One of the nice things about living at home (as opposed to a major metropolis) was my relationship with nature. Sounds hippy but I love seeing the seasons change and being connected to the earth and my natural surroundings.
Part of this was turning my hand to a bit of gardening. I’m by no means an expert (that title goes to the King and Queen of Gardening, Mum & Dad) but I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty, crouching down in the soil, planting seeds and then watching them every day, willing them to succeed. Patience is key. It’s a great exercise to learn to be more patient in an era of instant gratification. Equally as important is recognising how long it takes for things to grow naturally. A long time!
My little plots comprised Larkspur and Lynham (pretty little blue flowers) but you can imagine trying to grow tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, broad beans, raspberries & purple sprouting broccoli. Or enough produce to make a shipment to Tesco for that matter. The key is a huge dollop of hard work, lots of deliciously dark, moist compost, plenty of water (but not too much) and a few rays of (ever elusive) sunshine. You also need to be a strategic planter. What used to happen to me when I tried to grow herbs on my balcony garden in London was that I’d plant everything from seed, all at the same time, get incredibly excited when they sprouted and then need to use every herb in the space of a week. By which point I had used them all up and it was back to Sainsburys. You need to plant double to yield half and plant in shifts.
There’s no substitute for getting out in the fresh air, doing some manual labour and being able to think clearly. Many happy hours were passed chatting or working in companionable silence. I was contemplating the similarities between life and the garden. The greenhouse is the womb/childhood/prison, where you’re nurtured, fed and watered before being thrust into the cold flowerbed of life. Some seeds don’t make it, some immediately grow tall and strong and some look a bit weak and feeble but catch up with the rest if nourished with a little extra with love and attention :-)
Before launching into too many spiritual parallels, I thought you might like to see my efforts (somewhat dwarfed by the ginormous herbaceous border) below. Look closely, they’re tiny!
Above are two sunflower seeds Mum & Dad were given at church a couple of months ago. They watered them, put them in the greenhouse and named them Steph & Max. Can you guess which is which?!
With the news that 1 in 3 adults in the UK take a teddy to bed, I thought I’d take the opportunity to introduce you to Henley. Fifteen years old and a constant companion in life’s sea of uncertainty.
As you can see he is quite the sartorial gent.
If anyone still takes a teddy/blanket/soft toy to bed, share it here! C’mon, that’s at least 1 in 3 of you ;-)
I’ll cut off the part of your brain that does the bitchin’
Put it in formaldehyde and put it in the shelf
And you can show it to your friends and say, ‘That’s my old self.” —MCA
Honestly, I didn’t really care when Michael Jackson died. At the time, I hid it because the rest of my peers were so quick to hold him up as an icon and an influence that I didn’t want to seem unappreciative. He released some cracking songs, there’s no doubt. But all of his best work had been released by the time that I was two years old. As his music career waned, he became mired in the controversy, media furore and disease of the 90s, and this was the Michael Jackson that I grew up with. He was never someone I really related to, never someone I understood.
Yesterday Adam Yauch, also known as MCA from the hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, succumbed to the cancer he’d been diagnosed with in 2009. He was 47. When I heard, I surprised myself with how moved I was, and I immediately compared that to my reaction to Michael Jackson’s passing. I realised that it’s okay save your reverence and grief for the people who you really respect.
I mean, look at this guy, he’s wearing a an oversized purple microfleece in this video, and he still manages to be way cooler than I’ll ever be. When your rhymes are tight and your energy is unparalleled, the other trappings of hip-hop like bling, self-promotion and rampant overproduction quickly become inconsequential. In the wake of his death, there’s been a lot of talk of the Beastie Boys’ influence on the racial polarisation of hip-hop. I couldn’t possibly comment, but as fellow white Jewish Brooklynite who shows more than a passing interest in the genre, if this is true, then I cannot thank MCA enough.
When things slowed down for the Beastie Boys musically, MCA reverted to Adam Yauch and started the independent film distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories. In doing so Yauch fully realised the passion for film that he had demonstrated when directing the Beastie Boys most iconic music videos, the brilliantly original concert video Awesome I F***in Shot That and last years hilarious short film Fight For Your Right Revisited. Oscilloscope quickly became known for successfully bringing to audiences the provocative and commercially risky films that deserve to be seen, yet that even the most boutique distributors wouldn’t touch. The Oscilloscope stamp of approval is something I have always took note of in seeking out new films to watch. Amongst their amazing output, particular favorites of mine include documentary Dear Zachary (hands down the saddest film I have ever seen), anti-western Meek’s Cutoff and two of my picks from this years’ Sundance crop: Shut Up And Play The Hits and Chasing Ice.
