Patch Adams of the Nation

For me it was never really about how funny he could be, how crazy he could play it, it was rather the opposite. What I liked most about Robin Williams as an actor, was the vulnerability he showed in his roles. Most of his films have an underlying sadness, a serious theme running through them. 

Take Mrs Doubtfire; timeless comedy in which Williams wears women’s clothes and has everyone in stitches. However, at the heart is a family breakdown and the central issues are how to deal with this, humour aside. Heart breaking stuff for millions of families around the globe, now more so than 20 years ago. 

As much as I love Hook, Aladdin and in particular the Birdcage, it has always been his serious roles and films that attracted me the most; In particular the quieter, more dramatic films that did not get blockbuster releases. 

Awakenings was one of the first films with Robin Williams that my dad introduced me to. Although I only watched it once, I still have clear memories of his young Oliver Sacks. As brilliant as DeNiro was in the film, Robin Williams’ performance remains outstanding. The fact that he played a real person with such humility and subtlety speaks volumes of his talent and shows his ability  and the depth of understanding for the characters he portrays. 

Personal tributes since his passing have all mentioned his insatiable interest in almost any subject matter he comes across. How he uses acquired knowledge to transform himself, either on the spot by rattling off an improvised standup with 20 different accents within three minutes or by developing several layers of a well rounded character for a movie.  

One of my all time favourite films will remain the Dead Poets Society and although his John Keating is brilliant, it is the symbiosis and chemistry that Robin Williams has  on screen with the young students that makes this film so emotional. In particular his scenes with Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard are so touching in an almost minimalistic way; most of the emotions are communicated through glances. When I re-watched it last week and saw John Keating look at me from the screen with his sad eyes, I felt like Robin Williams was looking directly at me, bearing his soul.

Good Morning Vietnam is a film that highlights my hatred for genres. I always despised that it was classified as a comedy, I still do. For me it is a drama about a character that uses humour to make the atrocities of war bearable. Another brilliant performance of a real life situation, which was only possible to be so convincing due to Williams ability to fully immerse himself in a role and yet letting his vulnerability show throughout. 

When Robin Williams finally won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting it was well deserved. It felt like it was one of his most autobiographical roles at the time, almost like a miniature summary of his (inner) life. However, he also deserved it for the collective achievement of all his roles up to that year - a midlife achievement award. One of the many performances he should most definitely have won an Oscar for is the absolutely brilliant film, The Fisher King.

People speak of Robin Williams’ impromptu standup routines as “going off on one”, leaving everyone behind; In The Fisher King he does exactly that but not for laughs. He is stripping down his character, both figuratively and physically. Parry is on the literal search for the holy grail and engages a reluctant and absolutely brilliant Jeff Bridges on his quest. It is a search Robin Williams will make you remember for the rest of your life and it is worth every second of it! Many of Williams’ roles deal with death/suicide and depression/sadness, yet Fisher King is strangely life affirming through it all. 

This is exactly the genius behind the talent of Robin Williams and none of it is calculated, it is entirely intuitive, both in how he plays the chosen role and how he connects with the audience. There are not many people that are able to do this. Many talented actors can move viewers to tears and break their hearts in one film and then take them on an exciting adventure the next time. Robin Williams is a chameleon in the truest sense, it feels like he can adapt to you personally in any role that he plays - from one moment to the next in sync with your own emotional state at the time.  

But he also has a dark side; the ability to play absolute creeps - the kind, you do not want to cross paths with. He still manages to give them a vulnerable side that make you feel some empathy, but from the safe distance of your couch. One Hour Photo is a brilliant film with an outstanding performance by Williams and an anazing soundtrack. Insomnia and the Night Listener were equally pure joy to watch Robin Williams be on the wrong side of things.

As much as Good Will Hunting seemed very close to home for Robin Williams, the same can be said about Patch Adams. Robin Williams entertained and healed millions with his acting and standup - a Patch Adams for the nation so to speak; the medical validity can be argued about. Fact of the matter is, he makes us laugh or cry when we feel sad or are vulnerable. It was very generous to share his talent in this way and we can only be grateful. I hope he found peace of mind.

