Monday, February 08, 2016

A nightmare of ne'er-do-wells

A nightmare of ne'er-do-wells and the endless betrayals between them as supremacy over a blighted land is sought. A demon leads a rebellion with his sisters. Through a multitude of dimensions they hunt their father and together slay him. The demon turns his tricks upon his sisters next. He watches the hatred die in their eyes under his blade and spells.

The survivor rests, but not easy. His mind is full of the many different ways he may die if a family member somehow lives, or if a new challenger decides it is their time to come to the fore. His final dream within my dream is that of having his throat slowly cut, blood and breath gurgling out under pain that blots out the light. His last sight is the grimly victorious visage of this betrayer. But this is a dream he is used to, a fate he has imagined and escaped so many times it is a song whose words are uttered unconsciously.

He turns in his sleep as I wake and face the day.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A dream of family and space

A majestic and celestial dream, a computer program to be navigated, a symphony that changes depending on the direction of your gaze, a story being written as you witness it.

Family: voices speaking names, intoning relationships, a choir of history.

Community, society: percussion. Drumbeats of towns connected by tambourine trails and roads to xylophone cities and metropolises.

Place: woodwind instruments starting in the house, spreading out through my suburb, sweeping over the state and into the desert.

Region, country: from a desert starts playing the piano, riding contour maps of a country, into the ocean, visiting every continent across the globe.

Planets, solar systems: strings rising through the atmosphere and out to view our planet, planets, solar system.

Stars, galaxies: deep brass sweeping along our galactic arm, blowing out to view galaxies forming patterns of their own.

Something that you swim in and out of, traversing layers of music and feelings, the symphony of life and surroundings and connections. An eternal song.

It was a beautiful dream I had this morning.

Monday, July 27, 2015

determined to perish

I noticed a common thread between two very different movies I greatly enjoyed: Leaving Las Vegas (Nicholas Cage 1995) and Seven Pounds (Will Smith 2008). In both movies the main character is driven by a determination to perish. They have very different motives and follow very different paths, though I believe guilt is the overwhelming undertone for both.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Riders at The Malthouse

Dad and I saw The Riders at the Malthouse tonight, performed by the Victorian Opera, based on The Riders by Tim Winton.

There were so many things I loved about this production.

It was an opera, and they had the lyrics flashing up on a large display above the stage. I greatly appreciated this because as impressive as the singing was (and it was) operatic singing is occasionally  inscrutable.

Speaking of impressive singing, the singing was impressive. I was entranced watching Barry Ryan's mouth open so wide and feeling the power of his voice. I don't watch much opera. I felt goose pimples with the rising tension he brought forth. Dimity Shepherd's voice was full of verve and was readily picked out when filling out the supporting vocals.

The orchestra had me thrilled with dramatic flourishes. I was impressed with Jennifer Morrish on percussion - her section was at the right hand end of the pit. From my second row seat I watched her constantly move between instruments during the opera. There was a small black and white display showing her video of Richard Mills, the conductor, who was at her back most of the time. I could see two xylophones, a massive drum, some high hats, a set of tubular bells and a massive gong that she drew very powerful sounds from. I asked her afterwards to show me - she brought out this large bow (like a violin bow, but larger) and I watched as she played it against a hole in the middle of the gong.

These were the things I loved about this performance.

I did not like the story.

It was tedious and seemed to consist of almost entirely of Scully (the protagonist played by Barry Ryan) bemoaning over his wife abandoning their family. That's an admittedly harsh judgment on what should be a tension filled plot, but the story was a piteous whinging session. I did not feel like the story fit an operatic form at all. Some of the dialogue was trite, and repeated just in case we didn't get it the first time. The story focused repetitively on Scully bemoaning the loss of Jennifer (the wife who abandons him) and how much he loves her and his daughter Billie, and how afraid he is that he has been cuckolded while he was working at menial jobs to pay for his wife's training or lessons.

The story was tawdry because it contrasted poorly against the fiery drama of the music, the singing, and the mythical imagery of The Riders interspersed throughout the story (of the Wild Hunt mythology).

He wore a storm upon his shoulders. He wielded a whip of black lightning. -- Two vivid phrases I remember from the play, describing The Riders. My mind was full of wild images from this, that I couldn't reconcile with the play.

The imagery of The Hunt downright confused me. I imagined that it represents Scully's fruitless chase for his wife, the despair he feels at failing to find her or get any closure, and how this notion will become a ghost that chases him as relentlessly as the riders of The Hunt. However, I failed to place this within the context of the play in a meaningful way because the action and dialogue seemed so far away from anything magical or powerful. We saw the struggle of a helpless man, afraid of being a cuckold, afraid of being abandoned, afraid of being judged badly by others (at least two characters assumed Scully beat his wife and child). I simply couldn't put the different sides of this drama together in my head. It was like pieces of two completely different stories.

I haven't read The Riders by Tim Winton, and based on at least one review, won't. I loved the opera singing, and the music of this production, but I don't feel like the story fit. Having said all that, I look forward to seeing the Victorian Opera again, hopefully at The Malthouse!

