Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Of little weight

I'm sure we've all hoped that someone will come along with a wand and make us thinner - hence a site such as this: Well, folks, it ain't gonna happen. In the script I'm writing currently in collaboration with a friend, the witch attended a low decile Witch School - she doesn't even own a wand, so don't expect any help from the likes of her.

Well that bit of a ramble was by way of introduction to a post I wrote back in April where I mentioned I was involved in a play called Love - or Nearest Offer. (It's a wonder I didn't call it Love or Near Offer, which is what we all thought it was called until the posters went up - and in fact, in the prologue that was written specially for this production, the actor still called it Love or Near Offer.)

Anyway, it went well - Bert Nisbet turned in his usual wonderfully detailed performance, playing an uncouth Aussie car saleman who planned to take over the running of a dating agency called, Love of your life. Janice Snowden (I hadn't known her surname until I just looked it up!) was his opponent in this, the current part owner/manager of the agency, and she kept her side of things up well too. The other two smaller parts were taken by Graham Wilson and Denise Casey - who played husband and wife in When We Are Married. Though they had fun with their roles, the actual parts are rather under-written, and these two characters get the bum's rush at the end of the play, which is a pity, because they don't particularly deserve that. Bernie Crayston did the prologue and Andy Cook and Rosemary Richards did a couple of walk-on roles - again ones that weren't in the original script.

As the music wasn't either: yours truly composed the interludes between the scenes, and arranged a bunch of Australian songs for the overture and interval.

You can see a very posed photo from the rehearsals on the Otago Daily Times site. The review we got was written by Barbara Frame. She called the play, with great precision: an unremarkable but very pleasant romantic comedy. Since this blog is all about ME - just in case you hadn't guessed, and since I'm an inveterate blower of my own trumpet (you have to be, to be heard amongst the millions) she also said: Piano accompaniment by Michael Crowl, beginning with Advance Australia Fair and other well-known Australian pieces, and branching out into Crowl's own composition, adds sparkle to the evening.

Made by Cows since 1886

For something that's beautifully done (the opening shot has a wonderful feel about it) check out the Anchor products ad - I think it's one of a number they've done, and it's very well done too. And full of visual humour.

It must have been quite a trial working with a large number of cows, none of whom appear to be CGI.

Unfortunately I can't embed it here, but the link should take you straight to it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Speaking of Science

Einstein’s God: Conversations about Science and the Human Spirit by Krista Tippett is a collection of 13 interviews with distinguished scientists and writers on science, each with a thoughtful introduction from Tippett. Here, again, her interviewees are people with deep knowledge and unique perspectives on science and religion; among them are distinguished physicist Freeman Dyson, Darwin biographer James Moore, and psychologist Michael McCullough, who studies revenge and forgiveness. The premise behind each conversation is that science and religion are not in conflict, and that believing they are has led us all astray. As Hindu scholar and physicist V. V. Raman tells Tippett, though we talk about a “cognitive dissonance” between religion and science, many of us live with an “experiential consonance.” It almost goes without saying, as Tippett puts it in one podcast, “we are not going to talk about Richard Dawkins.”

The paragraph above comes from an essay on the Killing the Buddha site and was written by Brook Wilensky-Lanford. It's an interesting piece, though she does seem to have a bit of a fixation on the political aspect of religion/science, and in particular is concerned to push the Intelligent Design movement into a thoroughly political position.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More on The Insatiable Moon

The Insatiable Moon movie is getting closer and closer to release, and looks, from what I've read about it over its production period to be a real winner. Here's a video on it - made, I suspect, in the middle of production. It gives a very small taster of what's to come.

You'll probably have to double click this to bring it up on You Tube. I'll figure out how to get these videos into their proper format soon on my blog, I promise!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The art of the juggler

Taking the art of the juggler a step further by using a very large prop. Michael Moschen performs The Triangle. There's also a longer video from a TED conference in which he discusses the way we learn and that juggling isn't really that difficult at all....(so he says!)....and still does some amazing juggling (for example, six balls bouncing in increasingly complex patterns).