Miss Potter

I feel like I just discovered a parallel universe to A.A.Milne’s 100 Acres Wood. I have finally watched Miss Potter and already during the film I was looking up presents for my 8 months old niece… Although fully aware of Beatrix Potter and her drawings, it took this film to ignite my connection/instant love for her work to wanting to know more. I don’t even know that much or anything about A.A.Milne. Up until this point, I had never picked up a book of Beatrix Potter’s. Unless I did in early childhood but I cannot recall doing so. 

With my fondness of Winnie the Pooh, I make a clear distinction between drawings/cartoons and films/audio stories. I do not recall encountering Winnie and his friends during my childhood although my dad decorated our rooms with hand drawn images of classic Disney characters that lived in the forests of their most famous stories and my mom would knit our jumpers with Donald Duck and his friends. I also collected the Walt Disney 'Lustiges Taschenbuch' which I am not sure what the equivalent would be in other countries…

I think I was given a copy of A.A.Milne’s 100 Acres Wood by someone, unfortunately I have no idea who it was, but I must’ve been in my teenage years. Needless to say it was beautiful. 

The way the characters were described, the details of their thought process, the differences in their characters and above all, their unaltered friendship for each other - it made me feel like one of them instantly and for life.
It took quite some time until I encountered an audio version for children whilst babysitting. It scared the shit out of me. It went completely against my imagination of the characters and what I thought were their ‘true selves’ - using grown-up voices felt so WRONG on all kinds of levels. It is always difficult to adapt from a book to a movie, but this had a lot of different layers that I felt emotionally were inappropriate! There goes a babysitting experience I will never forget…

Miss Potter only briefly scratched on her stories in the movie and the film was overall more about her personal life. But I am a sucker for subtleties; I feel that the few occasions when they did animate her drawings was endearing and said so much about her and about the characters she has created.

Without having read any of her stories, I do feel that if her imagined world and the friends of A.A.Milne would meet, they would make a great bunch of friends. There would be tons of room to write their joint adventures, overcoming differences and learning about each other’s past etc… 

Let alone her artistic creations and legacy… Retreating against all societal pressures and against her parents wishes to the countryside - how grateful can we be for her doing so and in the process preserving the Lake District? 

For your sunday weeping. For all those who believe in karma and small gestures.

Small gestures can make a difference

I have been on the 6.30am shift for two days now and as much as I hate public transport, I am glad i have been on this bus the last two days.
This old lady, wobbly on a walking stick, you’d be afraid she is gonna break into pieces always gets off at Liverpool Street Station. I have no idea where she needs to be at 6am in the morning, bless her. She has serious trouble getting off the bus. And she is a tiny woman.
Yesterday, a lovely man, about twice her size helped her off the bus, took her hand to get to the edge and all of a sudden he was lifting her and put her down on the pavement.
This morning I was about to offer my help (not the lifting bit) and I didnt see him at first but there he was again. I watched in wonder. Hand first until the edge, then he lifts her again, puts her down on the curb. Where she walks off on her stick. What I didnt see yesterday was, that the lovely gentleman then gets back on the bus as this wasn’t his destination. This added to the whole scenario. It is the sweetest thing I have witnessed in a very long time because it is such a simple gesture. I am kinda regretting not being on the 6.30am shift tomorrow.
I wonder for how long they have been doing this together.

The truly inspiring story of the Chinese rubbish collector who saved and raised THIRTY babies abandoned at the roadside

A woman has been hailed a hero after details of her astonishing work with abandoned children has emerged.

Lou Xiaoying, now 88 and suffering from kidney failure, found and raised more than 30 abandoned Chinese babies from the streets of Jinhua, in the eastern Zhejiang province where she managed to make a living by recycling rubbish.

She and her late husband Li Zin, who died 17 years ago, kept four of the children and passed the others onto friends and family to start new lives.

