Work Hard & Be Kind

My productivity clock is weird. I can’t do anything of great magnitude in the morning. In the mornings I can’t write good essays, I find it hard to read and interpret big data-sets or new complex ideas and theories, I can’t really code websites, I find it hard to hold a proper conversation for at least an 1.5 hours after I’ve gotten up. So I leave my admin tasks to the morning and I usually distract myself on twitter. I’ll attempt my work, but will probably have to re-write it later.

By the afternoon, I feel my cogs working more smoothly. I can read those research papers and books with the understanding they need and deserve, I can begin to stare at the word document with that paper I’m writing. I can draw much better – and can debate things until the cows come home.

By 5-8pm I hit another fatigue lull, but if I nap on the train home or on my sofa in the living-room, I wake up raring to go.

From 9pm – 2:30am these are my golden hours of productivity. I write everything I need to do, I notice ideas and complex issues I missed in papers during the day, I draw more in that time than I have done all day. I complete works, I come up with my bestest ideas – I learn so much new stuff in this time — I learnt how to code websites and phone apps deep in the night. I’ve started many of my projects at this time.

But it’s annoying. I want to be that well productive in the day – and ALL day.

It’s pretty exhausting at times, especially already trying to beat that fatigue that won’t shake off.

And I know I have so much to do. So how do I keep motivated as I do my PhD and all my other projects?

Over the winter holiday I read “Let My People Go Surfing” —  Chouinard’s story is of his values and what led him to start Patagonia (the best outdoors store, ever). The principles that drive his company are really his own and he is a reluctant businessman. His big focus is on quality, durability and doing more with less. He is a committed environmentalist and believes businesses should be responsible for the damage they do to the Earth. Refreshing.

Quotes I liked:
“Doing risk sport had taught me another important lesson: never exceed your limits. You push the envelope and you live for those moments when you’re right on the edge, but you don’t go over. You have to be true to yourself; you have to know your strengths and limitations and live within your means.”

&

“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”

Before 2012, I worked so hard and made so many sacrifices, that when I thought it was all nearly over – I regretted the missing the really important things in my life. These quotes encapsulates some of the foundational lessons I learnt – or certainly felt – when I got sick, and my normal life was really hard to maintain for months and months. It drove me into the ground.

But surviving something like that, made me feel like I deserved to spend every day on vacation. But you can’t. You have to re-join the real world, and re establish yourself in some sort of way.

Now I need to be able to have a balance during this PhD. I’m finding it a bit hard. Some weeks I work insanely hard. Some weeks, I feel the guilt for not having achieved much. Maybe that’s a natural balance? But I think I’d prefer it to be more work consistent.

So in changing habits, and in hoping to sculpt something from my mess, and learning from Let My People Go Surfing values. I’m not going to spend any money on clothes, & unnecessary things like blankets and lights (which I seem to have a thing for!) I will only buy essentials such as food, and art/study stuff and train tickets – for a whole 6 MONTHS. Starting from tomorrow. This will help enable me to declutter my day, my procastination of online shopping when bored, from walking to shops and looking at stuff i don’t need. I want to begin to re-evaluate what I have.

And I need to write more.

I’ve journaled frequently in the 10 years. I  kept a streak doing it for 106 days in a row over last summer. Every single day I’d write, I’m glad I did. And yet, most days, I don’t.

And I almost never let anyone see my writing.

Multiple theorists emphasize the importance of failure. I know this, but I’m not practicing it.
In the past year, I labored over at least a dozen items I planned to post publicly. I published  only 1 or 2 good ones.
I sat down with Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, and it drove the point home even more strongly:

Whatever work you fear most, it’s likely the most important for you to be doing.

I fear writing because I fear I have nothing to say. I fear letting you see my half-finished thoughts because I fear losing your respect and attention. Most of all, I fear wasting your time.
But I know it’ll sharpen my thinking; I know it will push me. I hope it will connect me with people who like to think about, talk about, or work on the things I’m interested in.
So I’ll do it.
I will, at least once every week or 2, post something (brief!) that’s unfinished, unready, and unworthy of your time.
Here goes…
To my mantra: Work Hard & Be Kind
12011351_10153503612971508_6158508689328791688_n

 

Advertisements

2014 moments: Hopes for 2015

My mom always says that on the first of the new year, you should do a little bit of everything good: small bits of good habits you want to carry through into the new year.

That’s how I’ve always tried to start every first day of the year, no matter where in the world I am.

This year, I am doing a little of the same here: going on (very) short runs, finishing unfinished books, starting a new one, do some writing, do some work, trying to be creative and challenge the boundaries. And then, because I’ll be in Lisbon, Portugal in a few days: I’m going to listen to some good music, go to galleries, eat whatever delightful food there is to wonder upon to and take a walk to explore and learn more about a new country, a new city and all it’s neighborhoods.

It allows for a little reflection, a little resetting, and a little bit of conscious forward-thinking about how you should spend the rest of the year.

That’s a little bit of everything good.

—->

I am, however, a kid of tradition (or superstitious – depends how you look at it). And if I find something that works – I go with it. i can’t take chances changing it.  Each year I sort of blaze over the best highlights, and then wish for the things I’d like to happen/achieve in 2015. It’s a good way to hold myself accountable – and additionally – i think it works 😉

2014 moments:

It was amazing. And bittersweet. And hardwork but full of laughs and adventures too.

Jan:

I sat my first ever exams in about 8 years. I can’t even remember how to do exams, but I passed all with Firsts. That was a trip!

My Slovakian Friends, Rado & Katka who I worked with for 2 years in the USA, came to live with us for a year! Exciting!

I did some cool work for TalkTalk

Gave a talk on #RONCrg twitter group that I run & recieved some great feedback.

Got Shep – the awesome German Shephard doggie!

Feb:

I started running & going to Row-Fit, which was really fun!

Found a new house for all of us to move into.

March:

Drew the International NHS Health Expo in Manchester, that was so rad!

Drew more stuff for TalkTalk

Got the HEADACHE from hell (which I still have as I type this).

April:

Had my first ever A&E admission [for worst headache ever], nothing like spending a night on an Emergency decision ward to make you appreciate the affects of life on people.

Went to NYC – got to see my friends exhibition, privately, and we got so drunk in the depths of Bushwick. I ended up seeing my first Brooklyn Bridge Sunrise (drunk), and worst hangover to date. I also had to take a plane to Vegas, hungover. So a bunch of firsts. It rained so hard that trip that I had to throw away my running sneakers.

May:

Saw my mom get married! Yay!

Went to Vegas from NYC – met with my great USA friend, Leah, and we had LOTS of including sneaking into pools and beach-pools that we weren’t supposed to & I accidently tipped a pool-boy $20. Call me generous.

Got Shingles – which I thought were bedbugs from NYC/Vegas – duh.

Sat some more exams which I passed pretty awesomely if I do say so myself.

June:

DREW THE AMAZING SHEFFIELD DOC/FEST!!!

More clinical placement antics. Really don’t remember anything of any value here. Just work, work, work.

July:

Got hit by a car & was pretty traumatised by it.

Was in our first ever HUGE house fire.

Started skateboarding again because my bike was fucked up.

Spent the last weeks of July trying to desperately do a whole years worth of ePortfolio in 6 weeks total. (I won’t be doing that again!)

Designed a website for my friend and her exhibition at YorkshireSculpturePark

August:

Passed palliative case discussion.

Got a super dope mark (SURPRISINGLY) for ePortfolio

Got mega cheap flights to USA – So went back to NYC & saw all my friends at Camp in New Hampshire!

