Friday, August 08, 2014

Birthday Suits (or, feeling okay about nakedness)


Photographer Lucy Hilmer has taken a photograph of herself wearing nothing but a pair of comfy white cotton pants and some socks and moccasins on every one of her birthdays since 1974. This series- the aptly named Birthday Suits- is wonderful, chronicling the changes which in life are usually so subtle, but much clearer when captured in staggered succession.

Visible changes to Hilmer's face, and body and additions to her family tell of the life lived along the way. Nothing extraordinary; unless, that is, you count standing nearly naked at the roadside in Death Valley as extraordinary, which you just might. This is a body that isn't so dissimilar from my own when starkers, or it could be the process of ageing and perhaps a glimpse of motherhood that make them feel universal. This private view into the life of a stranger felt oddly familiar, like memories of seeing my Mum naked in the bath and how normal and comfortable that felt, even though I would unlikely see it now. Chattering and chattering away on the loo while she floated about in the water, or, when I was really little lathering up a loofah and giving her back a good scrub; really getting to the dead skins cells, to that part of the back that only gets tended to by other people. The part that translates as "can you do my back?" when on the beach.

Either way, these photographs have lodged themselves into my brain and have stayed since. It's because there's something about them that illicit an acceptance of the body.

I've come a good way overcoming body hang-ups in the last 4 years or so. I was never hugely body-conscious as a teenager. My Dad told me from a young age that fat was a horrible word. And my Granny- who supplied me with issues of Vogue from the start- once held an issue up whilst we were basking in the sun of her back garden and pointed at Kate Moss on the cover. "Look! Look at that," she squinted at her waist, "You do know this isn't real, don't you?" I can't remember my Mum saying much about bodies at all. But as soon as I hit 18 and grew hips and stuff and all of those nights during my A-Levels of going to bed and staying up late with a sweet heap of sugary granola for company started to show. There were moments of looking down at my body in the bath and thinking "huh. look at that roll," and for some reason this little niggle developed more by the time I went to university until I found myself having those negative body conversations with girlfriends over beers at the pub. Those conversations in which you sort of jeer each other on, moaning in equal parts about how you both wished you could be better. Resolutions about going to the gym, and self control that doesn't account for pragmatism or fun and only parades as stemming from self respect, and really, it all comes back to comparing yourself to a particular body ideal you feel obliged to follow. All of this instead of viewing a changing body as a cool, womanly thing and tummy wobbles as natural, so natural that the paintings of irresistible sirens in local galleries even have them.

I've found dancing, being naked with nice people and going topless on a beach in Croatia all things that have helped along the way, but I understand that being really confident about your own body when you're in your 20s is still a tricky path to navigate. Not for everybody, but certainly for myself and I know for many others. One of the nice things that comes with this stage of trial and error, comfort and discomfort are the mini revelations that can come along the way. The sort of revelations that women in their thirties and forties maybe don't think about as much as they did in their twenties. But they're the revelations that come with grasping the attractiveness of flaws and variety; of watching older women on the beaches with dimply arses and sprouting hair wading back to shore after an intense butterfly crawl in the clear. Or the lovely surprise of sharing or exploring a new body, and of how wonderful and powerful the female body can be whether it is strengthened through dance or exercise, changed and/or recovered through illness, pregnancy and life changes. They're ideas that all seem fairly obvious when you're feeling in a positive space about yourself, and standing in front of a mirror starkers and thinking "yeah!" but it's easy enough to have hiccups and forget. Usually induced by finding yourself in a changing room with a pair of trousers around your thighs, perhaps. (Or apply appropriate hang-up as applicable) These are the things I wish I had learnt at school, but which I realise I probably couldn't have.

In short, this photo series gives a good nudge in the right direction. Bodies are great, and I just wish I hadn't wasted so much time thinking otherwise, or feeling shy about doing cool stuff with my body, like dancing in PE lessons without shame. I hope these photographs can stay in my head and bamboozle those moments in which I still find myself counting down weeks to specific events based on my ability to lose weight; beaches or men or family events onto which I project a slimmer-chinned version of myself.





Monday, August 04, 2014

Outfit: Sandals for weeks

I'm relishing summer at the moment. Clammy and upper-lip-sweat-inducing sometimes, yes. But that ease of slipping your bare feet into a pair of sandals and living in them for weeks, or of leaving the house in the evening without a coat. Sleeping most of the night with the sheets kicked off and keeping a jug of cold water permanently in the fridge. Oh, it's good.

