December Photo Fun – Week 3 – 2014 – Create

B5Imy_yIcAAmD6G

The kids picked Create for the week 3 theme which I loved the idea of as after all the whole idea of our photofun projects is to create something from an idea.  When the themes are put out on twitter you just never know whether or not they will take hold, often you get a flurry right away and then nothing whereas this week it was the reverse a slow start that gathered momentum throughout the week.

I’ve never, perhaps until recently, particularly thought of myself as a creative person as I tend to think of creative people as those beautifully talented people around us who draw, paint, write, photograph etc in a way that makes us think or brings happiness into our lives.  A few years ago I was made redundant, and for anyone who has been through that it can be a tricky process to say the least.  I was fortunate in that the place where I was getting made redundant from paid for support for us to do some assessment of our skills etc.  Now I’m usually very reticent of that sort of thing but seeing as I was facing a big challenge I went into it with eyes open.  The person that I worked with for a few weeks after talking to me looking at my career etc said that I should describe myself in one way and that was as a creative thinker.  It sounds a bit bombastic but it was perhaps the first time when I’ve looked at the way I approach things and on reflection it felt right.  It’s not something that I feel comfortable saying about myself but it is perhaps a strong part of who I am I think.  Still can’t draw for toffee mind.

I thought about this while this theme was going on and how much creativity there all around us, perhaps particularly at this time of year, but also how we don’t celebrate creativity enough and encourage it within our children, it’s not just about drawing but it’s about how we see the world.  Rigidity of thought is not going to provide the solution that we require to improve the world we live in, creativity is.  Be that in maths or science, art or technology the ability to have a blank sheet of paper (either physically or metaphorically) in front of us and create something that did not exist before is perhaps the human races most unique trait.

All of that is I think captured in this beautiful gallery of people (and animals) creating things, food, art, pictures, sounds, a home, toys, all the things that nourish us.  Huge thanks to all who took part as always, apologies to anyone who I’ve missed out.  Click on the gallery to open it and scroll through the pictures and do let us know which ones you liked, there are some lovely interpretations.  Two more weeks to go so either follow me @ianstreet67 on twitter or follow the twitter hashtag #decemberphotofun for the remaining themes.  Be great to have you on board.

December Photo Fun – Week 2 – 2014 – Squash

B4Wx8GOCEAADtps

After last week’s Twist theme the kids picked Squash for week 2 and when they picked it I must admit I was a bit stumped for a while wondering what I would do other than take a photo of an actual squash of course.  I think for many they also found it hard this week but as well as a few squash we had some fantastically creative interpretations which have made me smile and marvel in equal measure.  Click on the gallery to see the pics in full and do let us know which ones you liked.  If you want to play along with us during the rest of the month then follow me on twitter @ianstreet67 or keep an eye on the hashtag #decemberphotofun, you’ll be welcome and it will be great to see how you interpret the next theme.  Massive thanks to all of you who played along with us this week.

December Photo Fun – Week 1 – 2014 – Twist

B4CQiErIUAAaNjg

The kids have come up with some really interesting themes for the few weeks of December and kicked things off with Twist and I must admit it put me in a somewhat philosophical mood.  When they came to me with the theme I immediately thought of books and the twist in the tale and as I was looking through the bookshelves of course I came across Oliver Twist, not what I was originally looking for but a good take on the theme I thought.

As I was thinking I was shaken by the first photo that came in – a twist in the skeleton from Lyndon.  Now Lyndon has recently undergone a pretty horrific accident while out walking in the lake district, he fell, badly injuring himself and there he lay for seven and a half hours waiting, hoping and I’ve no doubt praying to be rescued.  Lyndon is an experienced outdoor person so he had left details of where he was going and when he did not return the alarm was raised and Kewsick Mountain Rescue team eventually found him and he was airlifted to hospital.  He is now starting the long road to recovery and rehabilitation.  I don’t normally ask for donations for anything but for those of us who explore off road in the woods and the hills, on foot or bike the Mountain Rescue and air ambulance teams are our lifeline so if you can spare anything then please consider them.  They save lives.

Lyndon’s accident made me think about the subject of twist, a twist in the tale is not reserved for novels, it can happen to any of us at any time none of us really know what’s around the corner.  Hopefully it won’t be falling off a mountain but mountains are not just made of rock they exist for many of us in our imaginations and the trials and tribulations that we face in life.

As always there have been some lovely interpretations this week, I’m never sure if people will take part but it’s so nice that people take the time to play along with us.  We really appreciate it and once everything is pulled together the gallery looks great.  If you click on the gallery you can scroll through the pictures in the size they came through.  Do let us know which ones you liked.  We’ll be playing #Decemberphotofun throughout the month so check out the hashtag on twitter or follow me @ianstreet67 all are welcome to take part.

