Tuesday, 5 November 2013

YES. Yes To All This.

Ever hear someone saying all the thoughts in your head one hundred thousand times more eloquently than you ever could?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present: Joss Whedon. You may know him from all the awesome everything ever.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A Random Thought About Editing Photographs.

So the season has pretty much ended on Iona, and so I have had some brain space/time free up. I'm thinking of trying to do shorter entries on some of the random thoughts that rattle around in my head when I'm supposed to be thinking about something else. I have loads of these, often interesting (to me at least) and very, very random.

Today's thought, for instance, is about editing photos. I've been scrolling through Pinterest, looking at all the exciting things I can't have and places I can't go and I keep coming across extremely heavily edited pictures of scenery. After a while I noticed I was just scrolling past them without really looking. I stopped to ask myself why and I responded with "they bug me". After more interrogation I've worked out why.

How insulting is it to the planet that we as humans thought "That sunset is pretty, but I need to edit the colours to make it better"? What's wrong with us? Look at the world we live in. It is stunning. We don't need to ramp up the colour saturation on a sunset, it is beautiful all by itself. Yes, some sunsets are more breath-taking than others but think about it - you are watching the evidence of our survival happening. The sun, giving just the right heat to our planet making life possible, giving way for the moon, controlling the tides and waters of the world making life possible, because of things like Earth's rotation and gravity... making life possible. This incredible thing happening before someone's very eyes and they go home and think it could have been more pink. Idiot. This doesn't just apply to sunsets, but it is the most common of all the photoshopped pictures. Usually the ones that end up with inspirational twattery written in large friendly letters that dominate the internet and dentists waiting rooms.

The other thing is that some people believe that its real. I can tell when a photo has been played with, possibly because I'm into photography myself, but some folk buy into it. Making the unedited photos of the landscape look somehow lacking, even though that is what it actually looked like. Unless you can't guess from this, I don't touch up my photos. Not even to make it less blurry or anything like that. I either have the skill to take a good picture in the first place or I don't. But that might just be me that thinks that. The only thing I do is put some colour pictures into black and white or do things like invert the colours or increase the saturation and contrast so much it has that pop arty cartoonish look, but very rarely and only when it suits it.

I guess that might be the line for me, whether we're talking about photography as art or photography as a picture capturing what was there in a particular moment. Yes, they can be both, I admit that. That being said, maybe the art in it for me is what was really there; the world around us being the best piece of living artwork there is.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

F is for... Foraging in My Purse.

Tomorrow there is a trip to Oban, and as I was getting my stuff together tonight I lifted my bulging purse out my bag and had the thought that if there wasn't much money in here what on earth is it the size of a human head for?

So I did the unthinkable. I cleaned out my purse.

I found this incredible treasure trove of things. Mostly receipts. But some hidden gems in there too, some that I had forgotten about.

First off, there are the receipts that I pulled out. There was at least one in every pocket, possibly some vain attempt at a filing system. I think I have every receipt for all the petrol I've ever bought in front of me. That's what it looks like at least! I also have some of those mysterious ones that just have numbers on them arranged in various shapes. No idea where they were from or what they were for. Odd little things. Here is the pile:

Next up are Calmac related objects. I have no end of ticket book stubs. I'm actually surprised at how many books of ten I've gone through. I also have a rather large stack of these pointless things:

What are these actually for?!
Then I found a weird thing that I only have a vague memory of, and an even more vague, verging on non-existent, memory of why I kept it. It's from a holiday I went on in 2010. That dates how old all this gubbens is, doesn't it?! My friend Becki and I went to Ilfracombe in Devon and I think we had one of our many cream teas here. And then I got handed this, and put it in my purse to carry with me just in case for the next three years.

The next two finds are a little precious to me. One is so precious I know I should do something better with it than have it in my purse, but I haven't worked out what to do with it so it lives there still. It marks the day I met Eddi Reader, one of the best singers I've ever heard. That day I met her unexpectedly, she signed this, hugged me and passed on her cold to me. Very generous of her.

The other thing I have that I'll always have in my purse is and Argentinian 10 australes note. On it, in my own handwriting, it says 'All over the world the gospel is bearing fruit.' I was given it at an event I went to in Edinburgh called Powerpoint. Everyone got different currencies and we were asked to write that on it and to take it home and carry it with us as a reminder of the world as a whole, not just our little corner of it. And I have.

All over the world the gospel is bearing fruit.

Amongst the rest I came across some Waterstone's gift cards I had forgotten I had (hooray for free books), a very old membership card for Alien Rock climbing wall, three books of stamps, an email address for someone I volunteered with for a week and haven't spoken to since, and a tapestry needle. You know, just in case.

