Football, Photography

An Appreciation of Stuart MacFarlane

The official Arsenal website says Stuart MacFarlane joined the staff at 2000 and is the Senior Club Photographer. They also say he’s an Arsenal fan, but you’d know that simply by the pictures he takes. As an amateur photographer (and Gunner fan!!), MacFarlane’s photos are a breath of fresh air, feel absolutely personal and often brings a smile to my face. Never has the term “I’m living vicariously through you,” been so apt.

 

I remember this game so well. It was a perfect Saturday morning. And my birthday. Arsenal was having an infamously horrendous season start. The kind of start that featured an 8-2 loss to MUFC. The kind of start where Arsenal was mid-table. But then came that glorious late October day. The captain’s hat trick, and Santos and Theo. I absolutely love this picture. I was unabashedly celebrating for a week after. Happy Birthdays don’t get much better.

 

Look! They clean up well too! Thanks, Stuart! I love how the ever-serious Belgian can hardly contain himself here. Alex’s smiley disposition must be contagious. And what is Jack doing?

 

This is just one of Stuart’s many excellent portraits. He plays on Vermaelen’s usual straight secret-agent face so well by sharpening up the left of the image, and softening up the right. Brilliant post-editting. Now you have to wonder, which is he?

 

A serene composition of Clock End, before the Milan match. Definitely, one of the best matches of last season.

Jens Lehmann is one of my top 3 favourite Gunners (the others being Henry and Bergkamp, in no particular order at all). Arsenal goalkeepers are supposed to have “personality.” Jens happens to have a double dose of personality and Szczesny’s been taking notes.

There’s something about Tomáš… It’s probably the feeling I had the first time I saw him playing in World Cup 2006 in a Czech team that was doing wonders because they played as a unit. I was mesmerized by his movement and football intelligence, and forever impressed.

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Just a couple guys who used to kick ball at the club…

Untitled1A beautiful profile of a man you can tell must be a joy to know. As always, MacFarlane’s portraits are well-executed and speak volumes.

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M. Wenger has recently lamented the loss of several high-profile players over the last couple seasons, but I’ll never forget when Defensive Midfielder extraordinaire Gilberto left. The season was a complete soap-opera; nobody knew who was going to be captain when Titi left and after a forever of  “will he, won’t he?”, he left. For Panathinaikos. (Yes, you’ve recently seen a remake of this movie, with a Dutch lead and a Scottish supporting actor.)

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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. There were mics in 2001 and there are mics in 2012. Regardless of what’s happening now, in many ways he is Arsenal.

I haven’t watched football or Arsenal play in a while. This is a side-effect of 9 am French classes that last for four hours on Saturday mornings. Given Arsenal’s current form, I’m doing myself a favour by not watching for now. But, a perfect picture can bring back memories and fond reminders of one of the clubs that made me love the game in the first place.

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Hearts, People

Who is Mr Right?

Mr Right and I have been friends for about five years. I met him at an interesting time in my life. A time when I was pretty comfortable and totally carefree. He was a friend of a friend’s friend… or something. I didn’t take much notice of him at the time. We were at a Jabbawockeez concert in a defunct open-air cinema (oddly named Kay-Donna). Jabbawockeez never showed. The night was a little bit of a waste, although the other acts were pretty good. I was liming with a couple girls I don’t talk to at all now. Mr Right was there with the brother of one of our mutual acquaintances, and took my camera to take a picture of himself. I rolled my eyes in my mind and moved on to other thoughts.

As the years passed, we spoke more and more. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that having a close male friend (or worse, a male best friend) always evolves into something akin to a common-law relationship. It is not important if you are aware of this, or if you actually desire this change of state. It is bound to happen. My first (real) male bestie fell in love with me, and described the development ruefully as laying a brick each day until an entire house was built. At that point, he said, the house was impossible to ignore. There’s not much one can say in response to that. My second best friend, who was actually an ever-present fixture in the previous friendship, picked up the pieces. On a very random afternoon in 2008, he sent me a text saying “This is long overdue, but I love you.” I was a walking definition of naïveté. I told him that I loved him too, and felt warm and fuzzy because I thought I had a super “brother from another mother”. This was followed a few months later with “I think I really like you”, to which I said I thought he only felt that way because we talk all the time. I wanted to move to Lithuania panicked, but told myself it could still be salvaged. The friendship didn’t end right then, but the die was cast.