Her youngest son Zhang Qilin - now aged just seven - was found in a dustbin by Lou when she was 82.

‘Even though I was already getting old I could not simply ignore the baby and leave him to die in the trash. He looked so sweet and so needy. I had to take him home with me,’ she said.

Full story

What a personality. What a collection. What a store.
Although only a ten minutes documentary, I went through a range of emotions.

I feel like I should write an ink pen letter to the Birdman for having this store and letting the world know about it. In a strange way, this film works like a brief summary/introduction to Sound It Out on how to treat customers and how to run a business.

Mainly I just wanna work there and not have him throw out anything in the end. When he said it, my head was screaming “Nooooo!”
Everyone who loves music should watch this little film, followed by Sound It Out and on your next visit to the City you should pop by and say hello to The Birdman!

Travel Photographer Of The Year Exhibition

Yesterday was the last day of this year’s exhibition and to celebrate it was FREE.
The exhibition had a variety of themes and categories, so it was very diverse in subjects and ways of shooting the photographs.

Every entry for a category had about three pictures, one main one, roughly in A3 size and two smaller 10x15 ones accompanied by a small text from the photographers themselves. I loved reading most of these notes as they extended either the background or the personal story of the subject, be it an animal, a landscape or people that were captured.

David Lazar’s photograpgh of Three Maasai Boys from Kenya welcomed us to the exhibition and the striking red colours of their clothing against the wind swept clouds on top of the mountain didn’t leave me.

Andrew Newey photographed men taking a break, leaning on a tree in Siberut Island, Indonesia. I cannot remember what they were doing in the first place, possibly hunting. I love how the symmetry and colours create something very calming.

This photograph received many “Photoshop!” comments from visitors. Does it really matter? Why ruin something beautiful that might actually exist in the world?
Apart from the windswept sky and sand mirroring the elements in all its movement, the Blue Iceberg by Joshua Holko immediately brings the shape of a heart to my mind.

Speaking of heart shaped things… This compelling shot by Timothy Allen is rich in contrasts. The garden the man is watering is surrounded by what looks like landfill, including a broken toilet. Apart from the lively green within the fence, nothing else grows in the deserted area where water seems to be sparse.

Marsel Van Oosten’s work stood out in the exhibition. His night shots from Namibia looked almost painted and very surreal. Fascinating for me though were his night skies full of stars rather than the trees or their immediate surroundings. It makes you realize how out of touch with universe we actually are in big crowded modern day cities. Removed to such an extent that we cannot even see it with our own eyes because we have surrounded ourselves with pollution in the name of progress.

Carlos Esteves work is very influenced by colours and fine details of people’s faces or features as in this beautiful shot, the hands of a woman examining a purple onion. This photograph was taken on a market in India and in its simplicity it seems to make time stand still for a little while.

Similarly suspended in time, but in a completely different environment, Nasser Albahrani’s “Reading the Quran” shows an impressive Mosque in Abu Dhabi bathed in serene sunlight whose beams seem to transcend from the photograph, together with the spiritual peace of the young man.

Above all though, Timothy Allen’s Mongolian girl drinking milk called Airag stole my heart instantly. We met her early in the exhibition and she was still vividly on the forefront of my mind by the end. The photograph is so simple and beautiful. The girl’s gaze into the camera is stunning.

These are just a few personal favourites, please have a look at www.TPOTY.COM for more entries and look out for next year’s exhibition.

Kristen Scott Thomas Saturday - Only God Forgives & Cherchez Hortense

Usually you can rely on Kristen Scott Thomas like clock work. Admittedly some of her films are on the edge of a head fuck but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you take away the theme of this movie Saturday then it wasn’t really Kristen Scott Thomas that disappointed but the films themselves.