Got Shingles AGAIN.

Got another old-puppy – Finnley the Border Collie!

September:

Was made a recluse because of Shingles.

Finished clinical for a bit – went back to uni. Moved back to Sheffield properly (rather than living in Leeds)

Did my first Pecha Kucha Talk! YAY!

Had an awesome house party!

Gemma left for New Zealand.

October:

Drew TEDXSalford

Drew stuff for University of Derby

Had an awesome Halloween pumpkin carving party at Charlottes!

WE ORGANIZED & HOSTED RAD conference successfully – YAY!

November:

Drew stuff for Uni of Sheff

Drew TEDXSheff

Had the bestest Thanksgiving!

December:

Went to Copenhagen & saw so much awesomely designed stuff!

Had an awesome Christmas!

HOPES FOR 2015

Here is my new list. It’s pretty much the same as last year with some re-thoughts. But I can’t stress enough my main goals are to:
STUDY-HARDER
BE MORE MOTIVATED
NOT WASTE TIME
WORK HARD (ER)
MAKE A DIFFERENCE (IN A POSITIVE WAY, SOME HOW)
MAKE TIME FOR FRIENDS
HELP OTHERS
HAVE MORE FUN
ADVENTURE
WHAT I WISH WISH WISH for in 2015: Keeping the same values/wishes/hopes/resolutions as last year:
  1. That my mom, bro, nan and friends are all super happy, heathy and that NO ONE DIES! Including ME! But I would die instead of the above people if it has to come down to that.
  2. Last year, and the year before that I asked for a job  that I enjoyed. I ended up getting at lots of cool small ones!  So thank you 2013 & 2014 for amazing job years;  PLEASE New Year help me find these golden eggs of opportunity and help me reach my potential. Help me make GREAT/BETTER impressions at the places where I currently work. Let me move small mountains. Please find extra work to fund me through uni. Please find me more amazing opportunities. Let me be BETTER. WORK HARDER. Even more so, PLEASE provide me with opportunities to help others and to make a positive difference! Esp. in radiotherapy.
  3. Make extra time for friends, make sure i actually see friends who live else where. Don’t let money define this.
  4. This year I need to be more motivated. Be more time-focused. Less TV and more drawing. More studying less sleeping.  This is also very, very do-able if I just organize my priorities too! I need to make more great art-works rather than just research and develop ideas that never get shown. I need to remember the stuff I learn in class! I need to be more confident in clinical.
  5. I really really hope that i can make a positive difference this year, help others that need it, and make the world a place i’m proud to live in.
  6. More teaching opportunities PLEASE! This is a must if i want a chance at achieving number 5! too
  7. I would like to interact with people better, so I can communicate effectively and be wayyy more better and likeable esp for clinical placement.
  8. As with any artist, any exhibition/residential/print opportunities no matter how small or little they may seem all adds to the endless cannon of critical thinking and art practice!
  9. I need to become more motivated to learn my material… I can only make the difference I want to make if I am disciplined enough to sit down and dedicate the time to master my craft. Please give me the strength, the focus and the motivation – and mostly the energy to do this!
  10. I just want to feel normal again. Like not have bone ache, or nightsweats, where i could get up in the morning and not feel insanely hungover despite not actually touched alcohol in weeks. I want to not feel SUPER tired for NO reason anymore. I want to be fit, i want to be healthy again, i just want my body and health back from circa 2006 (that was a good year ha!) I’d even take health back from circa 2010/early 2011.
  11. I’d like to take up running, agaaaaiiiinnnn. By the end of the year I want to run 10K – like a fit person.
  12. I know I can’t travel like I have done previous years, but I would absolutely love to visit USA again & do lots of small local EU travelling like to Italy!

Thanks 2014 for a dope year, 2015 I know you’ve got my back. Here’s to hard-work, game changing, trying to stay focused, fighting against the ordinary daily events, challenges and finding ways or re-focusing when things might not work out exactly as we might want them to. TO FRIENDSHIP yo!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Hoping for 2015 to be a year where we open the doors wider & take care of one another

Whoa, 2014. You were such a supremely bittersweet year. Full of opportunities that I am endlessly thankful for and hardships that are unspeakable. You’ve made me even more grateful for every moment of grace and love that we get.

I saw my mom get married, my bro move out for the first time & find love. I lost 2 amazing friends to disease & suicide. I’m part-time raising two young cute dogs.

I’ve had Shingles like 2/3 times, 1 constant long 9 month headache & half a numb face, got run over on my bike & damaged my ribs, broke a bone in my hand skateboarding & was in my first ever massive house fire – where my friends and I helped to save a woman (who was a doctor) trapped in the kitchen (she started the fire, whoopz). I got so many emails from strangers around the world offering support and advise and tips on health-stuff.

I raised about £700 in total this year for various charities & donated over £200 to support others. I worked out earlier this week that I’ve written way over 80,000 words on cancer stuff this year including my ePortfolio. Which is kind of a lot. Endless assessments and 20 weeks of clinical placement (feels like so much more though) & maintained my freelance work of live drawing countless of amazing  & awesome talks & events, website design and teaching.

I moved house twice. Slept literally for some weeks, and weekends at a time. I tried rowing, running more, hiking and learning italian this year. All of which failed miserably. Or, every time i got somewhere, an injury or illness would happen. I’ve had 5 christmas parties, 2 Thanksgivings, 4 massive house-parties, 2 international flights, and visited 1 new country this year. I helped to organize the first student led- conference on Radiotherapy & Oncology in the UK & I got to do my own  Pecha Kutcha Talk instead of just drawing someone elses talk, Yay!

I did all of this (and some more) all whilst feeling really, really run-down, extremely fatigued & in pain.  I often find it hard to keep up with myself.  I look at the above sentences and just sit back and say “Wooooweeeeee!”

After all that, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learnt from this year:

I learned that a good way to force yourself to make more personal work is to travel. So I did.

I road tripped around Nevada with friends in a convertible like we were start-up founders. I explored the peaks of the peak district. I rode bikes through Brooklyn streets, and cruised the lakes of New Hampshire. I’ve taken countless bus trips across asphalted highways in many countries. I lived for half the year in a new city Leeds, traveled miles of sidewalks through Paris, Copenhagen and London, and danced in NY ’til sunrise.

I learned that focusing on things other than work, such as health and relationships, actually makes your work and life 500 times better. I learned to appreciate my good friends, and have learned to cherish good friend time over acquaintance time.

We talk a lot about what it means to be busy — both with work and life. But how much do we know about what it means to just be? To what end must we drudge on about our lives in hopes of becoming happy and healthy if only we just work hard enough to earn it? And not just in monetary currency do I mean that we work hard, but in social currency as well.  I’m slowly learning that a relationship is the most valuable gift we can ever expect to have in this life, and all kinds of relationships. From friendship, to relative, to love to relationships with strangers. How we can help one another?

Being sick has taught me that great relationships are about what you give to it that matters more than what you take. Because my friends and family have given more support to me in ways they probably don’t know how much it means to me.

We can overwork ourselves to the point of being absent from relationships – of all kinds, love, friendship – work. Thereby weakening it, or we can become lazy and miss the blessing that comes from tending to its daily needs. There is a great balance that hangs in the air between one person and another and it’s often a fight to find time just to just to stand still. The challenge here-to lies in making time for quality time. In true form – money is circulated – time is spent. You can never get your time back.  2014 reminds me that I need this to be a constant lesson to be learnt – in 2015 I hope to be able to manage my time better so that it’s spent and invested in wisely.

