and schedule one to post up tomorrow or Thursday.

Here it goes:

The year started off well.  One of my wifey's best friends had recently got married to a guy who liked his guns.  We get on well.  He's firing a .22 calibre rifle and I'm using his AR-15; a rifle that is only a slightly larger calibre at .223, but that has rounds that are twice as powerful.  Both are nice and accurate, but mine was much more powerful and loud.

We went to an outdoor cinema.  We didn't particularly like the film they were showing, so I English-talked my way into the projection room and had a good look round.  It was huge.  We also got free T-shirts.  Because I'm English.

Planning the wedding, we were thinking it was going to be in America, so we started looking for places to have it.  Some of the caves out there are huge and have been converted into hotels and reception halls.  On our way up there, through the hills, we saw a great deal of derelict buildings and various shacks at different stages of disrepair.  We also went through a town without realising it.  It was really that small.

One of the obstacles we faced was this little beauty.  Fast running and deep enough to cause us great worry, we drove through it very carefully and had to stop for a regroup on the other side.  To get to the cave we were wanting to see, the GPS took us through the hills.  They were hills that you did not want to go through unless you really needed to.  There were cars stuck in the trees below corners that they had taken too fast.  Abandoned upside-down and left to rust away.  It was pretty eerie.  The town car we went up in was not best suited to the terrain and as a result, it took us 4 hours to travel the 10 miles to our destination once we hit the dirt roads.

To a little more frustration, when we got to the cave, we entered down a road that we could have got to from a town that my wifey has been to before.  So that was fun.

Up top there, my wifey huddled up as we waited to go inside.  Behind her was one of the reception fields that people use to party on after weddings.  There is also a helipad there for those brides who like to arrive in style - or the guests that feel like they need everyone to look at them instead.

Under that is the cave entrance.  It was great seeing the age-old caves with modern entrances.  As if we could improve them somehow.  Inside was incredible, too.  Two floors and many rooms incorporated various aspects of the natural encasing - a little stream trickled down in the main entrance, stalactites hung next to the chandeliers.  It was lovely.

On the way home we stopped off in Miami!  ...  Miami, Oklahoma, though.  Not the one everyone else knows.  This is the biggest McDonald's in the world, so I wanted to go there just to say I have.  Have you been there?  No?  Well that's why I went.

January and February in North Missouri was very cold.  They have this thing called wind chill over there.  It means that the weather itself could be bearable, but if there's a wind coming in it will take the temperature down a dozen degrees.  I like 9 - 15 degrees.  It's a nice cool temperature that I can comfortably walk the 30 minutes to the uni in.  But with the wind chill, that would get down to maybe -2, which is less comfortable.  I don't like wind chill.

My housemates for the second semester!  Up top there is Sofian Arik from France and then coming down we have Jongmin Park and 'Will' Lee - both from South Korea.  A lot of exchange students from China, Korea and Japan pick more English sounding names when they come over here - or America - to study.  Will's real name is Taek Ho.  They were really nice housemates and Will and Jongmin had a lot of friends over most nights, so I'd sit and learn Korean with them.  It was super fun.

One of my earlier pastel drawings.  We used pastel in our painting class for some reason.  It was explained well but I can't remember why, now.

A little sculpture doodle.  I draw things all the time in my little doodle sketchbooks; this is the sculpture equivalent.  A bottle cap clam.

I went to a mens' retreat with a big group of guys from surrounding churches.  We played paintball (with two people using airsoft guns), talked about manly things and generally encouraged each other and taught each other how to be men of integrity and general gentlemanliness.  It was great.  We also pulled this huge truck back into its wheels after it skidded over on the snowy hill.  That pretty much topped off the weekend.  Whilst pulling it back upright, we all grew beards and developed a love of good whiskey.

Up top there is one page out of two dozen that we did in the space of half an hour in Drawing II.  Quick gestural drawings are pretty fun because they make you have to put your thinking aside and focus on getting a form shown in as quick a time as possible.

Under that is a page from my extra credit stuff - stuff that earns you ...  extra credit.  It's possible to get more than 100% in a class if you complete the class perfectly and hand in all the extra credit stuff.  That fact annoys me because you shouldn't be able to get more than 100% in anything.

I highly recommend gestural drawings.  Draw as fast as you can and stop caring about whether it's perfect.

In Drawing I and Drawing II we started the year with drawing the skeleton.  We literally learnt how to draw people from the inside out.  We also learnt all the major muscles and all of the bones of the body.  That was fun.  Introducing the more academic aspect in what is usually a completely vocational subject.

As I doodle in my sketchbook, I doodle with sculpture ideas.  As I doodles with sculpture ideas, I doodle with paint ideas.  These are two such doodles.  One on a thin sheet of MDF (up top) and the other in a little sketchbook.

A graduate of UCM, Dan Scott came in and talked to us all for a whole day.  We all chilled out with him and ate pizza, he critiqued a few pieces of work and then gave us a walkthrough of one of his pieces for Magic: The Gathering.  Really nice guy.  He handed out booster packs of the cards and signed the ones we found with his work on; then he signed my sketchbook.

Along the river, there are these public barbecues.  I liked the fact that cooking and hanging out is encouraged to the extent that it is over there; with fire pits being built around the sides of lakes and Barbecue grills cemented into campsite areas.  It also made me sad because over here, they'd probably be kicked over or set on fire.  Which would be on odd mix of ironic and apt.

One of the assignments for the Drawing II class was to draw a self portrait from an extreme angle.  These were a few warmup sketches that I was experimenting with.

This is Juan.  I made him in the February of my first year.  It was so I could have a tangible figure with which to show my ideas for games in a different way.  My version of a human.  By this point in the year abroad, he'd been sitting in my bedroom doing nothing but gather dust.  There was a student citation show coming up, where everyone studying at the Art Centre could show up to three pieces of their work.  I figured I may as well pop this guy in because he hadn't been doing much...

...  turns out they liked him.  I won a $250 scholarship cheque!  Not bad.  I decided it was probably about time to make a few more...

My wifey gets acquainted with the Firing Range rules.  This place was so much fun.

Kansas City, Missouri.  At night.  Obviously.  A beautiful as the architecture was to look at during the day, so were these lights incredible at night.  Lining the ridges and arches of the buildings, the lights pulled everything in and highlighted otherwise unnoticed aspects of the buildings.

I realised I hadn't got a proper touristy picture in my time there, so this was to remedy that.

I have a great friend, John Carrington, who takes photos and makes videos and all that fun stuff.  On Valentine's Day, he just came up to Melissa and me and offered to take us out to have some engagement photos taken!  Really fun afternoon and amazing pictures.

That's all for now.

More to come.