These are a couple of outfits I've been kicking about in recently. Special shout-out to the lilac hairclip, which I found on the pavement and have been sliding in when I want to cheaply imitate Margot Tenenbaum. (I don't smoke and I have all of my fingers, it's not going very well.)

Denim top, Warehouse. Stripy silk skirt, Asos White. Sandals, Urban Outfitters. 
Top and trousers, both secondhand. Birky Birkinstocks. 

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 7

Happy Weekend! This morning I listened to Bowie (I'm exploring the albums I've never listened to; starting today, with 'Pin Ups') cleaned my bathroom and swept my floors, recycled an accumulation of glass bottles and then headed around the corner to Takk, where I drank a latte and enjoyed being indoors with the door open whilst the rain clattered down outside. Being indoors, but being able to smell the outdoors, mmm the best place to be when it's raining. A quick thank you to you lovely people who donated a coffee to me; it really means a lot and blogging this morning was a much more enjoyable experience for it. 

The Weekend List



Culture

"Just because I achieved some microcosmic degree of success in a field that people romanticise, it doesn’t feel to me that I have to make a career out of it." Interview with writer David Shapiro on creative expectations, the art of choosing an alias pen-name and relationships with parents. 

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something." Why Louis CK hates mobile phones.

If you watched Richard Linklater's 'Boyhood' and you wondered which tracks were included on Ethan Hawke's post-Beatles 'best of the solo material' compilation mix then you're in luck; the tracklist is here.

Music

Wyatting. The verb referring to the act of taking a pub hostage through the playing of terrible songs on the jukebox. Ned Beauman wrote about it in The Guardian some years back. Deliciously mischievous or the work of a snobbish party pooper; you decide.

A song for your weekend: I Talk To The Wind (2) by Giles, Giles and Fripp.



Food

"The sort of thing that a college boy will shovel into his mouth before hitting a weights room that smells of Tuesday's socks" << Now that's the way to describe a lentil, mint and feta omelette. The Quadrille blog features recipes from their latest releases with opening gems like this.

Poetry

Pamela Anderson wrote a poem and posted it on Facebook.

"My peanut butter and jam both ran out in the same sandwich, so truly romance is alive in the world today." I went to a poetry reading in Berlin and was really bummed out to have to leave to catch a bus before Crispin Best came on. (Thanks to Harriet for the heads up!) Next time, next time. I thoroughly recommend watching this video of one of his readings a couple of years ago.

Thought For The Day:

Dancing out of the sunroof. 16 seconds of goodness and only 86 views; the internet was made for small joys like this YouTube clip of a woman (aka my new hero) dancing in a moving car in snowy Cleveland.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Moving Moodboard

I think it's time for another moving moodboard. I've just returned from a splendid week-long holiday in Germany. Most of the time was spent in Berlin with a couple of nights in Leipzig too. One of my highlights of the trip was the V&A David Bowie exhibition which is currently showing at Martin Gropius Bau. I could have spent hours in there. Well, I did. But I could have spent more hours. I found myself absolutely enraptured watching some of Bowie's music videos; many that I've already seen before, but even more powerful when watched in the company of a small crowd drifting through the gallery, like a strange gig with the man himself everywhere but also nowhere. I've always been a big Bowie fan but standing in that gallery I found myself thinking 'Man. Bowie is everything. He is my Number 1.' (I don't think there were 'cult chemicals' in the air conditioning.) The Boys Keep Swinging video especially stayed with me; now I just want to master those uber-sexy Presley-pelvis moves for myself. 

So here's a moving moodboard, dedicated as ever to people and movement:


Step 1: Press play on Hubbabubbaklubb's 'Mopedbart' just above. 
Step 2. Press play on each of the video boxes, hitting mute at the same time, or experimenting with however much sound you would like from each. Scroll up and down, watch it all come together. 
Step 3: Enjoy David Bowie's pelvis, revellers at the pavement egg-frying festival in Oatman, Arizona, Sam Rockwell's screentest, a car spinning in the snow to a soundtrack of Burt Bacharach, Trisha Brown dancers in Shanghai and a zen fish tank.
Step 4: When it is all over, go on as you were.
Step: or, explore past moving moodboards here and here. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 6

Clockwise from left: Peckham Cafe by Stephen Leslie, eating the Italian way via the Rocket and Squash food journal, Ava's vegan Belgian food guideSunspel's Japanese flag cashmere jumper, fat marrows and such, The Bee Gees.  

It's the weekend again! My plans thus far include going to see Richard Linklater's new film Boyhood, re-stocking my fridge, 'spring' cleaning, getting stuck into one of the books I borrowed from the library this week and meeting up with friends.