Additionally I’ve also learnt that time is already a tough customer, but it becomes torturous when you start measuring how much of it maybe left;  and  when you start measuring yourself to others by it. DON’T – DO – THIS.

I’ve learnt that words are often the most explicit example of clear thinking. (Alongside some drawings 😉 )

As someone who is obsessed with type – it’s hard to get away from being beaten over the head with typefaces, grids, and rules in the beginning – trying to learn it all —and rightfully so—but typography can act as a smoke screen. There is so much to learn about the letters that it’s easy to forget about the words.  Ugly words in beautiful typefaces are still pretty dumb.  I then fell into something I’m still attempting to understand: words are the most explicit example of clear thinking. We should tell people how thankful we are for them and the things they do, not only through gestures, but also words.

Life is a set of nested envelopes—the seed of you is held in the mind, which is in your body, which is encased in your family, your relations, workplace, society, ect.

But ultimately, if there’s anything I’ve learnt – is that 1. I love a cliche and 2) it’s this cliche lesson; The greatest part of life is found along the journey. The sweat, the blood and the tears are where we find our truest strength, our truest friends, our unknowing trust for kind strangers. The mountain top experiences are short lived. Yes, reaching the top of the summit is truly rewarding (as it should be) but you can’t expect to stay there for long. There’s new things to see, and do. But you do need to pack up your experiences, successes and failures, and head out on the next adventure. You grow. You get stronger. You learn to pace yourself.

But becareful to think you must journey alone. I’ve learnt that nothing great is ever achieved alone.

Thank you x 10000000 to all of my clients, collaborators and wonderful friends. You’ve been there for me in ways I can never repay. I’ve been shown kindness by strangers and love by friends and family that fills my heart. I now hope to take everything I’ve learnt from 2014 and the people in it – to open doors wider and hope we can continue to take care of one another.  I hope I can continue to have amazing opportunities to draw awesome events and stories, and design really cool things whilst being a really empathetic, compassionate and caring healthcare professional.  I want to be a better friend, a better student, a better time-user. I want 2015 to be amazing for you all.

As the proverb says, if you want to get there fast – go alone, if you want to go far – go together.

HAPPY 2015 Y’ALL!

Bwt82HlCAAA32Nr tumblr_n4rmicRcBj1qz5ugzo1_1280 DSC00825 DSC_6548 15490_10152781498406508_7438899507882749283_n 10626633_10152673316341508_4057711487313873339_n BwtuRg_CYAA67zp Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 12.53.10  Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 09.21.48

Growing Up A Second Time

It was my good friends birthday yesterday. She turned only 19 years old. Still a baby. Although 19 was only 6/7 years ago for me, it seems so much longer. Being in your mid-20′s isn’t that old, but I feel like I’ve aged 2 lifetimes in the past 3+ years, I feel like I’m ageing in dog years. Maybe ageing like that makes you look back a bit more.

As I was out with my young course friends, I thought about what I’ve done so far in and with my life. And what getting older kind of feels like.

Philosopher Alain De Botton tweeted today that ” ‘Growing up’ in many ways a long process of learning to put up with stuff. Eventually, even the idea of dying.”

I came from an incredibly poor family, mostly it was just my mom, my bro, and me with my nan popping in often.    As a result I didn’t have many things considered as “cool” growing up. My clothes were cheap, and shabby. I was a bit weird, I loved hip-hop and animation as a 8 year old. I had this incredible imagination. And I was kinda fat. This made me such an easy target to be bullied every-single-day up to high school. I tried my very best to be “cool” and “likeable”, but we didn’t have the money and when I did save up to get some “cool things”, the clothes looked weird on me. It looked insincere & wrong.  Luckily, time and age taught me to slowly accept myself and follow what I like. And the strangest thing was, the more I accepted myself, the less grief I got from my fellow bully students. In fact, almost the opposite happened. I got more respected, and more known once I had accepted myself. Funny thing that, self-acceptance.

After my GCSE’s, we were made homeless (for too many reasons) for 6 months. We lived with my nan for a few months, until her landlord knew she was over exceeding her limit of people in the house. And then we went from temporary accommodation to temporary accommodation, all whilst I was trying to study for my AS levels. We finally busted the system and got enough points to get a council house. Crazy point: being homeless doesn’t give you enough points on the system to be eligible for a council house. Or it didn’t in 2004/5. How fucked up is that?  I remember at the time being incredibly embarrassed about this. I didn’t tell a soul for months. But it just reinforced my love for Marxism and social justice. I was voted, by the whole of Doncaster by kids, to be a Youth Councillor for the Donx Youth.

I lasted about 8 months (and resigned) when I realised we didn’t really do that much except organize fun pizza parties.

I met Ed Miliband, he was the new MP the North Doncaster then. My friend & I had gone to complain about UCAS taking our money and then not processing our applications making our application late, and after the deadline – potentially affecting our uni offers (It didn’t). I stated it was because we’re working class, and the system was against us (Marxist in me). Of course, it was just a person not doing their job correctly, some clerical error. I can’t remember what he said he’d do. But I do wonder how many 16/17 year olds go to see their MP these days? You guys really should if you have an issue!

Ed asked, since he was new to the area, if I could organize for him to come to our school. I was pretty stoked with this & ended up doing a lil work with Ed. I had no idea back then that he could be the potential prime minister of 2016! (Hopefully, eh?!) – People, strangers, you meet will always surprise you. Everyone has a story.

I then was head-girl of the school in 6th form, and then also got excluded (for political reasons) as Head-Girl. I was also embarrassed about this. But as time has gone on, I realized just how kind of awesome it was. And it’s just another crazy story I get to tell. This taught me that the system, if it really wants to, will make sure you’re screwed over if you try and disrupt corrupted power.

As soon as I turned 15 my mom made me get a job. I didn’t even want one.  And earnt a measily £2.50 per hour of my life. I knew my time was worth more than watching kids throw plastic balls at each other and fish dirty nappies out of the ball-pool. But as I got older, I realised why my mom made me do it. 1.) to instil a sense of labour and work and pride in earning your own way. 2) to learn how to interact with people you may never interact with outside of that environment. I swapped the wacky warehouse for scraping chicken fat off trays at ASDA in the rotisserie for 2 years every weekend & some more, but for £8.50 an hour. Not too shabby for a 16/17/18 year old. I saved all my money from this job, & EMA and took my mom to NYC for her birthday. It’s one of the best trips I’ve ever had.

I went to study Fine Art at university, I’m not sure how I came to decide to go to university as I’m the first person & so far the only person who has gone to uni in my whole family. It’s something that was never discussed. I just came home one day & was like, oh I’ve applied to university! Like I’d just subscribed to a mailing list. I remember feeling very casual about it. I even thought that once I got to university, that I wouldn’t be smart enough, get home-sick and drop out.

But I was pretty wrong. I ended up bulking up my time an extra year & getting a BA & a MA.  I didn’t really return home for longer than 3 weeks for 4+ years.

My first uni year I applied to do Camp America. I ended up  being placed on an island in the middle of a beautiful, clear water lake surrounded by mountains and trees in New Hampshire. Once I arrived to USA, I stayed in an industrial part of New Jersey for a night, I had to catch another bus at 5:30am to take me to port authority bus station, NYC, where I had to catch a greyhound bus to Boston, switch to another bus in Boston to a Fullers Gas station in Meredith, NH. (a lonely, virtually empty – and closed gas station when I got there) Where a complete stranger from the camp was to meet me, alone. I felt like I was some tame, none-drug induced version of Jack Karoac’s On The Road at age 18/19. The age my friend just turned.

