Re-Learning Creativity From a Toddler

Every day, one of the things I am thankful for is the ability to create : to have been gifted such a vast canvas and be able to fill in what little details I have the time and skill to render.  This weekend, my 1.5 year old daughter taught me something about creativity when she sat  on the piano bench in our dining room.  Until this moment, I had always observed from her perspective as she had  played while sitting on my lap, but this time, I stood back and watched.  She was absolutely enraptured with her creativity.  What shocked me was the realization of her pleasure at her playing.  There wasn’t frustration.  There wasn’t self-reproach at her lack of skill, but only joy at exploring percussive action and sound.  As I watched, I honestly felt silly for all those times I played when I got frustrated because I’m not good enough, all those times the sound in my head didn’t come out of my hands, or worse, those times that I compare myself to the likes of idols who dedicated their lives to an instrument.  It’s too often lately I am competing against my imagination… here, in front of me, was a toddler at one with her imagination.

When is it that creativity becomes competitive?  Art becomes an act not just of inspiration, but of adversity?  Too often, I find myself looking at my creativity in terms of market potential (monetization) which is its own competition (capitalism).  What Minnette showed me in a few minutes revealed that not only had I lost track of the meaning of inspiration, but that I was defeating my own creativity by pitting my imagination against itself.  In the simplest, and purest form, the act of creation shows itself to be its own reward on the face and in the laughter of a 1.5 year-old.

 

“Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling

 

 

Had a request for Kipling on my YouTube channel.  This has now become one of my favorites.

 

 

 

“Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling

 

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”

 

Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay;
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay,
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

 

‘Er petticoat was yaller an’ ‘er little cap was green,
An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat—jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen,
An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot,
An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot:

 

Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud—
What they called the Great Gawd Budd—
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay, etc.

 

When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow,
She’d git her little banjo an’ she’d sing “Kulla-lo-lo!”
With ‘er arm upon my shoulder an’ ‘er cheek agin my cheek
We uster watch the steamers an’ the hathis pilin’ teak.

 

Elephints a-pilin’ teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence ‘ung that ‘eavy you was ‘arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay, etc.

 

But that’s all shove be’ind me—long ago an’ fur away,
An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay;
An’ I’m learnin’ ‘ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
“If you’ve ‘eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ‘eed naught else.”

 

No! you won’t ‘eed nothin’ else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay, etc.

 

I am sick o’ wastin’ leather on these gritty pavin’ stones,
An’ the blasted Henglish drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho’ I walks with fifty ‘ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An’ they talks a lot o’ lovin’, but wot do they understand?

 

Beefy face an’ grubby ‘and—
Law! wot do they understand?
I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
On the road to Mandalay, etc.

 

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin’, and it’s there that I would be—
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea.

 

On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
Oh the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

 

Review : Silent Hill Revelation

Silent Hill is my all time favorite video game franchise.  Many in the series are works of art.  I resisted, but a friend finally convinced me to watch the first film.  Though imperfect, the film Silent Hill was captivating.  It very accurately captured the environment of the mythic ghost town.  More importantly, it stood on its own as a self-contained experience wherein the audience can seamlessly lose themselves.  It was a fun movie that I have watched several times.

Within 1 minute of starting Revelation, it was apparent what this film would be.  For 1.5 hours, I oscillated between squirming in revulsion or laughing in disbelief at an abomination that slightly surpassed Sy-Fy Channel standards.  The only thing worse is the fact that, as of writing, Wikipedia reports it has made double on its meager $20M budget.  An indictment of “the biz”, SH Revelation exhibits the mentality of the plentitude of Halloween sequels : “Make the Money”.   The fact that fans, including me, will buy a ticket make it all the easier to create a piece of trash and rake a 2:1 return.  However, even in that capacity, SH will ultimately fail.  Halloween was an established franchise with massive success in film (at one time, among the most successful indie films ever).  Revelation, on the other hand, kills the franchise before it gets on its feet.  It is an insult that deserves to be forgotten and a franchise that should die right here unless put in more capable hands.

The script is a fun-house walkthrough (“so… this happens then this happens, then there’s blood, and this guy is suddenly a baddie”).  It was obviously written by someone who read the Silent Hill 3 (game) wiki and was told to add in various devices to expand the market base (ie a shallow love interest for the sake of teenage girls so boyfriends would buy a ticket).  The characters are spineless: they have no depth or motivation.  The decisions they make  (stopping at a motel to suddenly rest) make no sense except to give an opportunity for some silly plot twist or possible romantic tension (where no relationship exists).  Various characters were completely unnecessary (what’s the point of any scene with the police?)  The private investigator was a major character in SH3 (the game), but in the film, he could have been axed entirely.  This would have shaved several minutes from runtime.

Visuals.  If you’re going in to make a film on the cheap to rake in the $, here’s an idea : FORGET 3D!  I seriously doubt 3D increased ticket sales, but rather cost a disproportionate amount that would have better been dedicated to other elements (hey: script).  Some of the sets were childish (the cult’s lair).  CGI was very poorly executed (blown out whites, the scene with Alessa walking before the wave of devastation was college-level).