Get well soon Lyndon :-)

Book Club 2014

2. ask the dust

 

I wrote last year of the 99 books we had so far read in the boys book club and the joy, friendship, camaraderie and nourishment that I get from it.  I decided after pulling all the books together in one post last year that at the end of each year I’d do a post on the books of that year.  We always have a review of the year and last night was no exception, we both reviewed the current book and reflected upon what we’ve read across the year.  What I like about this process is that a book you might have scored very highly on the night originally does not stay with you as the year develops, whereas other books seep into your bones, resonant and you come to remember and reflect on them far more even if you didn’t score it that highly when you first read it.

Some thought that this year has been a poor year for us in terms of books but I think that they are letting the clang for a few shockers reverberate across the great books we have read the noise drowning them out.  The reflection last night was good as it dispelled this as we looked back, yes there were a couple of really bad books but there were some gems as well that will live long in the memory.  I think the year was roughly split actually between the good and not so good.  What I did notice though was that we have read a real range of stuff from 16th century political treatise right up to current day publications hot off the press.  We have covered huge issues through books covering slavery, genocide, class, gender politics, body image and ‘normality’ as well as different genres.

As always though it is the discussion that brings the books alive as we view the issues through the prism of our own experiences and world view and it is this that makes the boys book club so special.  Through the input of the other members I continue to grow as a person, they help me reflect on who I am and why I think the way I do.  I’m challenged, amused, horrified, perplexed but above all nourished by them.  One of our founder members is bowing out as they now live in another city and have struggled to keep up with the rigour that is required.  It’s a sad day in many ways as he will be deeply missed by us all but the book club will go on evolving and I can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring.

So without further ado what collectively were our top three books of the year:-

1. Ask the Dust – John Fante

2. Zone of Interest – Martin Amis

3. The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna

I’d love to know what you think of the range of books we’ve read this year and whether or not you are in a book club, what has been your best books of the year, what would you recommend for us to read in 2015?

 

Scavenger Hunt

scavanger list

City centres are, much to my dismay at times, places that seem to exist purely for commerce they are not generally somewhere where you go to play but they are full of all sorts of building, objects and people and so in many ways they are perfect places if you think of them in different ways.  Doing the photo fun projects that we do has helped me look at my city through different eyes as I try to interpret the themes set by my kids.  I cycle through the city most days which odd as it may sound enables me to turn the streets into my own private play ground, not in the stunt cycling way, but just in the way that cycling instantly transports me back to my childhood.

Today we used the city centre as a different type of playground as we undertook a family scavenger hunt.  I’d been chatting to my kids recently about a scavenger hunt I’d done when I was a kid and they liked the idea of this.  One of them said could we do one and perhaps could we go into Leeds to do it so this morning we split up into two family teams and standing outside the city museum we were handed our list of things to find that one of my kids had created and set off to see what we could find.

It was a great list, split between photographs of things and objects:  The full list was this

We needed to find the following photographs:

  • One of the team in front of something that begins with a J
  • Something that sums up the best thing about Leeds
  • Graffiti
  • A woman wearing a green shirt
  • One of the team in a window
  • Something spotty
  • The adult of the team in front of a well known building
  • Something that is American themed
  • Something that sums up the worst thing about Leeds
  • The number 82
  • One of the team stood on / in front of a statue
  • Something beautiful
  • One of you with a hand dryer

Objects to collect / find

  • A leaf
  • A takeout menu
  • A receipt with the letter ‘k’ on it
  • A sample of a product
  • A stranger’s autograph
  • A leaflet
  • A train ticket

Some of these were relatively straight forward but the task was not just to find and/ or photograph the things but to try and interpret them in the best way we could.  I completely loved the variety of tasks we had, some of which asked us to potentially go up and talk to strangers, not something that I (perhaps like many of us) are totally sure of but hey most people are lovely and we got an autograph and photos of women in green shirts.  Also by not stopping for the first thing we thought of but keeping that as an option we moved on to better things, the yellow American school bus being a great example.  It was so nice to explore the city centre with one of my kids chatting away, getting their ideas for things we could interpret and seeing the city through their eyes as well.

When I asked what photo we could take that best sums up Leeds she simple said this here on Briggate right now, all sorts of people from all different cultures eating all sorts of street food from all over the world.  There’s hope for us yet.

I can hugely recommend this as a great way to turn the city into your own playground and have some fun.  Feel free to use the list one of my kids came up with and interpret it how you want or come up with your own list – put the kids in charge it’s great fun.  Do let us know if you go on a hunt and what you found.

The Singing Ringing Tree

1416160235833

I’d heard of and seen a few photos of the The Singing Ringing Tree (designed by Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu) and was quite enamoured by the idea of this wind powered sculpture up on the moors above Burnley so took a trip over to have a look on the weekend.  It’s described as a Panopticon which is apparently a structure providing a comprehensive view which it certainly does over the town below and across to Pendle Hill, a twist on the panopticon prison design which has a concept of all prison cells being able to seen by one guard in the middle without the prisoners knowing who is being watched.  The tree is part of a series of similar sculptures around the area including the Halo, Atom and Coloufields.