I had a decent enough time at the camp, but I felt like an outsider in a very -family orientated family camp, enriched in family tradition – where everyone had been brought up together. I counted the days down to when I could leave and be back in NYC. The strangest thing was, once I got to NYC for a whole week. I felt incredibly lonely. I hadn’t realized that I had accustomed myself to Sandy Island life and friends. That’s the thing about time, it punishes you later for wishing away your time.

I decided to do live my fantasy of “On The Road” I had about $500 in my pocket from my camp summer job and a flight home from LA. I was still in NYC. So I took a bus to DC (I didn’t have any sort of game plan, don’t ask how I was planning to get to LA?!) but ended up meeting some people around my age who were going cross country in  a van and camping. They asked if I wanted to join them so I decided to tag along. We did > DC > West Virgina and went Wild Rapid Boating > Virgina > Tennessee > Alabama > New Orleans — where my identity was stolen and I  was fruaded and had no $$ in my bank account. At this point I had about $150 to last me. I cried. I had no idea what to do. But  thing is, things work out. I was with good people. My mom wired me $80 >> we moved onto Texas, survived a mild hurricane >> Hitch-hiked over the border to Mexico, got really drunk and had to beg my way back into the USA >> New Mexico – saw some crazy bats > Went to Monument Valley and stayed on Native American land. I’ve never seen skies so clear. I slept outside on the ground in my sleeping bag instead of the tent – not even thinking about scorpions and crazy spiders and snakes that could have been hanging around – to sleep under the milkyway >> Went to Zion – hiked angels trek, and through rivers, went to Grand Canyon and we partied so hard we got asked to leave. >> We went to Vegas where I fake-ID’d my way into clubs, and bought nothing because well I had no money. But my new travel buddies help to pay for my liquor. We did a limo and ate at this super cool sushi place just off the strip. My first ever sushi experience> We drove to LA where we drank in a dive bar just near downtown LA, under a bridge. I felt like I was in some indie movie. This was the last night I saw my travel buddies. They were carrying on to San Francisco. I had my plane to catch.

That was the last time I saw them. I’ve seen a few of them since and we’re all still friends on Facebook. But this taught me to talk to strangers, take calculated risks, some times not having plans works out way better than having a rigid plan.

I once lived in this hip-apartment in Williamsburg one summer, that over looked the NYC skyline with a bunch of cool people doing internships for MTV, Saturday Night Live and The Onion – all on their daddy’s $$$ funds. I was funding my own dream. One of the dudes is an upcoming comedian on the West Coast and was in that Oscar winning Ben Affleck movie.

We were a mixed group of kids, with high energy, big dreams. Wide-Eyed in NYC. I ended up working for some of the most amazing and awesome people who changed my life in a then Chelsea Gallery. I remember how hot a NYC summer is… Coldplay Vida viva song was hot shit too. That album & Chris Brown Forever always takes me back.  I asked M, the gallery boss, what her story was, how did she and her husband open the gallery. She spoke about communist Poland, trips to Chicago that made her fall in love with NYC, a burning love for art & art-history, selling shoes, joining rich upperside ladies visiting studios and collections, borrowing money & opening their first gallery that’s still going strong 28/29 years later.

I remember every single piece of art in that summer show and if I even really think about it – how much each piece of art was being sold for. I’ve never been so upset about leaving a job (even though it was so short), some people, a place before that. But one of my distinctive memories is my last day there, i walked out of the gallery, turned left walked down to 9th ave, kind of holding tears back looking up at a clear blue hot sky. I walked to the first working pay-phone I could  find to call home to my mom to say how i was so happy that i had this amazing opportunity, but how sad I was to leave.  I thought that I’d probably never see the Postmasters crew again, I thought I’d get forgotten about because that’s how my life was/is… Important people just fleeting between moments.

Luckily, I get to go and see them every year and this makes my heart  so happy.

I left NYC and worked in a bookies (betting shop), trying to gain back the money I spent on my NYC wild adventure. I learnt how to bet, how to calculate all different bets like round robins and how to really bet on horses. That a favourite horse is statistically 33% to come in at a meeting, if you’re willing to chase your money around. I learnt how to follow soccer and do football bets. A great way to make money if it accumulates!  I saved enough money to take an amtrak train ride across USA the same summer with my good friend shivvers.

She made me a rule. I couldn’t talk about art the whole journey. I suspect that’s all I was bothered about back then. We stayed in the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas courtesy of her dad. Shivvers wouldn’t even let me open the mini-bar so we created our own from mini’s from the vegas giftshops. We had a cab driver who had some sort of turrets and cursed death on every driver he drove past. I learnt that it takes about 3 whole days to take a train from LA to Chicago, and that you should pack spare clothes and not just check them all in. There was a guy who was giving strangers Tattoos on the train (certainly not us). We sat on the train, making up our own before sunrise stories up for all the strangers. 2008 was a good year. I keep telling the kids on my course that 20 was one of the best years of my life.

I taught spanish kids english in Hastings for what I think was the Spanish Mafia. They paid me about £400 a week in fresh £50 notes, cash. I’d take it to the bank and every time panic that they might question me. They never did but I was sure they thought it was dodgy money.  These Spanish kids were clever, and spoke many languages. They learnt quick. I remember my favourite and most promising student failing her exam. She was the only one out of all 16 kids I taught, but I felt a sense of  responsibility & guilt for it. That I was the reason why she failed. Perhaps it was nerves. Perhaps it was my teaching. perhaps we were both complacent. I often wonder what they’re up to now and how their English is.

I went to Chicago and worked on social art projects, and at the university of Chicago. I saw proper Labour Activist movements, I worked with real poor communities. I wrote things for great art magazines. I lived with people who worked at the MCA and Hyde Park Contemporary Art Center. I saw Obama’s house, I saw the Home Alone house, I had my first ever real Thanksgiving, and lived through the coldest weather I have EVER EVER walked through (about -20). These experiences woke something up in me, I went back to standing true to what I loved doing. Drawing and comedy and truths.

I wanted nothing more than a 1st class degree in art, but I couldn’t figure what I was missing to push my grade in to the first category. When I decided to go back to what I love, not worrying too much about the marking criteria, I finally graduated at the last hurdle with that hard worked for first class degree. Another lesson to be learnt. Sometimes you need to stick to your guns and your integrity. Don’t just do something to please others or because you think it will sell. People can see if it’s not true. And remember not everything that glitters is gold.

I have since never had to use my degree. No one has ever asked to see it, except when I went back to study. i do remember my art lecturer sending me an email telling me what I got. my heart was practically in my mouth, I opened the email using Boltbus free slow wifi on a bus from NYC to Boston (On my way to work back at camp some 3 years later from my first experience). I was stoked. I just wanted to tell the world! But I was travelling alone, so I did the next best thing. I wrote an email to my mom, a few select friends, to M at Postmasters and to a past lecturer michael corris who I looked up to in many different ways.

The first year after graduating with an art degree can be pretty hard. They never really tell you that, you assume it will be hard but you’re hopeful that it won’t. I graduated in the thick of the new recession. people were loosing their jobs left, right and center. Companies were being acquired or forced into bankruptcy. I got lucky and worked part time in a bookstore with another group of amazing people. Nothing prepares you for the doubt that you feel about following what you love when you consistently get rejected. But with rejections come some lessons. Lessons turned into opportunities and more opportunities and more lessons to learn from.