Only God Forgives helmed the same director as Drive, namely Nicolas Winding Refn and he used his handsome star vehicle Ryan Gosling to stare through this thai production which had as many lyrics as it had words spoken. I believe the main character though was Vithaya Pansringarm’s Chang. Chang was escorted by either two police officers or personal security guards and made it his life mission to kill off all the bad guys that hurt hookers or parents that force their daughters into the trade. I am not entirely sure what he tried to achieve with this single minded mission, maybe he hoped to abolish the prostitution system by the time his 8 year old daughter would be a grown up… it was all very unclear and hazy… 

Refn used plenty of Godfather references and the highlight was the replicated restaurant scene, it almost felt like a tribute to Francis Ford Coppola.

The rest of the film however, was a diluted mix of muted actors and bursts of extraordinary violence that made the elevator scene in Drive pale in comparison. Ryan Gosling had as many lines and his gazes were as captivating, but the confusing mixture of flashbacks and present timelines weren’t clear to let you into his characters full story. Whereas his silent communication in Drive would fill in the story lines, in Only God Forgives it just posed more and more unanswered questions.The whole camera operation had something poetic about it which was fascinating but there was no satisfying climax at the end that made it all worth it. 

All wasn’t lost though because when Gosling’s onscreen mother appeared, she took some of the confusion away. Kristen Scott Thomas’ Crystal was the exact opposite of the entire film production, brash, loud and as her name implies, she was crystal clear in naming things directly, especially situations or people she didn’t care for much.

“I take care of the yellow nigger. It’s clearly too much for you. Now get up and kiss your mother.” is just one of the highlights of her dialogues. She was walking and talking white trash and she looked the part. Compared with the recent French films I have seen her in, this new get up was incredible and she was utterly convincing and just proved how versatile she is as an actress! I may not approve much of the film overall, but her performance deserves recognition! She provided much needed release from the confusing script and gave us some straight if not evil clarity on her own selfish plans to save her drug business. I am still not sure why the film is called Only God Forgives but an alternate title could be Mommy Dearest

We chose Cherchez Hortense as the second film and this being a French production were anticipating something along the lines of Dans La Maison, which was brilliant.

Unfortunately we were let down again and Cherchez Hortense felt more like a better made-for-TV movie. It was very confusing in the beginning and although I don’t normally think about titles, I wondered if I missed Hortense and that would make it all clear. Again, Kristin Scott Thomas’ was very convincing in her character but she wasn’t the main one. As much as I felt for Jean-Pierre Bacri’s Damien Hauer and his dysfunctional relationship with his father, I just didn’t believe his romantic inclinations with Aurore. There were no real sparks despite Isabelle Carre’s eyes being amazing! Also their son was a little shit! I said it in the beginning on first encountering him, but he just continued to be one and I had no sympathy for him. So my engagement with this film was lukewarm. 

I still think we picked the better choices out of all the options. Otherwise we would’ve had to put up with Percy Jackson and The Smurfs 2. 

Go Local

Go Local Event - Queen Elizabeth Park, London

I was interested in this event mainly to reminisce in the memories of last years’ Olympic Games and because I had such a fabulous time as a Gamesmaker. The friend I invited along didn’t have a chance to get to the park in 2012, so I thought this would be an excellent opportunity for her to finally see it. I didn’t think much about it and although I was aware of the line up and hoped other people would be excited about it, I personally was just happy about the company and seeing the park again and revisiting the vibe of last summer. When I printed the tickets the day before and had a quick read through the outline of the event, I jokingly apologized to my friend for what sounded like a serious push to ‘recruit volunteers’ from our plus ones.

The first disappointment hit when we made our way towards the entrance. It was miles away from the Olympic stadium, which was surrounded by fences that still looked like a massive building site… I couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling creeping up my back… However I didn’t want to be ungrateful nor did I want to ruin the sunny day, so we made our way into the area that was open to us. Unfortunately there was not much recognizable in the ‘North Park’ as it either looked like a massive sand pit or just had builders fences along the pathways. I pointed out the places I vaguely remembered, like for example where the Hockey Arena used to be. I am not sure I was convincing as it is hard to imagine in the current state. We walked towards the Velodrome, hoping we could get close to it to have a look at its impressive design, but no chance because it was fenced off like everything else that would resemble the Olympic Park from 2012. I was not happy and felt sorry for dragging my friend along just to watch bands we had no particular interest in or never heard off. 