What a difference it has made! My purse looks positively svelte! And it's so light! Before I was in danger of taking the life of small children and animals if I accidentally dropped it.

Now with a lovely feeling of achievement it's time for sleep. *Big contented sigh*

Saturday, 23 February 2013

E is for... EXCITEMENT!

Everyone, meet our new room mate.


This is Marilla. She is a four month old bundle of fluff found living wild on Mull. As of this morning she is a four month old bundle of fluff living the high life in SquarahandTobenland.

We had quite a bit of trouble naming her. We came up with so many awesome names that just weren't right. Some of them were so geeky it was fantastic. Here are some of the favourites:

  • Janeway - as in Captain of Voyager.
  • Purrmione - this was my personal favourite. Toben wasn't so keen.
  • Alpuss Dumbleadorable - because you need to come up with one ridiculous and hilarious option.
  • Amy Farrah Meowler
  • Seven of Nine Lives
  • Catan - although right now she is only a Kitan.
And of course we considered every female name from every single film, book and tv show that we like; as well as local place names and even some foods (inspired by Griff Rhys Jones' chocolate lab called Cadbury). But we ended on Marilla, Rilla for short. This was only with Anne of Green Gables in mind, but we've since found that Marilla means 'shining sea'. Appropriate.

Most of all, we know she is ours because she sat and watched QI with us. I kid you not, she watched it.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

D is for... Dubious Covers

Dear Kimberley Walsh, One Direction, Flo Rida and the rest of you grasping for ideas,

Thank you all for the feeling of despair you have inspired in me. I'm so glad you felt the need to change music as we know it. Believe me, I'm trying here... I said change instead of ruin. I was sitting minding my own business, just watching TV and the next thing I know I'm bombarded by sad. Those poor songs, loved by millions, will never be the same.

Just one tiny thing though; may I perhaps suggest that what made the original so special in the first place was that you weren't part of it? Just a thought.

I like my 80's power ballads cheesy, not helium-voiced; my Blondie sung exclusively by Debbie Harry; and my Wicked left bloody well alone. WELL alone.

Thanks but no thanks,

Sarah Squarah

P.s. I know you One Direction guys are doing this for charity, and also my little cousin loves you, so I can't not like you to the full extent I had originally planned. No need to thank me. No really.

Monday, 21 January 2013

C is for... Cultivating Creativity

I watched this TED talk the other day, and I completely agree with everything said. Here's the blurb from the TED site:

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.
Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

This talk, along with a blog post I wrote a while back called Schools Out sum up why I have absolutely no nostalgia for my high school and why I wasn't sad, or indeed surprised, when it closed.

I vividly remember a chalk drawing that I did, that I was so proud of. In art class one afternoon we had to find something from the still life shelves to draw. I think this was where all the junk in the school came to die. I was one of the last to get there and ended up with slim pickings. The best option was this really freaky looking clown doll - that is how slim the pickings were. I took it back, plonked it on my desk and stared at it gloomily for a couple of minutes before I attempted anything. I'm glad I did. I had the idea that I would go and get some black sugar paper and chalks and try something different. Having just done a still life class the week before we had learnt about lights and darks, shadings and lightening, I thought this was going to be a real brownie points for Squarah moment. I only drew the lightest parts. The bits that lay in heavy shadow I left blank, letting the black paper come through. As it was a really colourful clown doll with a shiny porcelain face it worked really well. I could make the parts of his face that the light was hitting really stand out on the black with white chalk. All the colours of his costume looked so vivid in comparison. I was so proud of what I had done.

Before we could move on to something new we had to show our teacher our work. She came over and told me I wasn't finished. I hadn't done the shading. I explained my thoughts on the black paper and that I had done everything I had been intending to. My idea was done as far as I was concerned; I couldn't understand why she didn't get it. Then she did the unforgivable. She picked up the chalk. She drew on it. She started shading it all in. She did part of it, then put the chalk down and gave me the instruction that I was to finish it the way she had.

I sat there not doing anything for the rest of the class. When the bell went I got up, put all my things away, and on my way out to the door put my clown drawing in the bin. Right in front of her. Her only response was "That's a shame. It showed real promise, if you had only finished it properly." What could have ended with such joy, which is after all what art is for the most part there for, ended instead with frustration and a blood boiling anger that I carried the rest of the day. The worst of it was that I knew she had failed me. I was so angry at her because it was my first taste of my time at school not actually having anything to do with me. Me as a person, me as a talent, me as an exact combination that has never been before. From then on I did what the art teachers wanted me to, and I drew for my own enjoyment at home. Doing precisely as instructed I got straight A's in all my art exams, which were so regimented it was like painting in an army labour camp. I got points deducted once for lending the girl beside me a pencil sharpener. NEIN! Das ist verboten!