Things started working out for me with making a basic living with art and drawing. And then I started feeling all funny. I experienced fatigue like I’ve never experienced in my life, I was having these drenching nightsweats, I couldn’t eat, I had nose bleeds constantly, I had pretty bad bone-pain. It felt like flu-like symptoms but without the flu. I went back to the USA where I ended up being told it looked like Lymphoma. Cancer. I was like, fuck.

My whole life view was flipped upside down. Things that I thought was important didn’t seem as important as they once did. The unimportant things felt way more important. Time felt heavy. I had to grasp, in that moment, that my life and everything I’ve known will eventually blink away in a matter of decades, if not years, if not hours, and I will cease to exist. Which is hard, because when you’re young – you feel kind of invincible. Like you can put things off, because there’s always tomorrow, next week, next year. But there’s isn’t always more time.

Things carried on as normal though. As if nothing had changed. Which can be the most annoying thing ever, because I guess I’m still hurting and I want change. I want more urgency in things. I learnt from being unwell to ask for help if I need it. We can’t do everything on our own.  I decided to learn from these experiences and use them to make a difference, so I went back to university and I am now studying Radiotherapy & Oncology.

I got hit by a car on my bike 2 weeks ago and broke & bruised my ribs. I flew over my handlebars and through air, I flipped upside down and landed on my neck.  And I realized that there’s far more probability in me dying from being hit by a car than most other things.

So, what does it feel like to be older?

From time to time something reminds you of the past. Things hurt that never hurt before. Music was definitely better 10 years ago than it is right now. You start to buy things because they wash well, and shoes because they’re much more comfortable to wear. Time goes way faster. Experiences mash together like a tie-die. Leaving only horrendous memories and those euphoria, bucket-listy, nice moments that help build who you are in this very moment. There’s nothing much else in between.

When you get older, things you thought were important when you were younger aren’t as important and those things you thought were unimportant become more urgent.

I’m left looking at my younger course friends, what life experiences are in store for their next 6/7 years on this life, and just how much different a 19 yr old mind & body feel like compared to a 26 yr old mind/body.

I ended  my friends birthday with this thought:  What if we celebrated our expected years left instead of our years already spent?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See ya 2013, Ahola 2014!

2013 was one crazy year. It was both insanely busy and then had weeks, if not months where it felt all I did was get up around 1pm, try and do some work – still feeling hungover- a heavy fatigue that I just can’t shake (even though I hadn’t touched liquor in months)  and by the time 5:30pm had come around I was running a bath & was already in bed by 7pm. I had literally 4-6 hours out of bed for weeks at a time.
Equally, when I had to get up to go to work or on my better days, I did LOADS of amazing cool things. I drew at the International Health Expo in London for NHS Commissioning Board, I drew loads of other things for them too, I drew at my job in London a few times, I drew INSIGNEO a new cool NHS & University of Sheffield research center. I drew other things for the Uni of Sheffield, I drew TEDxSHF, I drew Doc/Fest, I drew loads of other things too that took me around the UK. When I wasn’t doing that, I was doing a bit of teaching or designing websites for a few art things. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was going to interviews, spitting feathers about whether I had done what it needed to get a place at Uni to study Radiation Oncology.
The winter months turned into spring which turned into summer. My bed felt the same, and lets not forget how cold last year was (although judging the weather today – I’m like daaaayuuumm- IT’S COLD). I went back to America, had another super summer – which was to be my last- but this time with 2 of my fellow comrades and we roadtripped across the USA.  I came back, had more medical shizzle, went and enrolled onto my intense healthcare course. Drew some more stuff for lots of people! I’m now working on a few things for TalkTalk. And went to Paris.
The new year always makes me real nervous because I just don’t know what is in store… Great things can’t last forever, right? But all I can do is hope, and work hard. Keep my eye on the ball and take chances.  Here is to REALLY hoping that my prognosis for 2014 is even better. Thanks for helping make it so, you guys.
Each year I do a blog setting what I want/would LOVE to happen in the year ahead. It seems to kind of work. Who knows whether it would have happened  anyways or by writing it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy or indeed if it was because I took the time to write this  list and it’s magic! (so taking no chances on anything). Here is my new list. It’s pretty much the same as last year with some re-thoughts. But I can’t stress enough my main goals are to:
STUDY-HARDER
BE MORE MOTIVATED
NOT WASTE TIME
WORK HARD (ER)
MAKE A DIFFERENCE (IN A POSITIVE WAY, SOME HOW)
MAKE TIME FOR FRIENDS
HELP OTHERS
HAVE MORE FUN
ADVENTURE
WHAT I WISH WISH WISH for in 2014: Keeping the same values/wishes/hopes/resolutions as last year:
  1. That my mom, bro, nan and friends are all super happy, heathy and that NO ONE DIES! Including ME! But I would die instead of the above people if it has to come down to that.
  2. Last year, and the year before that I asked for a job  that I enjoyed. I ended up getting at lots of cool small ones!  So thank you 2013 for an amazing job year;  PLEASE New Year help me find these golden eggs of opportunity and help me reach my potential. Help me make GREAT/BETTER impressions at the places where I currently work. Let me move small mountains. Please find extra work to fund me through uni. Please find me more amazing opportunities. Let me be BETTER. WORK HARDER. Even more so, PLEASE provide me with opportunities to help others and to make a positive difference! Esp. in radiotherapy.
  3. Make extra time for friends, make sure i actually see friends who live else where. Don’t let money define this.
  4. This year I need to be more motivated. Be more time-focused. Less TV and more drawing. More studying less sleeping. More blog work updates, less scrawling through the Facebook time-line. This is also very, very do-able if I just organize my priorities too! I need to make more great art-works rather than just research and develop ideas that never get shown. I need to remember the stuff I learn in class!
  5. I really really hope that i can make a positive difference this year, help others that need it, and make the world a place i’m proud to live in.
  6. More teaching opportunities PLEASE! This is a must if i want a chance at achieving number 5!
  7. I would like to interact with people better, so I can communicate effectively and be wayyy more better and likeable esp for clinical placement.
  8. As with any artist, any exhibition/residential/print opportunities no matter how small or little they may seem all adds to the endless cannon of critical thinking and art practice!
  9. I need to become more motivated to learn my material… I can only make the difference I want to make if I am disciplined enough to sit down and dedicate the time to master my craft. Please give me the strength, the focus and the motivation – and mostly the energy to do this!
  10. I just want to feel normal again. Like not have bone ache, or nightsweats, where i could get up in the morning and not feel insanely hungover despite not actually touched alcohol in weeks. I want to not feel SUPER tired for NO reason anymore. I want to be fit, i want to be healthy again, i just want my body and health back from circa 2006 (that was a good year ha!) I’d even take health back from circa 2010.
  11. I’d like to take up running, agaaaaiiiinnnn.
  12. I know I can’t travel like I have done previous years, but I would absolutely love to visit USA again & do lots of small local EU travelling like to Italy!

Thanks 2013 for a dope year, 2014 I know you’ve got my back. Here’s to hard-work, game changing, trying to stay focused, fighting against the ordinary daily events, challenges and finding ways or re-focusing when things might not work out exactly as we might want them to. TO FRIENDSHIP yo!