I also wanted to take this moment to float an idea. After moving into my new flat, I'm seeing if I can survive without installing the internet. Given that so much of my life revolves around internet, it's a bit of a challenge, but at this time this decision is mostly based on financial reasons, seeing where I can afford to cut the corners (and testing the 'hey, read instead!' evening implications.) Instead, if I want to blog I've been staying later at work in the evenings to in order to write and use the internet. Here's the idea: if you have ever read something on Discotheque Confusion that touched you, or made you guffaw or that you passed onto a friend because you thought they might like it, would you consider buying me a coffee? This is a coffee that will enable me to blog in slightly nicer surroundings, enjoyed in one of my favourite cafes just around the corner from my flat on a Saturday morning, in a setting that isn't my office after a day at work. I'm floating this idea because I sense that this blog has a lovely community of readers who might be open to this idea. I've always been open to trying out different ways of sustaining the upkeep of the blog, and this seems like a karmically-good route, which doesn't involve me hawking Amazon products which in the past has earned me a teeny, tiny amount from click-throughs. (This also opens a whole new can of worms because I've finally decided that it's a company I do not wish to support, no matter how tempting and cheap the stock may be) I'm not trying to make a living out of this blog, and doing it for the love will always continue to be my philosophy, but if you've found something here that has kept you coming back and you would think "Hey! Have a Saturday morning coffee on me!", then that would be most wonderful. You can donate below depending on what feels right for you.

Without further ado, here are is your Weekend List. Happy Weekend!

Music- The Bee Gees special

Islands in the Stream; Fantastic piece by Bob Stanley on The Bee Gees and the phenomenon of the comeback.

This is what happened when music journo Pete Paphides asked The Bee Gees to record his answer phone message back in 1996.

Food

"The hook was that I was a white guy making ramen and people were going to come and check me out." The Eight Chapters of Ramen short video via Nowness follows Long Islander Ivan Orkin and the science of ramen.

My Top 3 food blogs at the moment: Tommy's blog. I've been following Tommy's various blogging incarnations for years now. There was the (now defunct) This is Naive, always a fabulous go-to for meticulous city guides paired with dreamy photography. Now I love to browse through this blog, where there are few words but pages and pages of delectable dishes. Often featured are laden bowls of goodness I can't exactly identify, but with piles of thick noodles beneath a roof of greenery and the odd egg yolk, the sort of bowls that bring to mind sheer happiness and a good fatty stock that always finds its way onto your chin.

Guac and Roll. Ava's vegan food blog is beautiful, but in a 'real-life' way that doesn't make you suspicious, or think yeah right! Lots of substantial lunchbox salad inspiration and special mention to her guides to eating vegan in European cities, like Lisbon and Belgium.

Rocket and Squash. A serious 'food journal' with grown-up illustrations of fat marrows and pumpkins, Rocket and Squash is has the appearance of The Paris Review for foodies. Recommended: the 'Supplemental' series, a merry digest of the various weekend food supplements. (A dessert to my very own Weekend List, if you will)

Culture

"He rode a bicycle with such confident pleasure, he leapt over tennis nets, and in one particularly memorable scene he joined Lucy's brother Freddy and the family vicar Mr Beebe as they cavorted joyously, nakedly in a lake on a hot day." Why I'd Like To Be Julian Sands in A Room With A ViewLaura Barton, perfectly capturing that "I want to me a man" moment I often experience when reading about or watching really cool guys on-screen. 

Call Your Girlfriend. My favourite podcast of the moment. Earwig into this brilliant, hilarious, on-point skype catch-up between two long-distance friends.

Stephen Leslie's photostream. Martin Parr-ish, very British.

Why I Adore The Night by Jeanette Winterson. 

Tove Jansson and Island Life. A short feature on the ICA blog about Finnish writer Jansson. If I was in London I'd certainly pop along to the small exhibition which is currently on display in the reading room.

21 Movies About Weird, Kinky or Compulsive Sex via Playlist. Ah, who doesn't like a fantastically niche film compilation list? Also known as "If you liked Nyphomanic then why not try..."

Style

So far I have been doing pretty well in my current frugality mission but if I was living in an alternative universe where I was in a position to buy really very gorgeous cashmere knitwear then Japanese flag cashmere jumper from Sunspel this is what I would damn well go for.

Style Like U's 'Whats Underneath' project interviews women while they undress. It feels sort of like those Dove 'love your body' campaigns, but is far more likeable and more awkward and therefore a lot more like real life.