Thursday, September 24, 2009

Short & Sweet festival

1. Cause of Breath
Main actress seemed a little off - I quite like the idea, the progression - was almost quaint. However the shades of delivery were absent; the 'freak out' at the start was followed by laughter so that I wasn't sure if the panic was badly acted or intended to be self-mocking.

2. Vienna Syndrome
Interesting subject, perhaps predictable presentation but entertaining nonetheless. Could have been punchier, played more for the humour/shock rather than the quirks of the characterisation/the marketing environment. Perhaps I'm missing the point? Found it quite static, no build or change.

3. Eastertoon
Hilarious, shocking. Excellent presentation, mix of melodrama/absurdity and self-awareness. Good storytelling, great acting.

4. Catch a Falling Knife
Perfect choice to follow Eastertoon. Well played, enough mystery and ambiguity to keep it interesting. Good subject matter, excellent closing.

5. History of the World in 7 1/2 minutes
Light, entertaining. Excellently played. Message/subject matter bored me. Hated the ending.

6. Cate Blanchett Wants To Be My Friend On Facebook
Expecting to have fun at the expense of Facebook, instead more of a dissection of Cate Blanchett - though I really enjoyed the worldly 'respectable' characters winning one over an airy actress. Fame turned on its head? Excellently played, although Cate was more of a parody than I expected. The manager I found a bit off, nervous/not connected to the other cast. Somehow thought-provoking rather than funny - only one thought provoked though.

7. That Old Mistake
Terrible. Potentially interesting subject matter made preachy. No point, trying too hard to be funny. Almost complete lack of structure. Loud, garish, nonsensical. Student play. Badly acted, disconnected from the audience.

8. Community Chest
Excellent subject matter, surprising, thought-provoking. Funny, presented well. Structure confusing - dream sequence at start not transitioning clearly back to reality, and the sequence at the end seemed to be another memory/dream sequence without warning. Too fast.

9. Sushiwushiwoo
Great fun, good heart, surprising but not relevatory. Good acting, good characters. Enough abstraction (accordion player) to satisfy me.

10. Five Black Dresses and a Lily
Cringe-worthy until there was cake on the dress. Dull content, some good characters, mostly bad acting.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

I picked up Virginia Woolf's “Into The Lighthouse” upon recommendation from a friend, and I have to say, at first I was astounded at her poor taste. Starting the book was an exercise in patience; I remember progressing from one description of an idle homely evening to another of the same idle homely evening, thinking, dear God, when will something happen? It was quite some surprise when I realised I was hooked.

I had, in fact, been missing the point. What is interesting in the novel is not so much what happens, as how the characters think and change from moment to moment; what they focus on, how they see other people and how they react to that perspective - at the same time how they are perceived by other characters; that other people will focus on the same thing and take a different perspective – or quite a similar one. That, occasionally, one will know what the other is thinking. It's dazzling and I've never seen characters presented so well as seperate, distinct, nuanced identities.

At the same time, the way the prose dances around, its camera moving erratically from inside someone's thoughts to their eyes to an object to another perceiver to inside their thoughts, their eyes looking back at the first person - it flows and blends so much that it becomes confusing whose perspective we are now being given.

The writing is both a point of fascination and frustration in this story – it is often abstract and a tad vague to perfectly suit the mood and vision of a character; yet often this abstraction of both grammar and content completely obscures the meaning. I found myself frequently rereading passages to attempt to understand what was going on – at other times I just plowed through and let the words make their vague impressions in my mind.

Woolf uses a technique of bracketing off sections (usually small) of the text to give the impression of many things happening simultaneously, and sometimes the most shocking new information is delivered in an aside this way, as though an unimportant detail. This was used to strongest effect in the middle section, where large blocks of description are punctuated by tiny bracketed narrative-bombs, such that I found myself covering the text with my hand to keep from jumping to the bracketed bits as I saw them approaching. [It makes me wonder about the visual aspect of written narrative – whether authors consider the effect, and how it could be manipulated.]