I’d started avoiding guys like the plague at this point. I was weary of breaking things. But, Mr Right was around. I thought he was like a brother to me… the kind of guy you could talk football with, but balked at the idea of dating. Yet, there I was telling him a bunch of things I didn’t really tell anyone else. I never called him my best friend because history is a cruel teacher. I ignored every suggestion of “something more” by our friends… for a long time. In a few weeks, we will be together for a year. Sometimes I muse on the fact that I didn’t know I’d met the most important person in my life five years ago. Loving him is the bravest thing I ever did.

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Do you remember the first phone you had? The ridiculous weight of it? The little (or not so little) antenna perched on the top? Yes. These are fond memories. I was in Form 6. Everyone else had had a mobile for at least a year and a half before me. It was a Nokia and I was a Snake pro. A text message was 50 cents, and we sent tacky quotes or jokes. But times quickly changed. I got a new Nokia in Upper 6. It had a colour screen and the Snake game was still good. It was a water-resistant phone, so I talked in the rain whenever I could. I can attest to the fact that this phone is indestructible. Roll down a flight of stairs? It’s fine. Sit on it? Good to go. Eventually, I changed the case to a (cheap) black one then decided to upgrade.

When I started UWI, I got a random Motorola. I never liked the clam-shell business. It had a colour screen though, and for a short while the novelty of learning a different mobile OS overshadowed the fact I much preferred Nokias. (Of course, it wasn’t mainstream to call the software phones ran on “OS” back then, which says a lot about how far mobile communications technology has come.) Around that time, cameras on phones were beginning to become trendy. One would send pictures via MMS. It was a good phone. Then, one day, at approximately 5 pm, the phone slid out of my sweater’s pocket and into a waiting, full mop bucket in the female restroom of first floor Natural Sciences building. I remember looking at my reflection in the mirror and wondering if I was the sort of person who was crazy enough to put her hand in that bucket. Sadly, I am. The phone was toast, and I remember feeling ridiculously sour. Tech withdrawal is real, even if your tech is low-end.

I ended up getting a black Moto Slvr. Perhaps my favourite thing about that phone was the aluminium case. A thing of beauty, it was. I had that phone for a long time. I left UWI, and started working in the Eric Williams’ Medical Sciences Complex and had Love and Attention as my ringtone for maybe 2 years. The day the first sign of trouble came was a sad one; it stopped showing the name or number of persons who sent me an SMS. I knew better than to wait around for that problem to metastasize. What I bought thereafter, I simply cannot recall. There’s a fuzzy period until I got my Nokia E63. It was a lovely navy blue that many mistook for a pretty BlackBerry (an insult, if I ever heard one).

In true Nokia fashion, it was quite sturdy and touted as a business phone. This meant that if you didn’t download some interesting themes, your phone would look VERY BORING. It was an absolute nightmare. Heaven forbid you had to plug your phone into your computer to transfer some media to or from your SD card. The theme would lift because it was saved on the SD card, and you would be reminded of how much aesthetics can make or break a mobile experience.

After 2 years, I grew antsy. It was time for graduation; it was time for a touch screen phone. I remember when the thought first occurred to me. I was seeing my uber-techie friends fiddling with their HTC phones. They spoke of Android and a land of milk and honey. But did I really want to wallow in this awesomeness 24/7? Could I handle such awesomeness? Was I ready? No one ever really knows this answer before they step over to the touch screen. It is a leap of faith. The day I unsubscribed from the Ovi Store, I felt like I was crazy. But buying my first Android was the best thing I ever did. The HTC Desire Z… as heavy as, beautiful, wonderful, and Android. HTC Sense was the sort of thing dreams were made of. I ran from the keyboard to the touch screen the way toddlers take hurried steps to their parents’ waiting arms.