Smizz’s Top 10 Movies of 2013

This year has been hard, like REALLY hard to pick out good top 10 worthy movies. I’m not sure what’s happening out there – but this year has seen a whole-lot of a bunch of  films that were just kind of “Meh”- They were enjoyable, but did it give me any food for thought, or awe inspiring writing or cinematic technique or emotion to deal with afterwards, did they play with genre  or make you think about how far we’ve come or where to go as a human race? Nope. Not many did. Maybe I just didn’t see the ‘right’ movies, but I’m hoping that 2014 will bring some great ones! However, here’s some that did stick with me.

 

1.) Stories We Tell

A documentary that I’ve only just seen, to sneak in high at number 1, this subtle, heartbreaking documentary masquerades as a straightforward family memoir about Polley’s long-dead mother. However, “Stories We Tell” gradually becomes something else, an inquiry into the nature of memory and reality, a love letter to Polley’s English-born dad (who narrates the film), a puzzle box with unanswerable questions about how we become who we are at its center. Polley’s touching documentary wallows in greatness both in cinema and emotion.

 

2.) 12 Years A Slave

Steve McQueen has created another masterpiece. Unsettling and formally rigorous, Steve McQueen’s fact-based tale of a free black man sold into slavery in the 1850s puts America’s darkest secrets on screen for the first time. 12 Years A Slave is so good it makes “The Butler” look extremely poorly made. It’s dark and raw, it exposes everything, without sugarcoating it. Beautifully shot and edited, the film features moments of tension, heartbreak.

It’s noteworthy that a British director has become one of the few filmmakers to delve deeply into this subject, and the combination of John Ridley’s powerful script and McQueen’s directorial skills has inspired exceptional performances from the entire cast. Their dramatization of Northup’s experiences is both riveting and uncomfortable to watch, as the film depicts the perverse nature of a society that permitted such a barbaric system. Hopefully it will reach a large US audience, who will learn how a privileged Southern elite cruelly exploited their fellow humans in order to acquire greater wealth for themselves. Masterful.

 

3.) Philomena 

As someone whose heritage lies in Ireland, and whose grandparent was raised by nuns and spent years and year working as an advocate for the rights of adopted people and survivors of Irish Magdalene Laundries, I’m always prepared to be either underwhelmed or angry at the film industry’s ineptitude with subjects like this (and lots of other subjects to be honest!). Steve Coogan deserves utmost respect for producing and writing this film (and let’s face it, needed this from his poor movie based on Alan Partridge earlier this year). His script is excellent, consistently witty and engaging on the surface whilst spinning many more layers beneath the surface which became unconsciously stirring. Faultless acting, always engaging. A gentle, funny, heartbreaking and unforgettable film – no matter how far from its “true story” it might be.

 

4.) HER

Theodore Twombly  is letter writer #612 for the company “Beautifulhandwrittenletters.com.” He essentially spends his days crafting poetic, poignant, and personalized communications for other people’s relationships. You can’t find a more dynamic and compelling story about the human connection and where we’re headed as a society. Johansson’s Samantha is sexy, open-hearted, sympathetic, witty and loving – — and guess what,  she’s also the operating system on Theo’s computer, in Spike Jonze alternately wistful and whimsical near-future rom-com, a lovely and slightly troubling vision of utopia. This is probably the best of Jonze’s career so far, and maybe deserves higher praise and wider distribution that it’s currently getting. (Also, whoa, that moustache).

 

5.) The Place Beyond The Pines

This is a strange movie. A movie of a story of trashy criminals and dirty cops evolving into one about fathers and sons and life.   A life is not just about your life but those you affect and those you leave behind for years to come. he film went for editing and filming styles to echo the characters’ situations and actions. You can guess what that would look like when Gosling is racing through the forest on his motorcycle. But as we approach the more expansive ending, there are some beautiful shots of the trees lining Schenectady’s countryside roads. That works particularly well with Cooper giving a remarkable performance of Avery constantly coming to grips with his life.

It could have been tightened up a bit, but “The Place Beyond the Pines” isn’t telling a quick story. It’s telling the story of multiple lives, of death, family, love, honour and obedience. Employing overall themes of revenge, ambition, and what it means to be a father, and a son.

 

6.) Short Term 12

20-something supervising staff member of a foster care facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. Contrary to its title, the effects that Short Term 12 leaves you with are anything but short term. In what has become one of the most personal films of 2013, it’s extremely hard to write a review for them.  Destin Daniel Cretton creates a film which the characters render the deepest and darkest corners of your heart, while never being melodramatic. It’s  a real gem, that totally caught me off guard.

 

7.) Before Midnight

Years ago, before doing education through #hashtags was a thing on Twitter, in my 3rd year of Art School we used to host E-Crits. Each week one of us in class would host a crit on MSN (yes, MSN and this was even after MSN was a thing) – this was an E-Crit. Like an online reading/seminar group. Extra credit of course. I did something on space, architecture and skateboarding and revolutionary potential based on an essay by Henri Lefebrve.  My friend Jamie made us watch Before Sunrise which was in 10 minute clips on YouTube at the time and we was to discuss that. I’m not sure what we really discussed. However if it has been Before Midnight, I’m sure the e-crit would have been lively full of studious observations of amazing character development and dialogue.

Before Midnight is the 3rd sequel part to Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset, and comes in 9 years later! This film is easily the best film of the franchise so far. Packing an emotional and euphoric punch like third-installments like Toy Story 3 do , films that have a close-nit relation to their predecessors but saving all the masterful speeches and epiphanies for the viewer to indulge in their finales. The film doesn’t take any cheap shots with every scene constructed from real emotion and feeling incredibly authentic and genuine. There are long takes for the viewer to be present whether it’s in an airport conversation between Jesse and Hank or at a lunch with in the beautiful valleys of Greece or even in a hotel room where a man and a woman share intimacy like older lovers typically do.

The film is breathtakingly accurate and precise in capturing the love and relationship of couples, it will and should be studied by film schools and writers for years to come.  Everything’s better with maturity.

 

8.) Spectacular Now

From the writers of 500 Days of Summer (one of my favourite movies!), which we all know wasn’t just your average love story, comes a seemingly average love story in The Spectacular Now. But it isn’t very average, and that’s the beauty of it.  It’s a heartfelt story that distills all of the beauty, tenderness, and apocalyptic bleakness of youth into a 95 minute love story that portrays teenagers in the most honest way since the films of John Hughes.

Writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber make this a surprising tone piece, one that is more concerned with the loquacious behaviour of teens rather than the raunchy behaviour. The film showed how one’s addiction to the bottle can compromise their life.  Much of the film operates on deep, character emotion, so attaching an ending that neatly packages things up would’ve been a complete contradiction to the film’s focus.

This is an important movie for teenagers, and a well deserved kudos to actually making something that is full of substance and never trivialises real life.

 

9.) We’re The Millers

I know what you’re thinking, how on earth did this get into ANY top 10 list of the year? Are you serious Smizz? Well, perhaps it was how off guard this movie caught me with how good I thought it was! I went to the movies expecting some shit, but I wanted to see some empty-leave you feeling a bit better-shit anyways. But what I got was not only the feel good factor I was hoping for but much more!

It’s not a gold mine of comedy by any means, but it did the job it told us it would do: Make us laugh and give us a fun ride. They really brought together a dysfunctional family and did it in a way that allowed for some suspension of disbelief. A lot of comedies nowadays have those hit or miss scenes where you either laugh, or you just can’t suspend your disbelief. We’re The Millers is pretty much a compilation of those kinds of scenes that hit just the right tone to pull it off as funny, clever and it just kinda grows on you.  Ultimately, a solid comedy and that’s worth noting!

