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May 30, 2015

Week 46: The End is Nigh

Saturday (23/05/2015):
Medi7.
40 assignment.

Sunday:
Medi7.
40 assignment.
Sunday Supper. G.
40 assignment.

Monday:
CM.
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
24 assignment.

Tuesday:
CM.
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G.
MM2015 draft, Noble Hierarch and Tezzeret the Seeker - went 2-1.
Lc (43). G.
MM2015 draft, Noble Hierarch, Iona, and a passed Cryptic Command - went 1-2, should have done better.

Wednesday:
CM.
Nap.
Lc (81). G.
Streams.
On hold with Paypal for 85 minutes. Gave up.

Thursday:
CM.
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Pathfinder by James - good fun.

Friday:
CM.
Nap.
Pizza and Mean Girls to celebrate the end of semester in the proj.


May 23, 2015

Week 45: Master of Assignments

Saturday (16/05/2015):
Medi7.
24 assignment.
Played Settlers with Humphrey, Kermit, Ethan, Brodie and Matt C. Chamberlin squeaked the win.

Sunday:
Medi7.
43 assignment.
Sunday Supper. G.
43 assignment.
81 lab work.

Monday:
CM.
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
24 assignment.

Tuesday:
CM.
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G.
Lc (43). G.
Streams.

Wednesday:
CM.
Lb (43). G.
Moorabbin General for check-up - all good.
Lc (81). G.
Grill'd with Rachel.
40 assignment.

Thursday:
CM.
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Pathfinder by me - an... interesting scenario to run, still quite good fun.

Friday:
CM.
24 assignment.
MM2015 draft, opened Emrakul and Bitterblossom - went 2-1, better than the deck deserved.


May 18, 2015

Week 44: Working All Night, Sleeping All Day

Saturday (09/05/2015):
Medi7 for dressing.
40 assignment.
Watched Serenity in the proj. Always a good decision.

Sunday:
Medi7 for dressing.
24 assignment.
Sunday Supper. G.
81 lab work.
Worked on sim.

Monday:
CM.
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
Worked on sim.
24 assignment.

Tuesday:
CM.
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G.
Lc (43). G.
43 assignment rework.

Wednesday:
CM.
Lb (43). G.
Lc (81). G.
24 assignment.

Thursday:
CM.
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Pathfinder by Morgan. Ranger and dog in brutal demon fighting.

Friday:
CM.
24 assignment.
Mad Max: Fury Road with MRS. A perfectly serviceable 90 minute action sequence.
24 assignment.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the proj. Very long.


May 08, 2015

Week 43: Aftermath

Saturday (02/05/2015):
Breakfast at the Monash Medical Center.
Bus back to Halls.
24 assignment.

Sunday:
Tim drove to MMC for dressing change.
24 assignment.
Sunday Supper. G.
24 assignment.

Monday:
Campus Medical for dressing.
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
Katie kind enough to drive me to Pinewood.
24 assignment.
Worked on sim.

Tuesday:
Campus Medical.
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G.
Lc (43). G.
Real Time Strategy evening - Age of Empires with Karl, Dock, Curtis and Alex. Good fun, despite Curtis rolling us.
Worked on 3143 assignment.

Wednesday:
CM.
Lb (43). G.
Lc (81). G.
Floor Inning - chippy food in the loft, delicious.

Thursday:
CM.
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Pathfinder by Cameron. Ranger and dog go swimming.

Friday:
CM.
43 assignment.
Worked on sim.
Streams.


May 02, 2015

Week 42: Ouch

Saturday (25/04/2015):
Working on sim.

Sunday:
Badminton competition with Dayle and Humphrey. Ended up combined with Roberts - ended up 3rd.
Sunday supper. G.

Monday:
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
Mario Kart competition in the loft. Roland took it down.

Tuesday:
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G.
Lc (43). G.
Started a game of Neptune's Pride with Humphrey, Sam, Roland, Ethan, Owen, Leo, Kermit, Matt, Mike, Tim, James, Karl, and Steven.
Watched Serenity in the proj. Still great.

Wednesday:
Lb (43). G.
Lc (81). G.
Dinner with Cassie at Ping's in Clayton. As good as Raramen, by my reckoning.

Thursday:
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Deakin Hall Wedding. Liam and Waz used as an excuse for free food.
Pathfinder by Callum. Cavalier and Axe Beak continue to be useless.

Friday:
Down to the campus medical centre to investigate pain.
Off to the Monash Medical Centre to resolve pain.
Surgery to resolve pain, under general anaesthetic.
Dinner in ward 34N, then kept overnight.


April 27, 2015

Week 41: Green–Back Boogie

Saturday (18/04/2015):
Streams.
Dinner at Raramen, with Jonathan, Reuben, Issy, Mikayla, Humphrey, Dennis, Justin, and Nathaniel.
Joke Thieves, with Jonathan, Reuben, Issy, Mikayla, Susanna, Vera, Humphrey, Dennis, Ellen, Justin, and Nathaniel.
A very good evening.

