Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The power of sand

While over 2 million people have watched Kseniya Simonova's live sand animation portraying the German occupation of the Ukraine (if you haven't seen it, you should), few have picked up on this work of hers from a week ago.

Kseniya's looking for help:

LARGE REQUEST TO ALL!!! IF YOU HAVE SOME INFORMATION AS TO BE CONNECTED WITH GOOD SPECIALISTS IN THE REGION OF NEUROSURGERY (IN ANY COUNTRY) WRITE HERE, TO THE PAGE. Nika's diagnosis is a coma as a result of Meningoencephalitis. Here is the telefone number of Nika's Mom, Alina Vetchinova 8-066-906-37-00, but unfortunately she doesn't speak English, so write here. Thank you!

There's more comment on the YouTube posting.

The sheer pace of the piece, let alone the content, conveys the desperation she's feeling. It may not help, but please provide your own links to Kseniya's video.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

How long is too long?

Via Normblog, this from Jean Hannah Edelstein on the Guardian's Books Blog.

I'd say that the inverse is true, and that while a bad book will appear too long, a good one is always too short. All too often I have an increasing desire to read slower, to stop the thickness of the unread portion of the book from shrinking quite so rapidly, to sustain the pleasure that bit longer.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Film Club

The Film Club, David Gilmour's memoir describing his attempt to engage with his disaffected teenage son through movies was always going to be irresistible as far as this reader was concerned, even if it was for no more than the comments it contained on the films it referenced. The premise seemed simple; Gilmour allowed his 15 year old son to drop out of school on only two conditions: firstly no drugs and secondly that his son watched three movies a week with him. As a former film critic, he displays considerable skill in finding the right movies for opening up discussions on all the issues that matter to teenagers: girls, sex, music, work (or the lack of it), alcohol, tobacco, and (inevitably) other less benign drugs.

The book itself was an exceptionally easy read. Somewhat blokey in tone, but that was probably unavoidable. Some of his insights into the films are very stimulating although there are surely one or two errors; his claim that Hitchcock filmed Psycho in 8mm (supposedly to give it the look of a porn movie) is plain wrong.

When reading this, I assumed that it was a novel (the book has a list of Gilmour's earlier novels) and when I reached the end I felt that it was all too neat, too well structured, and with too satisfactory a resolution to ever reflect real life; nothing ever goes that smoothly. So I was surprised (and suspicious) when I saw the book shown as a 'memoir' on the back cover. Internet searches suggest that it is indeed one, although I think that the author has tidied up events to too great a degree. Whether this is out of respect for his son's privacy, or simply because of his inclination as a writer to bring a degree of order to events is hard to judge, but it left the book ringing less than totally true and that was a major disappointment.

Nevertheless I've read it a second time. That means that I did enjoy it enough to recommend it.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Oliver Postgate

Oliver Postgate (above left, with Peter Firmin) died yesterday. Oliver's autobiography Seeing Things is an enjoyable read, but the real pleasure is of course the films. Here are a small selection:

The Pingwings:

The Pogles:

Noggin the Nog:

Ivor the Engine:



Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Qualified disclaimer

I'm the sort of person who regards it as mandatory to sit through a film's end credits. Key Grip, Gaffer, Best Boy, Focus Puller, the lot; how much simpler when it simply said 'The End' or with French movies the definitive brevity of 'Fin'. So it might not entirely surprise you that I give close attention to the copyright page whenever I start reading a book. The usual 'The author asserts his right....' down to the who and where of the printer credits. About the only thing I tend to gloss over is the ISBN number, although even that sometimes has its fascination.

I've just taken Stephen Clarke's Dial M for Merde out of the library. So it's Stephen Clarke who has asserted his rights this time around, but it was the subsequent paragraph that caught my eye:

This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Except in the case of historical fact? Presumably that means 'unless it's true'; it certainly covers a multitude of sins, authorial or otherwise.

Anyway it's typeset in 11/14 point Jansen Falcon Oast Graphic Art Ltd and printed by CPI Mackays of Chatham, Kent, in case you were wondering.

The next page has a brief quotation from Goethe's Faust, but one page further on and Stephen Clarke offers another disclaimer:

For legal reasons, I am obliged to stress that this novel in no way implies that the current President of France receives sexual favours from his female staff. That would be an outrageous - and totally unbelievable - allegation.

One of those book quizzes

I found this menu of questions about books at normblog. Norm found it at Harriet's place and she found it....

What was the last book you bought?
Home by Marilynne Robinson. A signed first printing at that.

Name a book you have read more than once
I’m rather inclined to the view that if a book’s worth reading it’s worth reading more than once, so a good number of my books are well used. Sometimes I find an old favourite makes a good 'comfort' read not least because I know I'm going to enjoy it. But often I find repeated readings bring out things that I missed first time around. The last book I re-read was The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
Lawrence, his entire oeuvre.

How do you choose a book? e.g., by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews
All of the above at one time or another. Often these days by browsing at the local library. Online reviews. A familiar author definitely helps.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I’ve a marginal preference for non-fiction, particularly critical writing.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
I can pass on both those. A well-crafted book needs neither.

Most loved/memorable character
Rupert Bear!

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Nightstand? What's a nightstand? I have a copy of A Broad Canvas: Art in East Anglia by Ian Collins in my bathroom at the moment.

What was the last book you've read, and when was it?
I’ve almost finished Home. Before that Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
All too often. If I’m finding it heavy going I check the ending and decide if the journey there is likely to justify persisting. Some books never really seem to engage at all; when they've sat unread too long I know that they're not not likely to enthuse. My last abandoned read was Made in Heaven by Adèle Geras - far too girlie for me I'm afraid.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Our planet...

Some stunning photographs (via Norm)

Unfortunately, since posting this link the majority of the photos (but by no means all) have been taken down. Yann Arthus-Bertrand's own website is worth a visit, although it's not the easiest to navigate.