 

10.) This Is The End

Although ‘This is the end’ does not have the greatest storyline in the history of film, it is a very inventive movie in its own way. It was at times self-indulgent, absolutely bizare, and even lazy. There’s still something about this movie if it appeals to your sense of humor. I wouldn’t say the plot is non-existent, but it certainly isn’t developed enough to pay much attention to it. The movie is rather a collection of gags with typical American humor, which is exactly what you would expect from anything created by the duo Seth Rogen-Evan Goldberg. This is the End’ contains a fair amount of satire on the posh world of show-business and it’s enjoyable seeing all the actors and actresses not taking themselves too seriously and playing themselves as sometime extremely unlikable characters.

 

Smizz’s Bucketlist – Revisited – Nearly a year on

In a few months time, it will be a 2 years anniversary of when I got told that I might have cancer. A Lymphoid Malignancy to be exact. I’ve spent many, many posts dedicated to trying to get my head around not having an ultimate certainty that most 24 year olds have.

When you’re young, you kind of feel invinsible. Not in a Superman way – but in a – Oh yeah, let’s buy concert tickets for next year, or in 5 years we’ll buy a house sort of invincible. You make promises to do something awesome in the near future. In my case – I bought some plane tickets to NYC. My Doctor told me that I needed to cancel my trip.

And sure , the future is of course a never existing thing – a constraint of a “big picture” and no-ones future is ever a certainty – as you could get hit by a car or be in a natural disaster. But I’ve always thought I’d never make it to 30. I’ve always had this feeling that I wouldn’t live to be old. You can ask any of my  friends from high-school, I’ve always said this. But I always assumed it would be a tragic bike accident or something, not an illness. I mean, it still could be a bike accident that kills me off, but you know?

What does this mean for me? This past year has just ruined my bigger picture over-all. But that’s not a bad thing necessarily. I think sometimes it’s better to focus on smaller pictures, and so that these smaller pictures can eventually add to a collage of a more interesting big-picture.  “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.”

There is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars. So, guys, I’m here for a good time, not a long time!  Last year I was worried that I wouldn’t make it back to the USA again. I panicked and made a Bucketlist.  And so here it is, this is an very incomplete, living list, re-evaluated, re-wrote. Over time, I’ll update it to add things I’ve forgotten and to cross off things I’ve accomplished.

  1. Show an internationally renowned gallery
  2. Get published in a nationally-distributed print publication
  3. Be on the cover of a major magazine
  4. Stay in a new country/ one place for a full year
  5. Own a genuine William Powhida artwork
  6. Learn to properly carve wood
  7. Skydive
  8. Run a marathon (practicing 5-10k runs in prep for this)
  9. Sail South America
  10. Learn to cook (I can obviously cook, but I wanna be amazing & i’m beginning to learn the craft)
  11. Speak Italian fluently (Started this)
  12. Live in Italy for a whole year
  13. Get a drawing on the cover of the New Yorker
  14. Surf
  15. Go to the Big Sur
  16. Ride the trans-siberian railway from China to London
  17. Create something that touches a hundred million people
  18. See actual lava
  19. Experience not being super scared to check my bank balance
  20. Create a piece of life-saving research
  21. Actually finish University & get a job straight away into Radiotherapy & Oncology/Medicine
  22. Give away a billion dollars
  23. Learn to make proper awesome cocktails
  24. Teach/Learn at an Ivy League University
  25. Sit in the Oval Office
  26. Meet Obama
  27. Buy a round of drinks for an entire bar
  28. Visit all of Thailand
  29. Visit Japan, specifically Tokyo
  30. Visit NYC
  31. Visit California
  32. Live in Brooklyn
  33. Live in Brooklyn again and for longer!
  34. See all 50 USA States! (up to 42 currently)
  35. Visit Patagonia
  36. Teach at University level
  37. Write a sit-com
  38. Be in a movie
  39. Live in LA or San Francisco
  40. Have my work printed in a Taschen Published book
  41. Work for a cool start-up
  42. Bike  at least 1 part of the Tour De France
  43. Find Love
  44. Visit Hawai
  45. Travel First class on a plane & not pay to do so
  46. Do what you love
  47.  Love what you do.
  48. Go to New Orleans
  49. Draw a TEDx Talk
  50. Sleep on a beach & look at the stars
  51. Go to a SNL live recording
  52. Skateboard down a San Francisco hill.
  53. Go to Bali
  54. Learn to Snow Board
  55. Live in Canada
  56. Make a positive difference
  57. Do something worth-while for others
  58. Private
  59. Private
  60. Private
  61. Private
  62. Private

Things that should always be strived for:

-Find true-love

– Be loved

Be a better person

– Be thankful for every day and all the amazing friends I have.

– Do what you love, and LOVE What you do (continue)

Smizz’s Top 10 movies of 2012

It’s that time again where I try and judge what’s the best movies that came out and why. However, I apologise in advance that there are some of my guilty pleasures in here which probably would never make an official top 20 list, never mind a whole top 10!  And there is no mention of the Hobbit, or Skyfall  or Dark Knight – blah, blah, blah. You can catch those reviews else where. But never the less. I hope you enjoy & treat yourself to some of these movies, if you haven’t seen then!

 

10) PREMIUM RUSH

In pure style, I’ll start of with a biased Smizz guilty pleasure choice. Premium Rush, featuring the ever sexy Joseph Gordon-Levitt (probably why it fits in to my top 10) who is a sexy, fixed gear bike riding courier in NYC. EVERYTHING smizz LOVES. Bikes, Joe & NYC!

An action movie about biking through the streets of Manhattan is certainly an interesting idea, and may seem a bit silly, but writer and director David Koepp manages to create a fun and exhilarating film around this premise. Premium Rush is the type of movie that gets better as it goes on, expanding on its characters and creating riveting and never tiresome chase scenes. Premium Rush never takes itself too seriously, and neither should you. It’s fun, adrenaline pushed, basic at times – but it’s nostalgic directing style seems to hit it, amazing research and detail about bikes and most of all representational of riding life in the bike-lane. No breaks!

 

9) LOOPER

Uh-oh, another Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie. Stick with me, guys. Looper’s director Rian Johnson has removed  doubts and given me hope that sci-fi in Hollywood can be more than just empty spectacle. Looper is all about dealing with the implications of time-travel, although it is very much a film about the past. The film is all about the past, how it affects the present and the future and how it drives people with the majority of the film building characters and establishing plot.

Looper is a film that goes to extraordinary lengths to leave every base covered in its quest to avoid plot holes and inconsistencies and in my mind it deals with the problems associated with time travel very well. The writing and direction are superb but another strength are the acting performances. Details from  the future cities contiuing to be expanded upwards and outwards but they themselves are filled with tent cities in which a large vagrant class live are current, and believable.  Life is cheap and hard in this world in which the have’s and have not’s are much more separated than today.

There is enough in the film to make to world feel as though it is our near future and the technology on display feels as though it is a few logical steps along the road. It is well designed and acted and features a wonderfully multifaceted and intelligent story which rewards patience and concentration with a fantastic ending.

 

8) FRANKENWEENIE

There was a time when Tim Burton was systematically churning out great, original, quirky movies that endeared him to the general public and earned him a large amount of die-hard followers who hung on to every last idiosyncratic trademark. But recently, we all sigh at the same crap-kola Burton has been bringing out recently – which are adaptions of books and so forth – not his original ideas.