As always it's probably better to double click on this video and see it in its proper format on You Tube.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Art is about the human crazy

John Shore is a writer whose blog posts I've only lately picked up on. I was particularly struck by today's notes on being a Christian and an artist:

I’m sure that in my life I’ve never given as much thought to any one topic as I have the relationship between art and God — which is to say, really, about the relationship between man and God, which I think is basically all anyone, in one way or another, is ever thinking about anyway. And one of the Big Things I think about the whole Art-God phenomenon is that a person seeking to create great art cannot let anything get between them and whatever artistic imperative is gnawing at their insides. And one of the things that I think tends to most often interfere with the production of truly fulfilling and aesthetically arresting art is the assumption (however subconsciously or subtly it presents itself) that the end product must in some very real and important way be okay with God.

He winds up saying: art is about the human crazy. And giving that form and expression isn’t really God’s thing.

My comment on that is: Art is probably about human crazy in the same way that Creation is about the God Crazy – surely he must have a tinge of craziness to have produced some of the creatures and scenes we live with in this world (let alone the people!)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Reductio ad absurdum

David Hart, in First Things is surprised - or perhaps not surprised - at the lack of thinking in a book, 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. Here's a couple of paragraphs in which he describes some of the contributions:

To be fair, the shallowness is not evenly distributed. Some of the writers exhibit a measure of wholesome tentativeness in making their cases, and as a rule the quality of the essays is inversely proportionate to the air of authority their authors affect. For this reason, the philosophers—who are no better than their fellow contributors at reasoning, but who have better training in giving even specious arguments some appearance of systematic form—tend to come off as the most insufferable contributors. Nicholas Everitt and Stephen Law recycle the old (and incorrigibly impressionistic) argument that claims of God’s omnipotence seem incompatible with claims of his goodness. Michael Tooley does not like the picture of Jesus that emerges from the gospels, at least as he reads them. Christine Overall notes that her prayers as a child were never answered; ergo, there is no God. A.C. Grayling flings a few of his favorite papier-mâché caricatures around. Laura Purdy mistakes hysterical fear of the religious right for a rational argument. Graham Oppy simply provides a précis of his personal creed, which I assume is supposed to be compelling because its paragraphs are numbered. J.J.C. Smart finds miracles scientifically implausible (gosh, who could have seen that coming?). And so on. Adèle Mercier comes closest to making an interesting argument—that believers do not really believe what they think they believe—but it soon collapses under the weight of its own baseless presuppositions.

The scientists fare almost as poorly. Among these, Victor Stenger is the most recklessly self-confident, but his inability to differentiate the physical distinction between something and nothing (in the sense of “not anything as such”) from the logical distinction between existence and nonexistence renders his argument empty. The contributors drawn from other fields offer nothing better. The Amazing Randi, being a magician, knows that there is quite a lot of credulity out there. The historian of science Michael Shermer notes that there are many, many different and even contradictory systems of belief. The journalist Emma Tom had a psychotic scripture teacher when she was a girl. Et, as they say, cetera. The whole project probably reaches its reductio ad absurdum when the science-fiction writer Sean Williams explains that he learned to reject supernaturalism in large part from having grown up watching Doctor Who.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer - parody

You Tube and other sites becoming the playground of hundreds of superb filmmakers, people who love movies and can take them off, or provide short, snappy stories, and much more.

The one below is a parody trailer of all those movie dramas/thrillers you've ever seen, well-put together and looking as though there's some real money behind it, but actually made by a couple of film-school graduates in Atlanta.

It runs the gamut of nice hero about to get involved in things over his head, older woman character (actress who's been out of work for a while and has been trying out the latest cocoa butter stretch marks creams to improve her figure), heroine who does a lot of running away from things in the later part of the movie, oddball character who may or may not be autistic, and sundry other bodies randomly slotted in just to arouse the audience's interest. But there's much more slipped into place as well. Worth repeated viewings.
To see it in it's proper wide format, double click on the video to go to the You Tube Version.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Marketers as artists?

Seth Godin stretching the idea of what it is to be artist:

Art, by my definition, has nothing to do with painting and everything to do with connecting with people in a generous way and causing a change to take place. A movie director is making art when she makes you cry. A product designer creates art when the UI is better than it needs to be and it creates efficiency or even joy. Marketers can find plenty of Dummies books and manuals and insider PDFs that demonstrate, step by step, how to follow the rules. That's easy and not particularly valuable. A marketer becomes an artist when she goes out on a limb, does the unexpected or the risky and makes a difference.