Previously, I would have told all who would listen of the wonders of the HTC mobile. It was sturdy. It was lovely-looking. HTC Sense running over Android was like having a generous layer of your favourite cheese added to the perfect burger. Awesome. I really loved it. Here comes the reality check. Friends, if you drop any (smart)phone several times, for 2 years, without a protective case of some sort, your phone will behave accordingly. Can you imagine your phone not recognizing your SD card? I’ve tried gentle tapping, removing and replacing, fiddling with the battery (I was getting desperate), and I even spoke to it a couple times in a kind voice. Nothing. I handed the device over to Mr Right and started looking for a new phone… albeit, on a budget.

It’s been a month since I bought a Samsung Galaxy S II phone. As an HTC lover, the only fact more scandalous than that purchase is the price I paid: a paltry $1400TT. That’s roughly $220USD or £140. One would think that I would be overjoyed at this sweep, but every now and again I find myself thinking back to my old friend, my Desire Z. That “Sync All” widget and trackpad. That notification light. I never believed I could nitpick over something so seemingly insignificant as a a little LED. To the HTC Android owners out there, buy a case. It doesn’t make your phone any less awesome, it just makes you smart. The old fella had the worst battery life ever, and cost a whole thousand more than its replacement, but it was faithful and beautiful. I really appreciated the HTC’s affinity for UI aesthetics.

How am I liking my SII, you ask? I’ve come to accept the lack of notification light. It was really difficult at first, but I’m over it now. I can have a ton of apps open all at once and switch between them with ease, yet that’s really the perks of ICS OS and newer/ more powerful hardware. I use Swype now, so much so, that I robotically try swyping on other phones by default. Also, my phone is delightfully light. Once I tossed that default widget with the tacky font for the time, and customized the screens, I settled in.

So, Mr. Chou, if you are reading this post, think about me. I’d love to come back to the warm embrace of a beautiful HTC Android phone. You know, something with a sweet UI, and a decent battery life (mutually exclusive, I know) and maybe not heavy enough to double as a weapon. As a matter of fact, if it could make me breakfast just the way I like it, that would be super too =)

Warm Regards,

HTC Customer with ridiculous expectations

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A Brief History of Telecommunication

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Pourqoui Pas?

When you’ve had a lot of disappointments and almosts in your life, there’s a tendency to see Murphy’s Law as the rule rather than the exception. But what are dreams, where do they come from? What makes us think “why?” rather than, “why not?” And so what if Murphy’s Law became as commonplace as gravity, should one stop dreaming altogether?

I have always dreamed of living in France for at least 2 months. I’d daydream of having a wonderful string of sensible, beautiful, poetic French roll off my tongue with a local. I would politely ask someone I knew for a few weeks if I could use tu or if they preferred vous. They would comment that my French was indeed improving nicely and I was easy to understand. And perhaps, most of all, I would meet the real me.

What does that mean? Am I a French-speaker trapped in an English-speaker’s body? No. I simply mean that I’ve always known that the process of pursuing this dream would be a critical journey in my life. The problem with Murphy’s Law and gravity is that one sets a dream’s due date as “20 years from today” (“today” being any day you dare to skim through your hopes and wishes). The other causes you to sag. And both keep your feet planted firmly on the ground of reality, whatever that is, with clipped wings.

A month ago, I signed up for Beginner’s French class. 1A, where they assume you know nothing but probably love wine and cheese. See, I always thought I would do it when I was “older” and “settled in life.” I’m twice as old as the 13 years when I last studied French formally. I’m thoroughly settled on the fact that my life isn’t going to hand me anything on a platter. So the only question left was, “Why not?”

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The Best of the Collection – The Ayes Hav’ It!

A couple nights ago, I was on my way for a late-night coffee chiller and saw that bright lure known as a “sale” sign in my neighbourhood over-priced pharmacy. I had to check it out. Did I buy any items on sale? No. Was I happy with my purchase? Yes.

