Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A Time for Reflection

I was going to do a review or some other frivolous piece but, in light of what's happening around the world, felt it wouldn't be appropriate. In Libya people are being killed daily by their own government for simply demanding the basic right to freedom. And throughout the middle east people are doing the same, regardless of the threats to their lives and safety. And then news of the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand came through and it got me thinking about how fortunate those of us living in less volatile (politically and physically) areas are.

All too often we get caught up in our own lives, and the daily annoyances that seem to build up. The daily commute, the price of food/fuel, the rudeness of those around us. I'm no different. But we should never forget the challenges others are facing around the world and be grateful for the good things in our own lives. We can do little to truly help those in far flung lands, those suffering and in pain, those that have to struggle for even the simplest of things. But the least we can do is allow ourselves to look at the positive in our own lives and to send our thoughts and prayers to those struggling through dark times. My heart goes out to those losing friends and family, to all those brave souls fighting for their rights, and to those refusing to give up, no matter the challenges they face. They are an inspiration to us all.

Some links of interest if you want to get involved or get more information:

A blog from Toronto with a lot of information and links
A Facebook page stating what anyone can do to help

The Red Cross New Zealand Earthquake Appeal - all funds will be used towards the New Zealand Red Cross response to the disaster.
 There is also an app with a clever low tech way for people to find someone they may be concerned about, or post information about someone so others can find them.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Undertakers, Andalucia and Threepenny Opera - Make Me a Musical

This week I had the pleasure of seeing "Showstoppers - The Musical" at The Ambassadors Theatre. The concept is simple - the audience shout out a setting, a time period, and some types of music; the actors then need to create a musical around that (with occasional audience input to decide what should happen at certain eventful plot points). The whole ensemble is coordinated by the "director" who can stop the events on stage and make his own suggestions, to keep everything on track. Or to torment his fellow actors.

Anyone familiar with "Whose Line is it Anyway" will instantly recognise the concept. If you want to see the musical "we" came up with click here.  The actors were incredibly impressive, and the songs were funny and totally in keeping with musical styles. My personal favourite moments were when the actors got caught out; for example one was playing a main character but in one scene where he wasn't needed he provided the sound and motion of a kettle (it made sense, trust me) when suddenly his character was needed on the opposite side of the stage. Looking to the audience he crept off to the side, ran around the back of the set and appeared, in his appropriate hat, on the opposite side of the stage. The director then stopped the action and said, "I'd like to see that again." The look on that guy's face was a picture as he had to run all the way back to repeat his discreet exit.

If you normally don't like musicals this is one worth seeing, as it's more about improvisation and is great fun. There's no intermission and the pace is kept up throughout. The performances are stellar and it really feels like you're part of the experience. For more information click here or watch the video below. I fully encourage everyone to support this small production. The big fish could learn a lot from them.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Happy Valentine's Day - Love, Blood and Geoffrey Chaucer

For Valentine's Day I thought I'd write a little piece about the day and the different opinions of where it comes from, rather than wax lyrical about the wonders of love. We all know it's great (it really is, when it's true and good) and others will be able to do a better job than I.

So where does this little day come from? Was it invented in a deep cavern somewhere by chocolate makers and flower sellers? Was there ever a single St. Valentine, who inspired the day? In fact the truth about the day is a complex and puzzling thing, with many theories about it's origins. So let's look at the man (or men) himself that the day is named for.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Film Review: Black Swan (2010)

Darren Aronofsky was never going to create a typical telling of Swan Lake. And in Black Swan he has truly outdone himself; striking visuals, terrifying imagery, and excellent performances have all come together to create one of the most compelling films of recent years. It may be utterly bonkers but it’s incredibly entertaining.

Natalie Portman stars as Nina Sayers, a woman who has been trying to get a leading ballet role for years with little success. As with all dancers she’s facing the very real prospect that she will never make her mark, and will simply vanish into obscurity. But when the lead of Swan Lake is retired (Winona Ryder, in a cutting casting as the has-been dancer), Nina sees her chance for the role of a lifetime. But the executive director, played by a suitably scathing Vincent Cassel, is not so sure she’s up to it. As he tells her, he has no doubt she can play the sweet and innocent white swan, but she must get in touch with her darker, sensual side to capture the essence of the black swan on the stage.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Discovering the wonder of Haiku

Haven't been making much progress lately with the tome, trapped as I am in a cycle of edit and re-edit on the short story (which needs to be submitted before next Monday!) but in the meantime I found a Haiku competition. Never written a Haiku before but I've found out I enjoy it. Below are a few I've come up with that aren't within the guidelines for the competition but were fun to write. It's great way to get the creativity to flow. Hope you enjoy!

Do groundhogs wonder,
Why these tall things with hats,
Try to talk to them?

A little humour
Sprinkled with humility
Makes a perfect man

The fire of love
Is quick to light, slow to die
And keeps us all warm

If all the bright stars
Are the dreams of mere mortals
Gods must be blinded

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Film Review: The Next Three Days (2010)

Russell Crowe and director Paul Haggis team up for this tense thriller, based on the french film "Pour Elle" (aka Anything for Her) by Fred CavayƩ. Absorbing from the start, the premise is simple; after a happily married man and wife have their worlds torn apart when she is convicted of murder, the husband starts to plan how to break her out of prison. The issue of her guilt or innocence is largely left out, until the very end, as that isn't the point. This is an exploration of what one ordinary man will do and the lengths he will go to in order to unite his family.

The film opens with the kind of family dinners we all dread - two brothers, John and Mick Brennan, are out with their wives, who just happen to despise each other. After one too many drinks the heated words turn volcanic and both parties go their separate ways. The next morning John (Russell Crowe) and his wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks) are discussing the night before, bantering with each other and their young son when suddenly the doorbell rings and police storm into the house. They arrest Lara, accusing her of murdering her boss the day before, after she left work

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Interesting and Scary Times

Firstly I want to say how worrying the Egypt situation is becoming. A desperate dictator is looking for any last resort to stay in power, knowing full well that "The West" will do nothing. They (and everyone else) have so far even refused to state publicly that he needs to leave immediately - after all this is one dictator that has been a consistent ally to the UK and US. Unlike that other dictator in another Arabic country who exploited the West to get his position before refusing to play ball - and we marched in and occupied the country. Wonder why we were so hard on him compared to President Mubarak? Hmmm, it's a mystery. Then of course there's the "better the devil you know" mentality - as whatever may replace Mubarak may be ten times worse. For us as well as for the Egyptians.

I've been watching the revolt slowly turn into a civil war, and I dread to think what will come next. This is a pivotal moment in the Middle East and for all our sakes we better hope that democracy and justice win. What has happened so far in Tunisia is reassuring, though Egypt was never going to have it as easy. I suspect we haven't seen the worst yet but I hope I'm wrong. My thoughts are with the Egyptian people and I hope they get the free democratic state that they deserve.

On a lighter note, today is Groundhog Day. I watched little Punxsutawney Phil being held up and... he did not see his shadow so Spring is going to come early. Hooray! Evidently Groundhogs can't understand weather reports but he looks very cute so we'll forgive him. To see him yourself watch below.