I'd argue that you two [Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba] do art when you stand up and give a talk about the 1%. Or Biz Stone was an artist when he figured out how to launch and scale Twitter's marketing. Or Scott Monty at Ford when he does a car show rollout that bypasses the cocktail parties at AutoWeek in favor of individual interviews with social media mavens. The second time someone does something, it's a copy. The first time, it's art.

Hmm...not sure I entirely agree. Maybe when you view everything from a marketing perspective you begin to take over language from other arenas.

More Mum than Dad?

A bit too late for Mother's Day here in NZ, but never mind - this song has a somewhat timeless quality.

Cleverly put together and full of words: so keep your wits about you and your ears wide open. I think the singer's name is Adam Cole.

You can download the song as an mp3 from the site in the link above....if you want. The words are written out on the You Tube site.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

N T Wright on the Arts

‘We have lived for too long with the arts as the pretty bit around the edge with the reality as a non-artistic thing in the middle. But the world is charged with the grandeur of God. Why should we not celebrate and rejoice in that? And the answer sometimes is because the world is also a messy and nasty and horrible place. And, of course, some artists make a living out of representing the world as a very ugly and wicked and horrible place. And our culture has slid in both directions so that we have got sentimental art on the one hand and brutalist art in the other. And if you want to find sentimental art then, tragically, the church is often a good place to look, as people when they want to paint religious pictures screen out the nasty bits. But genuine art, I believe, takes seriously the fact that the world is full of the glory of God, and that it will be full as the waters cover the sea, and, at present (Rom 8), it is groaning in travail. Genuine art responds to that triple awareness: of what is true (the beauty that is there), of what will be true (the ultimate beauty), and of the pain of the present, and holds them together as the psalms do, and asks why and what and where are we. You can do that in music, and you can do that in painting. And our generation needs us to do that not simply to decorate the gospel but to announce the gospel. Because again and again, when you can do that you open up hermeneutic space for people whose minds are so closed by secularism that they just literally cannot imagine any other way of the world being. I have debated in public in America with colleagues in the New Testament guild who refuse to believe in the bodily resurrection and, again and again, the bottom line is when they say ‘I just can’t imagine that’, the answer is, ‘Smarten up your imagination’. And the way to do that is not to beat them over the head with dogma but so to create a world of mystery and beauty and possibility, that actually there are some pieces of music which when you come out of them it is much easier to say ‘I believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’ than when you went in’.

Thanks to Jason Goroncy for alerting me to this (long) paragraph, which comes from a talk N T Wright gave entitled, 'Jesus, the Cross and the Power of God' - a conference paper presented at the European Leaders' Conference, Warsaw, 2006. (It seems only to be available as an mp3.)

I love that response: Smarten up your imagination!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Borrowers

Somewhere along the line I'd seen the end of this version of The Borrowers before, so it was kind of good to catch up with the remaining eighty or so minutes.

This is a peculiar Borrowers. It owes almost nothing to the original novel except the title and the idea of four-inch people living under the floor of a house (or in the walls) who borrow all manner of things to survive.

It exists in some strange land where the houses and cars are English but the light-switches switch on American style; where the policeman seems to have popped out of a French comedy (with the same kind of gear as a French policeman would wear on point - and he even appears on point a couple of times); where the family who occupy the house are American (though played by British actors) but the Borrowers are English (as are all the other Borrowers they meet later); where the villainous lawyer, Ocious Potter (played with a cartoon kind of manicness by John Goodman) intends to build a set of apartments that would take up a couple of acres in the space of one modest British house. And where every other car you see is painted green; in fact they might all have been painted green. It's a very attractive green, and it predominates throughout, along with ginger wigs (all in need of a quick trim) for most of the Borrowers, and a muted red. That's almost the entire colour palette.

And in one or two scenes the skyscape of the town the story takes place in is so obviously painted it's hard to know quite what the designer's intention was.

Okay, so what are the good points? John Goodman puts up with a heck of a lot of electricution, extermination, being tied up by duct tape and wire, and still manages to give his part plenty of verve. Ron Weasley's father (Mark Williams) appears as the exterminator who seemingly can't make up his mind whether he wants to dispose of the little borrowers or protect them. (This is an ambiguity in the script which leaves Williams high and dry more than once.)