I found many characters to like, and all characters to empathise with at one point or another, but there are two standouts for me. Firstly Lily, the painter - for her integrity, her courage, her sarcasm, but especially her abstract artistic visions of truth. I felt like she was my vessel, my avatar within the novel, and her vision was my own. Secondly Mrs Ramsay, for her ability to see what people desire and to manipulate that in order to create small moments of beauty – art out of life (what a fascinating concept). I didn't so much identify with her as admire her deeply.

Both these characters had their moments of seeing things beyond and behind reality, a sense of solid things falling away and becoming mere shapes, symbols. Perhaps it was merely because I was engaged in practicing the same vision to give life to the text, but I knew and recognised that sense as being part of me, a state I find myself in, a way I see the world that feels so much a part of me that I found myself bound so strongly and unreservedly to a being (unfortunately fictional) that sees the same way.

Into The Lighthouse is an entirely character-driven piece told exceptionally well. I have missed these aspects of art, and I can easily see now why my friend recommended it – as do I.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thoughts on Food

(written as a reaction to "Rude Food" by Alan Saunders, a reflection on restaurant critics published in the book "Critical Perspectives")

I find it strange, Saunders' emphasis on the restaurant as the 'artwork' rather than the food.
What is different about food that it needs to be treated differently to other arts?

It is time-based, for one thing - so is music and film, but unlike these you can't eat precisely the same dish twice. In this way perhaps it is more like live performance - repeated but never exactly the same.

It is similar to - or at least starts off like - visual art, the bizarre deviation being that the art is destroyed (transformed, if you prefer) in order to engage with it.

It's something of a multi-layered experience as the visual becomes taste, becomes part of your body, is digested and extruded. Food then needs to engage with digestion as part of the medium; perhaps the difficulty there is that no two bodies are identical - but then neither are the minds that 'digest' other artforms.

Food is a work that continues after you have left the venue.

Saunders mentions the trap of liking food to sex - it is a live 'performance' that engages with you physically - but unlike sex, food engages impersonally. At a stretch you are engaging with the chef, but food isn't about people. The closest related medium I can think of is instrumental music.

Saunders makes a similar connection, though for the reason that music and food are both abstract aesthetic experiences that cannot easily be analysed - their 'form and meaning are one'. I don't wholly agree, as it's not true that music is entirely without literary themes, without metaphor and imagery. There are perhaps corresponding elements to food, however rarely if ever does food attempt to express an actual story.

Does the cook imbue their work with meaning? Or rather do they play with aesthetic? I find the latter more likely, and certainly it is what most customers expect from the experience.

It is odd then, that food is a bit of an improvisation on the part of the customer - most dishes are not required to be eaten in a certain way (mouthful to mouthful), so even if it were possible for two customers to eat the exact same meal, they would not eat it in the same way. Because of this there will often be too much sauce in one mouthful, too much salt in another. I suppose in a way this is true for all art - people respond differently to the same things, taking in different aspects of a work in a different order to other people experiencing the same work (such as focusing on the lighting at one point in a theatrical performance rather than the music) - yet with food you can physically witness the art being processed, which makes it able to be controlled to some extent.

It's also usually up to the customer to choose the course of their meal, progressing from dish to dish, which could conceivably be disastrous for the overall experience (the difference similar to that between an album arranged by intention and a musical library set to random) - unless the menu is somehow composed such that all variations will blend well.

The biggest difference between food and other art forms is that food is very much functional, expected to satisfy a physical need - so who has the time or money to risk experimental, perhaps indigestible, meals that may have more 'literary' merit, more of a story, more meaning to them?