Sunday:
Streams.
Sunday supper.
Post-Supper Pilots: Suits.
More Suits.

Monday:
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
Suits.

Tuesday:
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G.
Lc (43). G.
Suits.

Wednesday:
Lb (43). G.
Lc (81). G.
Suits.
Study Groups.

Thursday:
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Streams.
Pathfinder by James. One character down, but Ranger and dog see it through unscathed.

Friday:
Working on Assignment for 24.
Avengers: Age of Ultron. Great end to the week.


April 17, 2015

Week 40: Back Again, For The Last Time

Saturday (11/04/2015):
Working on Supanova costume with Jonathan and Cameron.

Sunday:
Supanova! With Morgan, Meg, James, Cameron, Jonathan, and Issy,
Met Peter F. Hamilton - had a nice chat, he signed my books.
Dinner in Melbourne Central.
Sunday supper.

Monday:
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
Streams.

Tuesday:
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G.
Lc (43). G.
Worked on sim.

Wednesday:
Lb (43). G.
Lc (81). G.
Streams.

Thursday:
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
GM-ed Pathfinder - full party, good scenario, but fairly long.

Friday:
Reading all day in bed. Day off.
Magic Draft. 3-0, GW bolster this time.


April 13, 2015

Week 39: Comedy Styling

Saturday (04/04/2015):
Into the city with Dennis and Issy for Sarah Bennetto's Funeral at the Forum.
Starring role on stage for three minutes. Thanks Sarah.
Sushi dinner, then on to Will Mars Outspoken White Guy at the Red Violin (sans Issy).
Will very surprised to see me - chatted for half an hour or so after the show.

Sunday:
Streams.
Sunday supper.

Monday:
Train into Flinders. Met Will. Train out to Oakleigh.
Walked to Chadstone for lunch.
Walked with Will to Westall. Much conversation on films.
Left Will on the train.
Pathfinder, run by James. Fun fun fun with Ranger and Dog.

Tuesday:
Pathfinder again, with fighter - nearly TPK-ed by a chair. Creative accounting saw us through.
Second game - Ranger abandoned by the party in literal Hell. Roasted alive. Resurrected, but not happy.
Raramen for dinner with Jonathan, Em, Cameron, Meg, James and Morgan.

Wednesday:
Streams.
Coding.

Thursday:
Streams.
Coding.

Friday:
Bunnings for materials for Supanova.
Magic Draft. 3-0, UB exploit gets there.


April 06, 2015

Week 38: Waiting FOr The Holiday

Saturday (28/03/2015):
Working on paper for 43. Hateful.
Raramen with Morgan, Meg, Jonathan, Cameron and Em. Good evening.

Sunday:
More work on paper for 43. Blech.
Sunday Supper. G.
Gave up and submitted.
Worked on sim.

Monday:
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
Floor outing to Schnitz and Krispy Kremes with Kenny, Bec, Ethan, Matt, Steven, Doris, Ellen, Michelle and Laura. Good times.

Tuesday:
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G.
Lc (43). G.
Worked on sim.

Wednesday:
Lb (43). G.
Lc (81). G.
Streams.

Thursday:
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Pathfinder. Ranger ranged again. Good times.

Friday:
Procrastinated.
Cameron and Jonathan (and James)'s House Warming. Very enjoyable.


March 27, 2015

Week 37: Life Inside The Simulation

Saturday (21/03/2015):
Midnight prelease - went 4-0 with Atarka.
5am prerelease - 2-2 with Dromoka.
A up for weekend.

Sunday:
Midday prerelease with A - went 4-0 with Silumgar (splash WG).
A back down to Geelong.
Sunday Supper.

Monday:
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
Streams.

Tuesday:
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G.
Lc (43). G.
Worked on Turing simulator.

Wednesday:
Lb (43). G.
Lc (81). G.
Streams.
Study groups. Worked on Turing simulator.

Thursday:
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Worked on sim.
Pathfinder. Ranger arrowed arrows (with his dog). Fun fun fun.

Friday:
Procrastinated.
Worked on sim.


March 23, 2015

Week 36: Grouping Up

Saturday (14/03/2015):
Alannah up for the weekend.
Alannah stayed over.

Sunday:
Alannah back down to Geelong.
Sunday Supper.

Monday:
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
Streams.
Free dinner at Wholefoods.

Tuesday:
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). G. Partnered up for the group project - seems like a good match.
Lc (43). G.

Wednesday:
Lb (43). G.
Lc (81). G.
Streams.
Study groups.

Thursday:
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Streams.
Pathfinder. Ranger ranged. Good fun had.