Jim Broadbent plays the father of the borrower family with great energy, Celia Imrie (Mrs Quickly from the first Nanny McPhee movie) his wife, Flora Newbigin his teenage daughter, and Tom Felton his ten-year-old son. Tom Felton - yes, I thought that name rang a bell: it's our old friend Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. This was his first movie, and he has a ball.

The special effects are superb: there's never a sense that the borrowers exist in anything but their own tiny world (crammed with heaps of visual jokes, most of which pass too quickly to be taken in on one viewing), or that they really are only four inches tall. And the overall design, odd though it may be, has a quirky charm.

Bradley Pierce also appears in the movie, as the boy who holds the story and the two worlds together. Though it may not be obvious when you see him here, he was the little boy in Jumanji - his big sister was later to become Spiderman's girlfriend: Kirsten Dunst. And even though they played a big sister and little brother in Jumanji, they were actually the same age...
Just one of those bits of trivia!

(The photo is of Tom Felton - when he's not being Draco.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Henri Nouwen on writing

Henri Nouwen was by no means only a writer, nevertheless what he says he strikes a strong chord with me...

Writing can be a true spiritual discipline. Writing can help us to concentrate, to get in touch with the deeper stirrings of our hearts, to clarify our minds, to process confusing emotions, to reflect on our experiences, to give artistic expression to what we are living, and to store significant events in our memories. Writing can also be good for others who might read what we write. Quite often a difficult, painful, or frustrating day can be "redeemed" by writing about it. By writing we can claim what we have lived and thus integrate it more fully into our journeys. Then writing can become lifesaving for us and sometimes for others too.

I don't know the source of this particular quote. I found it on the Prodigal Kiwi blog.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


I caught some of an interview with Australian violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch the other night. She was talking to Mairi Nicolson, and kept putting this interviewer clearly in her place in regard to not getting too snobby about how to play baroque music. The interviewer wanted to go along the line that one should know how the music was interpreted before one dared play it - this of course would take a great deal of research and study and many hours of not playing the music.

Wallfisch pooh-poohed all that. For her the music is a script on the page, and needs to be interpreted from the heart, not the head. She told Nicholson we can never know exactly how the music was played by the original composers; we should just be grateful that it was written down and left for us to play at all.

Wallfisch's reputation doesn't make her sound like someone who randomly plays music as she feels; on the other hand it was refreshing to hear her speak up for focusing on the music first and the academic angle second. I suspect it's music critics who like to think that music can only be played exactly how the original composer intended. Real musicians just get on and play.

Hindemith and von Einem

I'd never been much of a fan of the Hindemith's music, but his Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes by Carl Maria von Weber has been playing on my CD for some weeks now, and I just love it. At the moment the fourth movement, the March is on, and it's a wonderfully boisterous piece with moments of quiet between all the energetic stuff. The third movement is an Andantino which uses a lovely theme and works at it until it gets into your soul.
The first movement has a somewhat involved theme that is taken at a lickety-split pace and rolls along gathering up everything in its stride. The second movement took a bit of getting to enjoy: it begins very quietly, sneaking up on you with just the flute playing and then another wind instrument repeating the phrases, then the flute, and then the same instruments repeating again, and gradually the whole thing builds up into this rollicking and partly monstrous (I mean like a giant clumping over the land and stomping on houses that happen to get in the way) fugal thing that takes in the whole orchestra going hell for leather. When I say the whole orchestra I mean even the double basses sound like they're working harder than they've worked in a long while.
At the moment I could play this CD over and over for several months.
It also has Hindemith's Pittsburgh Symphony on it. The third movement, Ostinato has a brash feel about it and is pretty much in your face, but it also has a kind of humour I'd never really associated with Hindemith.
Another symphony, The Philadelphia Symphony by Gottfried von Einem, a composer I've never heard of before, rounds out the disk. His opening movement is fanfare like (though using wind and strings rather than brass), the second movement is sweet, without the 'bigness' of the Hindemith movements, and the last is a bouncy number that zips back and forth between various solo instruments. This symphony seems smaller in scale than either of the Hindemiths, but is a worthy companion to them, nevertheless. An Austrian, von Einem is primarily known for his operatic works.