However, I was relieved to see Frankenweenie and thought YEAH Tim’s back on form! While the movie does not really develop its characters deeply and sometimes drops certain plot lines we would have liked to see more of, it makes up for it tenfold with the thing that Tim Burton has more of than anybody else: imagination. So many moments in this movie are truly original, clever and, best of all, funny. “Frankenweenie” is a giant tribute to old horror flicks, set against a sweet story of a kid and his dog.

 

7) ARGO

We already know that Ben Affleck is better as a director than an actor. He tells a story uniquely with his own cinematic art and style. In Argo, this is a new challenge for him. Making a large and historical drama thriller. Argo is based on a declassified true story about Tony Mendez rescuing six US diplomats from Iran.

After speaking to his son while watching a movie one night, Mendez had a creative yet genius idea. He and the escaped hostages would pretend to be the film crew of a new sci-fi movie called “Argo”. With the help of Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers (Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Arkin), this fake crew made their story quite credible.

What’s impressive is it can balance its various tones decently without being a mess. Outside the storytelling is a solid craft. The film looks credibly retro. They obviously wanted to make everything look the same to the real life story. Argo is simply a classic. No matter how ridiculous the premise sounds, it’s still undeniably smart and spectacular.

 

 

6.) PITCH-PERFECT

2012 has seen a lack of great, funny movies. Sure there’s been 21 Jump Street (which was a surprise hit with me) but a serious lack of decent comedies. Take Bring It On, Glee (not in the icky cheesy way, but because there’s singing involved, the good kind), Mean Girls, and add some quick-witted, sharp-tongued dialogue and commentary, and you have the funniest of movies.

At first I was leery: a movie about A Cappella singing groups; I thought at best, it would be a teen flick. But, I was unbelievably surprised. Every kind of humour is covered here, and done to absolute perfection. You will be adopting many, many of the lines into your daily lexicon. If you liked Bridesmaids, i think you’ll dig this!

 

 

5) DETACHMENT

Detachment technically is a movie from 2011, but didn’t get a release in the UK until 2012. Its one of those films that leave you sitting in silence for a while when the credits roll much like excellent Dramas like “Requiem for a dream” or “Downloading Nancy”.

On the surface “Detachment” deals with the crumbling American education system through the eyes of substitute teacher Henry Barthes (played by Adrian Brody) who starts a new assignment in a new school with new teachers, in a new class with new pupils like he is obviously used to.

The beginning shows him trying to get into this new class around the bullies threatening him and other pupils, making it hard to teach anything. At first it looks like all those “good teacher turns around a bad class” movies but its not. It’s grim stuff, made more grave by the undeniable ring of truth.

The ancient Greeks tell us “we suffer our way to wisdom.” By the end of the film, you’ll hope that is true for most of these characters. Somewhere on screen, between a silent hug and the opening lines to Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher,” you will find a glimmer of hope. But you have to work for it. A powerful and disturbing (but necessary) film.

 

 

4.) BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

You probably have never seen anything quite like “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. It is a film that will have you thinking about the love between a father and a daughter, about appreciating what you have in life and our ability to adapt to whatever comes at us. Quvenzhané Wallis is certain to beat Anna Paquin and Tatum O’Neal out as the youngest best actress nominee in history.

This movie is an unique vision that sweeps viewers away with energy, attitude and a full, vibrant, sense of life. Containing outstanding performances, great cinematography, and a fantastic score, the film is just so engrossing. Do yourself a favor and check it out. “When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces.”

 

 

3.) SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN

Thank you, Malik Bendjelloul, for giving me the opportunity to hear this amazing story. Thank you, Camilla Skagerstrom, for showing how much stunning cinematography can add to a story about a poverty stricken man from Detroit.

I was super lucky enough to see this at Sheff Doc/Fest this year. Would I have seen it otherwisE? not so sure! Which would have been a travesty  If like me, and you didn’t know the story, I’ll give you just a little background. Rodriguez, a song writer/singer in the 70s was ‘discovered’ by a couple of white guys, in a smoke filled Detroit dive bar. (His music reminds me somewhat of Bob Dylan’s) A couple of albums were produced in the U.S.….the albums didn’t make it big….in fact, not many sold. Rodriguez went back to working his day job and that was the end of that. However, in the very isolated South Africa, Rodriguez’s music became a phenomenon compared to Elvis or the Beatles. His music was a solace for so many Africans fighting the war on Apartheid. Rodriguez didn’t know anything about the South Africa portion of his story. “Searching for Sugar Man” is a documentary made about two South Africans searching for information about a mysterious American songwriter, who had a huge impact on their lives, but no one seemed to know anything about.

This IS a real fairy tale. One you have to see to believe. One that can restore your faith in humanity, and possibly change the way you see fame and fortune. One that will remind you that you never know how far reaching your daily actions may be. Fingers crossed for an Oscar nomination for this!

 

2.) UNTOUCHABLE

Intouchables, directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, starring Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy is possibly the best French movie of the year. This is not because of a lack of worthy contenders, but truly because Intouchables is that profound. It touches on themes of presumptions, social class difference, health, and as naïve as it may sound, the universality of humanity.

Sy is a failed robber, going through the motions and playing the stereotypical jobless émigré. Cluzet is a romantic and melancholy mind trapped in a useless body. The circumstances that bring them together are too funny to spoil here, but meet they do, and an awkward relationship quickly blossoms as they bring out the best in each other.

The film’s simplicity is delightfully misleading: the script is a masterpiece of comedy writing, and however good the rest of the cast is, the central duo is magical. This is one of the most unique, beautiful and honest friendships ever committed to film. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry… a delightful celebration of everything in life that makes it worthwhile.

 

1.) PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

I was so taken aback by this movie, EVERYTHING about it, that I saw it 3 times at the movies.

The story is very simple yet complicated because of how much goes on. But the way it unfolds is beautiful and sad, sometimes all at once. While it has its funny moments, it also manages to go through dark topics as well such as homosexuality, drugs and death. Stephen Chbosky handles his story very well, never feeling like it’s being forced but rather it flowed nicely and carefully.

Directing wise, it was shot very well. The cinematography is gorgeous, especially the scenes where the camera overlooks the skyline of Pittsburgh and during intimate scenes between the characters. You could not get anyone better to direct it other than the author himself because this is his book. This is his vision so he knows exactly how it goes in his head and we can see throughout the film, just how much his vision has truly come alive. The result is both engaging and satisfying.

The musical score is done by Michael Brook who’s also responsible for Into The Wild, another favorite of mine, and he did a very good job. The soundtrack is awesome. Along with Mr. Chbosky, Alexandra Patsavas, who’s also the music supervisor for The OC, did a great job of picking out the songs and treated it as if it were a mix tape.  What makes the cast so special is the chemistry. Everyone got along so well and you can tell that they’re very comfortable with each other and you feel convinced that these people are really friends thus you actually care about the characters and what happens. It was absolutely perfect.

Just like a darker John Hughes (compliment), it is infinite in it’s awesomeness.

“I don’t know if I will have the time to write anymore letters because I might be too busy trying to participate. So if this does end up being the last letter I just want you to know that I was in a bad place before I started high school and you helped me. Even if you didn’t know what I was talking about or know someone who has gone through it, you made me not feel alone. Because I know there are people who say all these things don’t happen. And there are people who forget what it’s like to be 16 when they turn 17. I know these will all be stories someday. And our pictures will become old photographs. We’ll all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening, I am here and I am looking at her. And she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.”