Like many women who wear makeup, the urge to try new things is the sort that overtakes sober thinking and easily turns into something akin to hoarding without notice. After my many travails in cosmetics, this is Part One of my favourites list.

There are a few things to note. Firstly, I do not buy MAC because I do not have a job that supports buying MAC. Secondly, I am dark-skinned so getting a good skin colour match or products that show up means trying every brand available. What started as a bother, turned into an adventure. Lastly, I am not a professional by any stretch of the imagination. Happily, one does not need to be an expert to enjoy makeup.

Eyes

Folks, nobody knows eyes like Maybelline. Nobody. Others can try, and I sometimes try the others too. Yet when I buy Maybelline, I don’t have any qualms.

When it comes to colour it’s all about Maybelline’s Eye Studio Color Tattoo 24Hr Cream Gel Shadow. This is a long name meaning, “the best eye shadow, period.” I currently own Tough as Taupe, Edgy Emerald, Pomegranate Punk, and Fierce and Tangy. Let me assure you, Tough as Taupe is a must have. Be prepared to answer questions about what colour is that and smile politely when praised for looking like wonderful. Easy finger application, never creases, washes off with a dab of make up remover, pigmented colour. What’s not to love here?

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My favourite eye shadow look is the  halo (achieved with a Revlon double-ended brush, and totally unfussy). I’ve found it’s easier to pull off bright colours this way.

no.. this is not my eye

 

Once the eyes are set, mascara is next. I first bought Maybelline’s Volum’ Express Falsies last year. The bottle was so pretty, the ad looked inviting and my old Revlon was nearing the end. Fullness and length and the admiration of ALL… check. Ease of application, and adding more product after it “dried”… check. Random women stopping me and asking me if these were my real lashes… check. Dear reader, when you are stopped with questions about your wonderful eyelashes, direct the inquirer to the product. Don’t be stingy. It’s just lashes. That said, when I went to buy a replace my Falsies the lady talked me into Illegal Lengths. Less volume, more length. This waterproof version is not happy with touching up after it dries. However, you can cry and still look long-lashed. I’d say it is an acceptable alternative to the untouchable greatness that is Falsies.

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Of course, I have an assortment of eyeliners floating around. I use Avon’s Blackest Black which does a good job. I’ve also got a random liquid liner in the mix, but I’m always apprehensive to use it. What do you use? 🙂

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Heartbreaking

Every now and again, one comes across something on the internet that makes you weep on the inside. Today I found a story about a Taiwanese photographer, Tou Chih-kang, who takes human portrait-styled photographs of shelter dogs before they are euthanized. His photographs are haunting, not only because of the context but also because he perfectly crystallizes the essence of the spirit of each doomed animal. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own pets, Sleepy and Nemo (the latter of which ran away, which is another blog post in itself). Sleepy is a little pompek (a Trinidadian breed which is really a mix between a Pekingese and a Pomeranian) and has a diva attitude that hasn’t quit even in her old age. Nemo was a German Shepherd and Rottweiler mix, who was ridiculously clumsy as a pup and grew to be quite playful. Tou captures personalities such as these with his camera.

“I believe something should not be told but should be felt,” says Tou, a thick-bodied 37-year-old with an air of quiet confidence. “And I hope these images will arouse the viewers to contemplate and feel for these unfortunate lives, and understand the inhumanity we the society are putting them through.”

There’s a lot to be said for the context of this story. According to this article, in Buddhism it is believed that dogs are reincarnated humans who misbehaved badly in a previous life. Yet, a quick Google search of “buddhism dog reincarnation” yielded a hit that seems to suggest that reincarnation as understood today is a gross misinterpretation of a parable. Nonetheless, it says little of the (supposedly) uninformed Buddhist Taiwanese if they think so little of those who they view as leading bad enough lives to return as dogs. Whatever happened to long-suffering mercy and forbearance? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an impractical tree-hugger or PETA activist in training. I’m just saying, don’t toss out your animals because you think they’re getting their “due”. That’s cruel.

That said, photographer Tou Chih-kang is doing a great work in this regard. 

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