Production.  Attention to detail was lacking.  Extras in the “lair” might have just stood in the background with their hands in their pockets.  It was distracting.  There were a few places where I noticed audio dubbing (ie towards the end of the motel scene, audio does not match Heather’s lips at all).  Stuff like this makes me think the script was being actively toyed-with post-production.  The general direction of the cast was melodramatic.  Most performances were telegraphed (with the exception of Adelaide Clemens and Sean Bean who both deserved a better script).  The exposition with Rose calling Christopher/Harry “my beloved” belonged in Twilight.

To talk about the music is rather inconsequential compared to the disaster of the film.

I would love to see an enterprising editor take the DVD and re-edit it into a good short.

Film Review : Prometheus

WARNING : Spoilers contained and marked.

Prometheus is an excellent film.  Is it perfect?  Heck no, but it is an excellent sci-fi ride and prelude to Alien.  From the opening sequence depicting death and rebirth of an alien humanoid through to the raging climaxthe film had my jaw on the floor.

Prometheus  managed to live within the Alien universe while keeping the look-n-feel updated to 21st century standards.  The environments were cold, high-contrast, and somber, drawing from the same cyberpunk DNA that H R Giger and Ridley Scott invested in the original film.  I have listened to the soundtrack several times over on Spotify.  Jerry Goldsmith, the late composer of the Alien soundtrack and one of my favorite American composers, is still there.  His usage of sparse arrangement with massive harmonic interval continues yielding an environment of dark suspense.

The story, in its broad strokes, is solid drawing on the universal question of “Where did we come from?”  Everyone can identify.  Unfortunately, the finer details of the script itself have moments that could have been refined.  For one, people have a tendency to take off their helmets in alien environments…  These characters should not be that stupid.  Most of the perpetrators of the helmet falasey are highly educated and should be aware that oxygen is not the only thing to worry about when traveling abroad.  I understand why this device was used, it made me say “Oh no!  Don’t do that!!”  However, the device  woke me from the “dream”, reminding me that I’m watching a film.   ****SPOILER****  There is a revelation in the 3rd act about someone being alive and someone else being a relative.  Frankly, this was obvious from Act I.  Both of these pieces could have been removed with little negative effect or should have been handled more delicately to make the revelations actually earth-shattering.

The acting was superb.  The entire cast was solid.  Fassbender deserves awards.

Ridley Scott’s orchestration was masterful and balanced.  No element of the film outdid the other.  The visuals were not gratutious, rather they supported the film in the same way as the score, the production design, the cast, the cinematography : as one cohestive whole.

If time were available, I would easily have walked out after the credits and done an about-face for another run through.  Easily, my favorite Sci-Fi of the past few years.

Hunt of Red October, Variations on Trotsky, Red Army Choir, Submarines

Today was another one of those weird days in the sub-conscious.

The Hunt for Red October (film)

The Hunt for Red October (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night, while working on After Effects, I had The Hunt for Red October playing on Netflix.  I hadn’t watched the movie for years.  It’s excellent, if you haven’t seen it.  One of my favorite moments is in the first 10 minutes.  The crew on a Russian submarine is speaking in Russian (no surprise).  The camera pushes in on a character’s lips, and suddenly the actor switches to English.  The camera comes back out and resumes.  Just such a novel device and at a moment that takes us from this disconnect of reading words on a screen to hearing spoken passages from the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita interpreted through the mind of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Father of the Atomic Bomb (and one  of the 3 people I would visit in a time-machine).  Such a beautiful moment telling the state of two nations locked in the Cold War.

But getting back on topic.: Today was another one of those weird days in the sub-conscious.

I woke this morning with the Red Army Choir playing in my head.  Something like this :

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This became the FM station in my head throughout the day : selections by the Red Army Choir.

Ironically, YouTube decided to play an ad which interrupted the flow:

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All I could think of was “The proletariat is right. The proletariat must always be right. And the revolution of the proletariat against oppression must go on . . . forever!”  That and Trotsky with a pickaxe in his head a la David Ives.

Alexandrov Choir and Yosif Kobzon sing in Wars...

Alexandrov Choir and Yosif Kobzon sing in Warsaw, October 2009 Polski: Chór Aleksandrowa i Josif Kobzon w czasie koncertu w Warszawie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I ended up waiting for Kathryn at her office building while she was wrapping up some research.  I decided to take the half hour and read up on submarines, beginning with the Kursk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_submarine_K-141_Kursk) and ending by reading on all the generations of Russian and American submaries WWII forward.  (Ain’t Wikipedia amazing?)

The only unfortunate thing is: in order to push in some more knowledge on submarines, I probably had to forget something.  Hope it wasn’t important.

 

Figure Session

A few random shots from a figure session in Philadelphia.

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Reach out and make a friend