Friday:
Work.
Streams.
Relaxation.
Went to draft with James, followed by Prerelease.


March 15, 2015

Week 35: As It Was, Shall It Be

Saturday (07/03/2015):
Down to Geelong.
Stayed over in Geelong.

Sunday:
Back from Geelong.
Streams.
Sunday Supper.

Monday:
Lb (81). G.
Tt (43). G.
Lc (24). G.
Lb (24). G.
Streams.

Tuesday:
Lc (40). G.
Lb (40). 20 minutes. G.
Lc (43). G.
A up for dinner.

Wednesday:
Squash with Bryce. Good fun.
Lb (43). G.
Lc (81). G.
Free BBQ. Nommy.
Streams.

Thursday:
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Streams.
Pathfinder. GMed again - alas, no party deaths, but fun nonetheless.

Friday:
Day off.
Streams.
Relaxation.


March 09, 2015

Week 34: It Begins… (Again)

Saturday (28/02/2015):
Down to Geelong.
Stayed over in Geelong.

Sunday:
Back from Geelong.
Streams.
Sunday Supper.

Monday:
Lecture (24). Software Engineering Practice. Looks to be an interesting enough topic.
Streams.

Tuesday:
Lecture (40). Advanced Programming. Seems enjoyable enough, from what we saw.
Streams.
Lecture (43). Parallel Computing. A good build on last year's project.

Wednesday:
Lecture (81). Mobile Application Development. A lot of work, but looks worth it.
A up for dinner.

Thursday:
Lc (24). G.
Lc (40). G.
Streams.
Dine-in. Free food, always good.
Pathfinder. Good fun as always.

Friday:
Day off.
Streams.
Played Magic for the first time in a while. 2-1, not too shabby.
Picked up Michelle and Amelia from Chadstone, due to lost wallet shenanigans.


March 01, 2015

Week 33: O–Week Part 17 (Or So It Feels)

Saturday (21/02/2015):
Deakin Hall Amazing Race. Issy, Mikayla and I manning the Crown station.
MRS Board Games evening. Played Articulate.

Sunday:
Down to Geelong.
Lunch with A.
Drove with A down to Colac to have dinner with Sinéad.
Back to Geelong, and stayed over.

Monday:
Back from Geelong.
Bowling with new residents. Bowled 155, good evening.

Tuesday:
Streams.
Game Show Night. Good evening again (even the weetabix).

Wednesday:
On to campus with Morgan and Meg O to deal with faculties / look at the orientation fair.
Shepherded new residents with Morgan, RSA Bec and RSA Josh (Roberts) to Vic Night Markets. Good night.

Thursday:
Firefly with Leo, Kermit, Owen and Tim. Game called due to lack of time.
MRS Carnival. Meg Y and I ran a candy floss (/fairy floss) stall for an hour. Much fun, very sticky.

Friday:
Streams.
Movies and board games. Played Settlers with Bec against the Frog, Leo, Matt DF, Tim/Bacara, and Brodie/Ruchi. Tim edged the win, a very good game.


February 23, 2015

Week 32: O–Week Part 1

Saturday (14/02/2015):
Arrival of the majority of the new residents.
Free dinner.
Get-to-know-you games.

Sunday:
Survival day. New residents taken hither and thither.
Free dinner.
Deakin Hall Olympics.

Monday:
Escorted new residents to enrol, get ID cards, sort IT issues, etc.
Free dinner.
Activities night - films, gaming, werewolf, cards against humanity, pathfinder, etc.

Tuesday:
MRS Sports Carnival - played dodgeball, badminton, and basketball.
Dine-in, followed by Trivia Night.

Wednesday:
Tour of campus for new residents.
A up for the afternoon.
Raramen for dinner.
Saw Kingsman in Glen Waverley. Good film, slightly let down by a farcical ending.
A stayed over.

Thursday:
Saw A off at the station.
Beach trip, to Chelsea beach.
Free dinner.
MRS faculty night - Morgan and I ran IT at Deakin.

Friday:
Drove Michelle to orientation at Caulfield after she missed the bus...
Nap.
Streams.
Free dinner.
Movie Marathon - Zoolander/Captain America 2 then Shrek/Get Smart.


February 14, 2015

Week 31: We're All Going On A Summer Holiday

Saturday (07/02/2015):
Picked up A.
Drove to Lakes Entrance with A.
Checked in at the Bellevue (with A). Room very nice.
Dinner at the Boathouse Restaurant (w/ A). Delicious.

Sunday:
Archery and mini golf in the sun (wA, etc.). Good day out.
Sausage and chips for dinner.

Monday:
Buchan caves. Fairy Cave tour and Royal Cave tour. Interesting and very pretty.
Dinner at the Water Wheel Beach Tavern. Good food and plenty of it.