Luckily they organised some rides for people to go on, of course at ridiculous prices, but I would like to think (sincerely hope) that the money will go to good causes. The coolest attraction was a zip wire ride across the pathway we had just walked up! Weirdly enough they shut the ride down before most people were even in the park, which made no sense to us as it would’ve been a money spinner all afternoon! 

As there was not much else to do we were kinda forced to witness the events on stage, so we joined the masses and just baked in the sun. We were watching JoinIn-volunteers speak to spectators in the crowd about volunteering opportunities and we were trying to figure out whether the massive SIGN UP tent was busy enough to meet organisers’ expected outcome from this event. We just shrugged our shoulders about the attempted hard sell they were going for and tentatively discussed how dangerous it can be to reach the opposite effect with this approach. We had no idea what was to come.

Up until this point I may have been disappointed about not being able to see any of the Olympic Park, but I was outdoors, in the sunshine, in great company, just chilling surrounded by people that seemed to have a good time and who enjoyed the pre-show entertainment coming from the stage. I was happy after all. I wasn’t too bothered about the main show, but I was looking forward to speeches from Sebastian Coe who previously has been very humbling, appreciative and inspiring and I have the utmost respect for Eddie Izzard for being the face of the Join In initiative and guiding us with his little videos through our Gamesmaker journey. After all it was Coe and Izzard, among other influences, who made me sign up to Join In, joined a sports club in the wake of the Olympics and made me look into other volunteering opportunities because I wanted to keep the legacy going. 

But when the main show started it all changed drastically. Tess Daley was the host and literally every sentence was about pushing the volunteering. It sucked the fun right out of the event. They tried to make it look lose and natural, but it was just staged and it made me cringe so much. Interviewing sports club and performance artists, pushing their stories about how they couldn’t have done anything without volunteers, it was all just in our face. Instead of telling a story like they did during the Olympic Games, going for the heart of the listener, let the message sink in naturally and inspire people to help out, they turned it into a direct “I am spelling it out for you” message which left no space for the imagination and it was put to us as if it was our duty and we had no other choice. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have been surprised if they made us all chant the word V O L U N T E E R. Even the speeches I was looking forward to were disappointing. To be frank, I felt insulted by them - especially by Sebastian Coe. 

I never felt personally comfortable with the overwhelming gratitude and thank yous all the volunteers were shown during and after the Olympic Games last year. It was touching to hear in the closing ceremony, on TV programmes and to read in the news. They were all well deserved as were the events that were held for them in their local communities. I am just generally uncomfortable with being put onto the spotlight. I felt grateful for being given the opportunity to be part of such an important event like the Olympics and having had such an amazing time was reward enough for me. Volunteering has transformed the city during the summer of 2012 and created such a positive vibe that it automatically wanted you to look for opportunities to continue it, without even being asked to do so. It was inspiring. These three words have been used over and over last year. I am not sure if I heard them once during Friday afternoon, they definitely didn’t stick and I definitely did not feel inspired. I have also met many people who told me I was crazy working for free for two weeks whilst others made loads of money for the same work. This is the crucial thing, reasons for wanting to be a volunteer are multifold and personal. Some are hard to put into words, some are hard to comprehend. It can be a sensitive issue, lead to big emotions, possibly unexplained. Thankfully people still find them and sign up for volunteering.