It’s an unusual structure, individual metal tubes, some with slits in allowing the wind to play sounds.  On the day I visited it was just a faint whisper but I can imagine that it would sound pretty eerie when the wind is blowing.  I liked that as you moved around the sculpture it takes on different shapes and conjures images…. an alien spaceship or a metallic ostrich head were two that came to mind and I particularly liked the way that despite all of the individual pipes being straight the way they have been put together reveals some interesting curves.

Overall I rather liked the Singing Ringing Tree and next time I’m over that way will have to take a detour to see the other panopticons.

IMAG4826

The Zone of Interest – Martin Amis

download

Last nights boysbookclub was a vintage edition, a book that completely split opinion with scores ranging from 2 to 9 meaning that discussion was heated and varied throughout.  We were, as we always are, looked after by the lovely staff of the Crosskeys and enjoyed sumptuous food (the venison and black pudding scotch egg was a thing of wonder) and wine while sinking our teeth into Amis’ latest book.  It’s actually a really good experience to be able to thoroughly disagree with someone and argue the point back and forth but to do so from a position of respect for the other person which only deepens the bond on friendship between us.  I left feeling thoroughly enriched.

If you can’t make it to the book club then you are need to submit a written review and while I have a very different view of the book than this, below is the fantastic review from Phil (@phildean1963) who scored the book 9 out of 10.

Before I read this book, the first question I asked is does the world need another holocaust book? The death camp Holocaust story has been told powerfully many, many times in film, book, stage and for me there has to be a very good reason to put the reader through it again. But after I’d read it, I had to re-appraise my view.

Firstly I have to say I found the The Zone of Interest one of the most brutal, empty, morally void, ambivalent and unflinching books we’ve ever read. At times this book was unreadable—in a good, bad way.

Amis is clearly a writer of real stature, a ‘proper’ author who uses words to massive effect (often ones I have to look up in a dictionary, so he must be proper). He’s that good. He perfectly captures the stark contrast between the captors and the captives – each suffering in their own way. I was reminded many times of Maus, a very different take on the holocaust but no less powerful.

I like at 1st how we didn’t know when the story was set. The picture gradually revealed itself, which usually frustrates but I enjoyed this reveal. Initially it could have been any time in history or the present day, which I’m sure was an intentional dramatic ploy.

The multi-voice narrative was bold, powerful and immersive. Confidently painting the darkest picture imaginable. Unusually, this was easy to navigate displaying the author’s prowess. The impeccable research and exquisite German cultural detail sat alongside horribly accurate concentration camp atrocity. I felt the book laid bare the German psyche: the reasons, the impact, the retribution, the horrific fallout and consequences of their actions. Amis casts an unswerving eye on Germany as a whole and whether involved directly in the mass murder or not, everyone is guilty by implication.

The notes at the end of the book were most enlightening: the immersion and desire to understand what happened and the philosophical arguments that to somehow understand why it actually happened actually validated the actions. These discussions actually helped me to make some sense of the book.

There was of course a mini drama being played out against the harrowing backdrop: Hannah, Thompson and Doll’s complicated relationships seemed at first petty and pathetic, annoying details set against the enormity of industrialised death. It seemed horrifically banal. But in the final chapters, the bitter love story developed into an insightful filter by which we could observe and understand how Germany came to be like this and the dreadful outcome. The relationship was unexpectedly but satisfyingly resolved in the end, in a typically and brutal fashion, the long, icy fingers of the past creeping into the present.

This book made for a truly unenjoyable read: not in the sense that it was hard to read or that it was laborious prose, but because to turn each page was to unearth inhumanity. In the end I didn’t want to turn the pages but I felt compelled to. At times I felt hollowed out by it. There was no triumph of the human spirit to be had here. The atrocities were laid bare, responsibilities clearly handed out and the complicated aftermath only just beginning. Amis revels in the moral ambiguity of his characters, challenging the reader at every turn. At the heart of it were meticulously drawn characters – not sketches – but Leonardo-esque in their detail and accuracy.

I actually love reading history books about the Second World War: Anthony Beevor’s Stalingrad and The Second World War are immense and immersive accounts of man’s inhumanity to man (both credited by Amis I noticed in this book). But for me personally, the veneer of factual history literature protects me from the grab you by the balls detail of a novel, where the writer has unfettered access to our imagination—the imagined more powerful than the actual, for once.

And yet his book digs deeper. Gets under the skin of the Third Reich, using the collective German psyche as a prism for their actions; gradually, imperceptibly becoming truly horrific. The book maps out the moral maze Germany faced: everyone implicated from locals turning a blind eye to grey snow and the stench to corporates like Bayer, who still exist today in our everyday lives, quietly making products like Alka Seltzer.

It’s not often I wheel out words like elegant, intense, powerful, truthful. But this book is all of these. I’m not sure it’s ‘fearless and original’ as the blurb describes (back to my earlier point about does the world need another book about the holocaust) but In The Zone of Interestdemands the attention of the reader until the very last page and I’ve scored it high because the book held me in its vice-like grip to the very end.

Impossible to pick up, impossible to put down.