Thursday, 15 July 2010

Shower Power

As I showered this morning, it occurred to me how covertly and effortlessly we can plant an image into somebody's mind.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


I have a discussion topic for you.
I had a peculiar bi-polar evening in which I watched The Darling Buds of May, followed by the Korean classic, Old Boy.
The former was relentlessly optimistic and upbeat and joyous; the latter was relentlessly pessimistic and downbeat and miserable.
Both were enjoyable in their own ways, and both struck me as having narrow frequency emotional topographies.
For a long time now I've been thinking that a varied emotional topography is the way forwards! If nothing else, it creates variety and allows for the formulation of more complex stimulae through juxtapositions, contrasts, and parallels.
Darling Buds is a curious phenomenon to me. I haven't watched the show for a long time and my memories of the later episodes are dim, so please correct me if I'm wrong, but the first two episodes bear very little by way of conflict or tension and release. Characters meander through life with those common burdens weighing heavy on their shoulders, and then they enter the Larkin family sphere of compassion, and their burdens are lifted. Total 100% feelgood. Lots of sensory stimulae; lots of love and happiness; lots of how life should be.
If they were my creations, I'd instinctively be thinking of ways to harm them, always knowing that I'd make amends eventually and that the tension would lead to an enormous release and everyone would cry and everything would be alright again - better than alright.
But the very idea seems sacriligious: anything more than an upset apple cart would taint the world - not the Larkins' world, but the world which we inhabit where Mariette adores us and we watch the setting sun with Ma and Pa, sipping cider and finding inner peace through a nightingale's lament. A scurrilous rogue, a greedy businessman, prejudice and bigotry and fear... all are quickly converted, or are even more quickly dispatched with barely a dent on sixty minutes of unconditional love.
I could watch it over and over. It exists, I guess, as a place to relinquish one's troubles and, as such, feels no obligation to line its toes against those battlelines which we've studied for so long.

Conversely, I wouldn't really want to watch Old Boy again. Well, I might, but only to watch the protag eating a live octopus again (I guess Psychic Paul is no longer en vogue now the World Cup has dissipated); and perhaps the brilliantly authentic fight scene. It seems that you can dump lots and lots of happiness upon a soul and it never tires; but you can't do the same with any emotion on the wrong side of alright. Or, perhaps I could argue that release can happily exist independantly of tension, but tension can't happily exist independantly of release. Perhaps we're all tense in the first place.

So I put it to you: Is emotional variety an ideal, an idea, or an impediment?

Update: Watched episode three last night. Struck me that Darling Buds is a super example of emotions before plot. (A purist's approach if you like.)
Because the first two episodes proposed little complication beyond the need to find a new field for the gymkhana, any time that would typically be spent on set-ups, foreshadowing, and the like was, instead, devoted to deeper immersion and more happiness.
Conversely, episode three presented a number of problems - Charlie hounded by his former boss; Pop's attempt to buy a crumbling country pile thwarted by Lord Thingy - and while the base note theme pervaded, it was diluted by plot devices and I wasn't so completely smitten.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

I Know What You Did Next Summer

Many years ago, when I was training to be a gameshow host (yes, I really did), my instructor explained the golden rule of signing off. Essentially, you keep it short and sweet and then you go... and you never return to the microphone for any reason.
You don't need me to explain the thinking behind this: suffice to say that, when a job is done, it's prudent to move on.
Take the lovely classicist Professor Mary Beard: she was on Question Time a week or so back, and I was surprised when her answer to a question began with the observation that, if you read one paper, you'll be told one thing, and if you read another paper, (and you already know where this is going right?) then you'll be told another thing. Her answer was already pushing beyond saturation point. However, she continued with her answer, offering an example to illustrate her point. I didn't think it needed illustrating: I had understood and agreed with her point, and I was squirming on the sofa, hoping she would finish quickly, but she didn't, and her point stretched and stretched without any surprises.
Conversely, I recently discovered the album The Light by composer, poet, and philosopher Dave Hesketh, working under the name UtopiaXO. As I sat and listened, I became aware that the music was constantly evolving. So many similar ambient soundscapes are built from looped samples, and the brain discovers them and, in fairness, can find a safe haven within their repetitions. However, Dave moves from a short piano melody into a subtle guitar melody, then a girl's voice enters and fades, and so on.
I was constantly surprised.
I was constantly in a state of wonder, simultaneously absorbed in the sounds whilst anticipating the next development.

Last night I played the demo of The Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air.
(You're already thinking this is gonna be another rant eh? You got me!)
Here's a puzzle for you:
What you have to do is click on the clock on the right hand wall to see that it is set to six o'clock; and then a hint suggests that you should set those other nine million clocks to six o'clock too.
Shove it up your clockwork exhaust! The puzzle is already solved: each clock needs to be set to six o'clock!
Where's the fun in setting all those clocks? There's no surprise. It's a mundane, mechanical chore. I was half way through setting the clocks when the skip meter had filled, and so I chose to take the skip penalty rather than remain in a fungal necropolis of masochicm.

But take heart! There's also a stones puzzle!
In this puzzle, you get to click on stones to fill another meter.
No timer; no technique; no intellectual or emotional stimulation; no development. Just clickety-clickety-click.And yet more stories relayed in epistolary fashion (why must I read pages and pages of pointless journal entries and old letters?), facing backwards, lacking anything approaching charisma, devoid of any form of topography beyond that green line on a heartbeat monitor wired to a corpse.

Super! Feeling better already. Kisses.