I think one of the most memorable stories told during the Olympic Games 2012 was about a man who refused to accept a thank you from Sebastian Coe, instead thanking him for the opportunity to find closure after 7/7 by being part of the Games. 12 months ago I was deeply touched when Coe told about this encounter. On Friday he buried that emotion in the dust, despite the young man being his personal plus one. He was only given 1 minute with him on stage and I can’t even remember what he was saying as it was over too quickly. What could’ve turned into an interesting and touching personal anecdote worthy of Coe’s own speeches from the past, was cut short coldly. Only to be followed by one of the worst hard sells I have ever personally witnessed with an almost threatening message at the end: “we won’t let anyone leave without having signed up for future volunteering.” I was absolutely baffled and lost for words. Our cynical and sarcastic jokes from the beginning of the event had turned into a weird and uncomfortable reality that was accompanied by the inability to pick up any mobile phone signal whilst we were fenced into the North of the Olympic Park. I felt embarrassed having dragged my friend along to a ‘brain wash session’, with the repeated message by everyone from stage or video screens how she is expected to volunteer. Considering the tone of the show, I was glad that Eddie Izzard was only on stage for 60 seconds, in this way not being able to participate in this propaganda and not ruining his own inspirational video clips that guided the Join In initiative up until now. 

Not everyone was able to act as unnatural within the scheme of the afternoon and so Boris Johnson still stayed true to himself and remained unthreatening and mildly entertaining. A young man of maybe 8 years promoting one of the rugby clubs (if I remember correctly), quite innocently blurted out to Tess Daley that the question she was asking him was meant for someone else. This highlighted how staged the event was and how rehearsed and unnatural the message was that came across from the organisers. 

I am fully aware that this is entirely my own opinion and no one is hoping more than me, that other people didn’t feel as appalled as I did during the event. The crowd was dancing and singing along during the bands performances and all the acts were met with applause and appreciation, so hopefully it was a good day out for most. However, as I said, volunteering is personal and is something I want to do without anyone telling me to do so. It is my free time that I am willing to give up for a cause I believe in. There is a thin line between inspiring someone to join on one side, because they are able to see the rewards others gain from it or are personally touched by someone who helped them as a volunteer and then on the other side, to put people off volunteering by driving an aggressive agenda and trying to actively recruit people for something that does not feel genuine. It conveys the message of desperation and disrespect. Although I have probably already signed up, I felt judged for not signing up there and then in person no matter my reasons.

I left the event angry and disappointed and certainly didn’t stay until the end. I am glad it was staged a whole year later, so this experience will have no repercussions on my memories of the Olympic Games 2012. However, it will leave me with wariness of future events and no desire to look into any of them if the same organisers are involved. If my personal belief in volunteering weren’t as strong and I was someone looking for first time opportunities to be inspired to volunteer, then this GO LOCAL event would have failed its message entirely


Golden Girls - 27 years ago and they didn’t give a shit about homosexuality! Why is it still so hard to even mention it in today’s TV shows? Pioneers. This show is just timeless, frank, honest, emotional and hysterical! If you have never ever watched it, do yourself a favour and catch up, they are all on youtube! 

My apologies for the terrible photoshop but I think this movie should be totally made! Even if just as a skit for charity. Just saying.

Only a week after it happened, I finally watched @Cher performing Woman’s World :D
Looks like straight from London’s Heaven and makes me miss London’s Astoria. To have an album launch at the old G-A-Y would have been EPIC and so fitting. 

Additionally I think Woman’s World should be used for the trailer to my made-up dream Super(Wo)man film MERYL OF STEEL featuring Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock. It would all fit perfectly together! 

Someone teach me proper photoshop and final cut, so I can make the image storm in my head into reality…

On my search for the actual @Cher performance, I stumbled upon this video. Honest and loving tribute to her comeback on TV. Love it. Thanks for sharing. Now off to find the Woman’s World performance.

Cher is indeed fucking fabulous!

Meryl Streep would not only be an epic Batman, she would also be awesome in yet another remake of Superman! Meryl Of Steel. 
Happy Birthday, Meryl!
Please someone make this happen! Thanks.

Meryl Streep would not only be an epic Batman, she would also be awesome in yet another remake of Superman! Meryl Of Steel. 

Happy Birthday, Meryl!

Please someone make this happen! Thanks.