Perhaps food is more comparable to design artefacts, especially considered on a sliding scale - 'undigestible' books may be considered to have great merit, uncomfortable but fashionable shoes may still be worn, but if food is not especially edible, no-one cares what its 'meaning' is.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My soul/Silence and Motion

My soul is noir:
beauty and sadness,
rain and twilight
Autumn; winds and falling leaves.
Good books and a warm drink.
Slow music.
The bizarre, the eclectic, the body moving on its own,
Expression of the spirit, bypassing the mind.
Eternity and mortality.
Fading, transitions.
Silence, and motion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I am bleeding.
I am fucking bleeding one more bloody time.
Small cuts and abrasions picked at and healed and picked at and closed over.
Imperfections becoming less perfect.
The stink of me fills my fingernails and my nostrils.
So sick of existing that I tear myself into something worth fixing.
Fixing to bleed again.
I am fucking bleeding.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Last night/early this morning, when I was trying to get to sleep so that I would have a chance of being awake at 11 for an inspection of a prospective new home, my brain decided to write a poem. Stupid brain. And then it managed to finish it, so of course I had to get up and write it down so I wouldn't forget it:

When it's missing
You begin
To lose your hold on it

You can't keep it
Touch it
Experience it

It's missing
And you are no longer sure
What it is

You forget
What it was like
When you had it

So it loses its substance
And becomes

It's missing
Until you chance across it

And you find
That it isn't
At all
What you were looking for

Diminished, somehow

And you wonder
Was it better
When it was missing?

But, with a sigh, you realise:
When it was gone
You made it a part of you

and that part
is still

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Being Irrational

Today I cried.
I don't know why. Maybe it's something to do with a bad diet, or sleeping patterns, or whatever.
Don't they teach you that you cry when you are sad? And then they have to explain that sometimes people cry when they're happy. Or angry.
But there's supposed to be a reason.
Perhaps I'm lonely. It makes sense, but if so, I'm not even admitting it to myself. As far as I know, I'm fine with being on my own for extended periods of time.
Perhaps I feel unfulfilled. I wonder if this is what life is, whether there is anything anywhere that clicks, that feels right, that feels like anything.
If there is one thing that I can think of that I want to do for the rest of my life, it is to feel something. Not to do what's right, or what makes sense, to do what makes me feel like life is worth it.
This is far from a suicide note. I believe that death removes the possibility of ever feeling anything. With life there's hope of something better - I just wish I could find it.

Songs for the irrationally tearful and emotional:
Feel - Robbie Williams
Children Will Listen - from Into the Woods
Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again - from Phantom of the Opera
I Don't Believe in Heroes Anymore - from Three Guys Naked From The Waist Down
Here Without You - 3 Doors Down
A Modern Myth - 30 Seconds To Mars
Peace Love and Understanding - A Perfect Circle
Another Day - Air

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Without Sin

I had two cups of coffee.
I've seen Sin City.
Now I'm feeling apathetic and everything that happens is a work of art.
I wonder when I'll sleep.

Friday, October 14, 2005

That Peaceful Movie

IT... is a fantastic movie. I've already seen it once, and I'm not the kind of person who sees the same movie twice at the cinema. I usually think it's a waste of money. Not this time.
I've never been so drawn in to a movie before! I felt plastered to my seat and it took me hours afterwards to come back to reality. It's smart, it's funny, it's sexy, it's scary, it's full of action, and it's got great characters.
It's also got spaceships, grenades, a cartoon octopus, cannibals, swords, incense and a guitar.
It's Serenity. :-)
Come on, you know you want to!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Do you have Coke?

Blog game: Type “[your name] needs” (in quotes) in Google and show the first 10 results:

Oddly enough, it turns out there is a person whose name is James Needs, which spoiled the game a little, but the remaining entries made it worthwhile:

James Needs A Hat Petition
James Needs Your Coke
James Needs to Be Protected from Development
James needs to point out the University’s policies and goals that apply to this situation.
Further, James needs to tell Dave that if he continues to discriminate unfairly, he will be obligated to contact Dave’s manager.
James needs a little help

I think it suits me well :-D

This fun-ness was found with Gyhmoreid, who was a fellow thespian in our recent performance of Titus Andronicus, and today I managed to track her down.