So here, after my rambling tale of sorrow, is the video. It is worth watching, so don't look at it and think 'twenty minutes, pah!' Also, if you enjoy it and have some time to spare there are plenty more great talks on the TED website.


Friday, 18 January 2013

B is for... Builders, Boyfriends and Bookshops.

Just a short post today containing three very separate thoughts.

The first is that we have builders at Bishops House just now doing the extension, and they are behaving most unbuilder-like (certainly in comparison to the first lot of builders we had). When they accidentally get mud on the carpets they go and get the hoover and clean it up. They went and found the cleaning supplies and cleaned the bathrooms they had been using last week. They are walking the long way round - as in down the path, out the gate, in the other gate and down their make-shift driveway - so that they don't ruin the garden surrounding the building site. I know it seems quite uncharitable of me to be surprised by them doing these things... but we're so pleased to have them! In my past experiences with builders, particularly on Iona where they have to stay overnight, everything they touch or go near they leave minging. But these guys have been trying really hard and we're certainly grateful for that!

Ok, now here's your frightening thought for the day. While down with my family at Christmas, I learnt that my little cousin is the only one in her class without a boyfriend. She is seven. This along with 12 year olds changing their relationship status on facebook to "It's complicated" has left me a bit weirded-out.

After that I feel the need to restore some faith in humanity, and luckily I have quite a gem tucked away. HMV has gone into administration, which is unfortunate. So has Blockbuster Video. Sad news for both of those companies, which have been around for yonks. However I have found a little pocket of joy for myself in this... Waterstone's bookshops are still going strong! (Watch this, now I've said that they'll close their doors tomorrow.) People are still reading! People are still buying books! I admit that Waterstone's is probably being funded single-handed by my dad and the many people who buy him vouchers for Christmas, but it still counts.

Hooray for book nerds everywhere!

Friday, 11 January 2013

A is for ... Apocalypse, Attitude and A Good Kick Up The Backside

First off, happy new year! I hope you had a great Christmas and new year and everything in between. Glad tidings, good wishes and a' that.

Well, that was a jolly little apocalypse we had there wasn't it? I can only hope they will all be like that. If those Mayans are watching us I think they must have had a right laugh. But here we are in 2013 whether we like it or not. And that means continuing with life as we know it, or starting new things - projects, jobs, courses... whatever.

While I've been reading everyone's updates on returning back and starting fresh I've noticed a trend, and not a good one. The common link is moaning. I've been aware of it for sometime, particularly on facebook and twitter (twitter being far, far worse for some reason) but it seems I have finally gotten to the 'I'm so done with this' stage with all the new years grumblings.

I have to admit my main reason for being done with it is that I flat out don't believe most of it. When people who I know to adore their jobs post regularly about how boring/irritating/stressful they find it I find it hard to see their point. Or people who are studying something they find incredibly interesting complaining about coursework they couldn't wait to get to three weeks ago... I just don't believe you.

There is of course a mentality that fits with that; look at how busy and important I am. I think some feel the need to moan about their workload or good deeds because they crave praise. Interesting how it is easier to condemn your hard, hard life publicly rather than share your own self-pride. Or perhaps it gets better results. Either way, interesting.

My next confession is my own reaction to these mini-rants. I tend to care less and less about what these people do. I see a post by someone who moans a lot and I skip over it. My brain switches itself off to the particular person and their little corner of drama.

There comes a time in life when you have to let go of all the pointless drama and the people who create it and surround yourself with people who make you laugh so hard that you forget the bad and focus solely on the good. After all, life is too short to be anything but happy.
Unknown author

If I do by some miracle read a post by a regular moaner I can't help but think "Oh my, your life is so hard. You are surrounded by people that love you and support you and only want the best for you. You have a job you like and are good at. You can pay the bills and afford to buy yourself a brand new phone when yours breaks. You are studying something you love. But by all means tell us all about your horrendous experience writing a thousand word essay about something you are passionate about."

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
Abraham Lincoln 

You are lucky. You can't forget that. If you woke up tomorrow with only that for which you were thankful for today, what you have?

A candle is a protest at midnight. It is a non-conformist. It says to the darkness, "I beg to differ."
Samuel Rayan

Here I am to be the candle at midnight - to protest. I look at people's lives and compare them to the moanings and requests for pity and I think "I beg to differ." I truly believe that living your life with that view is to live in darkness. Where is your happiness? Where is your unashamed joy that brings you leaping into every activity you enjoy? Why does everything you choose to do come with a grunt and a rant? Why do you choose to do it if that's how you feel? As my mum would say, "If you don't like it, change it."

I leave you with a quote containing the hope I have for everyone this year.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
Neil Gaiman