Besides these achievements, Yauch was also a practicing Buddhist. In 1996 he co-founded the Milarepa Fund to help increase awareness of the Tibetan independence movement. The same year he helped launch a series of Tibetan Freedom Concerts, featuring the Beastie Boys and other music royalty including A Tribe Called Quest, U2, Radiohead, Wu-Tang Clan, and Rage Against the Machine. (information paraphrased from a wonderful article at NPR.org)
When I arrived in New York last October I went to meet with Yauch’s business partner at Oscilloscope, to let them know that I was here and ready to do anything to work in film distribution with MCA. Yauch was out that day, but we actually had the meeting in his office. It was a small wood-panneled room. I remember seeing a baseball bat with signatures on it, and an electric cello in one corner but not much else; certainly none of the VW hood ornaments and platinum records I had expected. Later, while at New Video, my boss told me she had recommended me for a possible opening as his assistant. I immediately laughed out loud at the thought of Max Jack Sather from Chesham Bois working with Adam “MCA” Yauch from the Beastie Boys. A small part of me is glad it didn’t work out. Because while it’s true that you shouldn’t always put your heroes up on pedestals; sometimes that’s the best place for them.
Steph’s been holding down the BabblingBrooklyn fort now for a few weeks on her own, while I was taking the time to readjust to life alone in Brooklyn. Since my last post, I’ve unpacked all of my stuff, had a walk-on part in a film, started working in a new industry, been to a film festival, slept some, ate not enough, bought an amazing jacket, found a tennis partner, been for a picnic, taught an old dog a new trick, partied on a bus in a warehouse, gone vegetarian (mostly) and generally tried to stay afloat in a sea of uncertainty.
Employment has mainly been the thing that’s done for my blogging. At the end of March I started working on a film that was 12 hours a day and definitely hard work. While I appreciated the money, it very much confirmed for me exactly why I’d stopped working in production in 2009. It’s good work if you can get it, and you can pick it up as you go, but the hours are long, the pay is bad, and I come home after a day aching and sore. On the plus side, the experience massively increased my respect for filmmakers and producers, I got to see some awesome new parts of Brooklyn and I made a lot of new friends. That said, it has dented my intentions of ever producing my own film; while this remains a life ambition, I see that it is a long hard road from the bottom, and the chances of failure are high. Honestly, I think I’d just rather start at the top.
So I’ve since moved on to brave new worlds: a lucrative and, honestly, unprecedented internship at supercool computer games company Rockstar Games. Owners, and brothers, Sam and Dan Houser are the minds behind crime epic Grand Theft Auto, cowboy odyssey Red Dead Redemption and, strangely, Rockstar Table Tennis (I know, right?). Luckily for me, Dan went to primary school with my cousin Trevor. Jobs at Rockstar are pretty well sought after, and brilliance alone was never going to get me in.
Because of confidentiality issues, I have to check with the HR team and submit a draft before I can publish a proper blog about my experience at the company. In the meantime, here’s one of the new trailers for the highly anticipated computer game that they are about to release: Max Payne 3.
Cover your eyes Casey, there’s a LOT of violence.
At the beginning of this year, I decided to practice what I preach in terms of sustainable fashion. Not that I was knee-deep in Primark in my lunch break, but I just decided not to buy anything new this year. Everything had to be second hand, vintage, borrowed or at the very least from someone I personally knew or sustainable brand. Considered, thoughtful consumption. Buy only what you need and if you can’t do that, at least buy less.
Before I left for New York I cut my wardrobe in half. Twice. I agonized and fretted, wondering how I was going to manage without that (insert dress/bag/pair of trousers) thing, whatever it was, that I thought I needed. In truth, in six months, not once did I yearn for any item of clothing I had left behind, in fact I could barely remember what they were. It was actually pretty liberating, living with less.
Fashion is based on changing trends, tastes, places, needs and wants. That’s what makes it interesting. Fashion doesn’t naturally lend itself to sustainability, although there are plenty of pioneers.
One is Casey Sheahan, the CEO of outdoor brand Patagonia who last year adopted a somewhat unorthodox approach to marketing. Patagonia took out full page ads in the NY Times and put huge signs in all of their shops during the post- Christmas sales saying “DON’T BUY THIS JACKET”. Sales increased.
Their argument was that their products should last a long time because they’re made well and the cost of that jacket to the environment is far greater than the price itself.
The message: only buy this if you really need it. Worth keeping in mind next time you’re at the checkout.
Another vocal advocate is Dame Vivienne Westwood, longtime anarchist and environmental campaigner. Her top tips are below and if they’re good enough for her, they’re good enough for me (and you!). Thank you Dame Westie.
Buy less: “Buy less, choose well and make it last. I really do think that people should exercise choice and not just consume without thought—sucking up stuff all the time, one thing after another.”
Go to art galleries: “The art lover is not consuming. He invests in the present world by engaging with the genius of the past. ‘You get out what you put in’ is my motto.”
Read: “The best fashion accessory is a book.”
Prepare your own food: “Buying and preparing your own food is to engage with the world. It gives you a sense of reality.”
Do it yourself: “Wear a piece of beautiful fabric, borrow stuff from your friends, and style it in with your own clothes.”
The best way to celebrate our aged monarch’s upcoming Jubilee? By doing a 1000 piece jigsaw of course! Ooo I do love a good jigsaw. Not to blow my own trompette but it’s one of my secret (and favourite) superpowers.