See the program guide for The Riders here:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Anita Sarkeesian's Women as Background Decoration: Part 2

Anita Sarkeesian's Women as Background Decoration: Part 2 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games:

I think Anita's videos and analysis are extremely insightful. I watched her latest video yesterday (and again just now) and it struck me how I have played or wanted to play many of the games she references, yet seeing those images side by side in the context of them forming a pervasive pattern is disturbing and depressing.

In particular, the observation that such a pattern normalises, sensationalizes and mis-characterises violence against women makes me feel uncomfortable at how often I have seen such scenes in games and movies and automatically accepted them as background to the story being told.

I enjoyed the observation she made about a common rebuttal to the point of violence against women being so pervasive in games: that without it, the story or setting would appear unrealistic or not historically accurate. Her observation is that we routinely accept all the other aspects of sci-fi and fantasy that break historical and scientific realism to create the works we love so much. I meant it when I said I enjoyed this observation, because it makes me wonder how we could achieve the same undertones without resorting to portraying casual sexual violence against women. I find this to be a challenging and thought provoking idea.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I live perched upon her shoulder

I came to life clinging to a strand of her hair so wide it seemed like home. Then I fell, screaming all the way until, with a gentle wumph, l landed on the soft fabric covering her shoulder. It took me some time to gather myself, to stop the crazy thoughts spinning through my mind, to realize that I had fallen not out of existence but somewhere real, somewhere that still included the concept of me. I looked around.

For one whole day I was with her, and saw everything she did from my perch upon her shoulder. It scared me, horrified me and yet l was truly unable to look away. It was enthralling. Is this what it is like to live?

When she arrived home, I tried to remember every detail | had seen that day, and hoped I could find a way to store those recollections. She entered her bedroom and took off her jumper. 0nce more I became aware of the concept of me, not as an observer but as an entity, lacking any meaningful control over my life or the jumper I was inextricably nestled within. She placed the jumper in the hamper and closed the lid. Now I sit in the darkness and wonder. What happens next?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue Is the Warmest Color [Kindle Edition] by Julie Maroh, 2013.

A bittersweet tale of coming out - to oneself

This graphic novel is beautiful and sad and romantic. It is a coming out tale with artwork that is quite raw but stylish. The art contributes greatly to a sense of honesty about the characters, as though the shaky lines are a result of the characters showing us their inner selves and not quite being able to bear such searing openness.

I read this graphic novel the day after I watched the movie. I read this graphic novel purely because I had seen the movie and was so affected by it that I needed to read the source. The experience of both has merged in my head and I ask you to forgive my inability to review the graphic novel without reference to the movie. I can't help but picture Adele's bound hair and quirky smile with each frame of Clementine (Clementine's name was Adele in the movie). I am constantly comparing and contrasting each difference and similarity. They complement each other. All the things I found lacking in the movie are filled in here by the graphic novel, such that even though they are different stories, they form a complete whole in my imagination.

The most important paragraph in this entire novel filled in an emotion that I don't think was adequately explored in the film "For Emma, her sexuality is something that draws her to others, a social and political thing. For me, it's the most intimate thing there is." The movie became more about how the relationship between the two lovers changed, while the graphic novel focuses on how Clementine changes. The graphic novel is more a coming out tale, but coming out to herself only. The emotion expressed in this paragraph is truly the crux on which the entire book rests: it makes the ending (which we are informed of at the very beginning) so much harder to bear. It is bittersweet, and makes me so sad.

This conflict was stated just before the novel jumps from 1997 to 2008: I found it fascinating that it was left to us to fill in that one big gap. It was a surprising contrast with the movie, which leaves us to fill in many small gaps.

I wonder how different this graphic novel would be if there was more showing their domestic relationship. It is something that the movie managed quite well, but in doing so became a very different story. The intense sadness of the movie comes because we see them drift apart, and feel Adele's pain when she cannot repair what she has lost. She is set adrift, unable to forgive herself and move on.

In this way, both stories deal with a tragic loss. And both are quite tender in the tiny details they each give about their loved characters.

You can't review this novel without addressing the fact that it is an adult graphic novel. Both this graphic novel and the movie contain explicit sexual imagery. I feel that in each, they serve a different purpose, and the graphic novel does it with infinitely greater compassion and love. In the movie, these scenes show us that Adele has an almost insatiable appetite: for sex as much as love and food. In the graphic novel it is more about showing Clementine's acceptance of her own desire and her earnest need to connect in every way with her lover.

The graphic novel has flaws. I think the way it draws to the inevitable conclusion (which we are told at the very beginning) could have been done with more finesse. But I accepted it as much as I accepted the flawed nature of the illustrations. Many reviewers on Amazon criticise the Kindle version of the the graphic novel as having some scene transition flaws. There are two or three instances of this, but it did not spoil the experience for me.

I thoroughly recommend this story for anyone who enjoyed the emotional impact of the movie; anyone who appreciates the sadness and exhilaration that accompanies coming out - to yourself. Or anyone that loves a heartbreaking romance.


My review of this graphic novel appears on as well.

Read about Blue is the Warmest Colour on IMDB.