Tuesday:
Checked out of the Bellevue.
Drove back to Melbourne.
Saw A off with her Dad.
Holiday a great success. Much fun, would holiday again.
O-Team meeting.

Wednesday:
Helped Morgan move stuff back to Deakin.
Streams.

Thursday:
Streams.
Pathfinder.

Friday:
Drove to Geelong.
Early Valentines lunch with A at Murbleburble (Moorabool?) Valley Chocolate By Design. Very nice, especially hot chocolate to finish.
Drove back to Melbourne.
At Raramen in time to pick people up - Jonathan, James, Morgan, Mikayla, Issy and Bec saved me food.


February 06, 2015

Week 30: My Family And Other Animals

Saturday (31/01/2015):
Shopping with M in Chadstone. Got a new printer.
Drinks with M/E and Toni Gandy.

Sunday:
Took the circular tram around Melbourne with M.
Visited Vic Markets with M - souvenir hunting.
Finished the circular tram route.
Trip to Mt Rothwell with M, A, Lindsay and Ronnie. Excellent BBQ.
Night walk at Mt Rothwell. Saw:

  • Quolls
  • Feathertail Gliders
  • Tawny Frogmouths
  • Leaf Insects
  • The set of Ned Kelly
  • Pademelons
  • Rock-Wallabies
  • An Emu (called Elvira)
  • Blue Wrens
  • Bushy-Tailed Possums
  • Eastern Barred Bandicoots
  • Southern Brown Bandicoots
  • Bettongs
  • So many goddamn Rabbits

Stayed over in Geelong.

Monday:
Phillip Island tour with M/E/L, A and Steph.
Moonlit Sanctuary.
Churchill Island - Heritage Farm.
Koala Conservation Centre.
Dinner in Cowes.
The Nobbies.
The Penguin Parade.
An excellent day all round.
A stayed over.

Tuesday:
Lunch with M and A at Grill'd.
Dessert with M/E/L on the Southbank.
Wandered around DFO Southbank with M/E/L.
Drove E and led M/L back to the airport.
Saw them safely off.

Wednesday:
A up for the afternoon.
Dinner with A, Ed and Mel at the Pancake Parlour.
A stayed over.

Thursday:
Drove A back to Geelong.
Birthday dinner for Tristan.

Friday:
Streams.


January 31, 2015

Week 29: Koalas and Kangaroos and Wombats – Oh My!

Saturday (24/01/2015):
Streams.

Sunday:
Ballarat National Wildlife Park with M/E/L and A. Saw:

  • Kangaroos
  • Giant tortoises
  • Koalas
  • Snakes
  • Crocodiles
  • Emus
  • Wombats
  • Tasmanian Devils

Sunday Supper!

Monday:
A up.
Dinner at Verona Restaurant. V. nice.
A stayed over.

Tuesday:
Spent day with A.
Magic with A. 2-1, good evening.
Drove A back to Geelong.
Stayed over in Geelong.

Wednesday:
Spent day with A in Geelong.
Dinner with A.

Thursday:
Eureka tower with M/E. Good views.
Melbourne Aquarium with M/E/L. Saw a crocodile, penguins and a lot of fish.
Dinner in Federation Square.

Friday:
Streams.


January 24, 2015

Week 28: Reforging Fates

Saturday (17/01/2015):
Midnight Prerelease. Abzan (GWB), 3-1.
5am Prerelease. Mardu (RWB), 3-0-1.
Nap.
Streams.

Sunday:
A up for the day.
Midday Prerelease. Abzan, 3-1. A played Mardu.
Sunday Supper!

Monday:
Met A at Minotaur. Bought some books.
Developed mild hatred of birds.
More time with A.

Tuesday:
Down to Geelong - spent evening with A.
Stayed over in Geelong.

Wednesday:
Spent day with A in Geelong.
Dinner with A.

Thursday:
Streams.
Met M, E, and L at the airport, led them back to hotel.
Settled in, had Hungry Jacks.

Friday:
Brought M, E and L to see campus.
Went to Chadstone.
A came up, had dinner with everyone. All friends.


January 16, 2015

Week 27: A Game Of Imitations

Saturday (10/01/2015):
Dinner with A, her Dad (Doug), and Denise.
Stayed over in Geelong.

Sunday:
Sunday Supper!
Streams.

Monday:
A over. Chinese then The Imitation Game. Good film.
A stayed over.

Tuesday:
A over. Played a lot of Magic.

Wednesday:
Streams.
Jonathan's birthday dinner at Raramen with Jonathan, Chris, Natasha, Meg, Em, Cameron, Lucina, and Tim. Good.

Thursday:
Streams.
Dine-in. Free food, not to be sniffed at.

Friday:
Lunch in Geelong with A.
Nap.
Off to the Prerelease!


March 07, 2009

memories of the tempest.

I always seem to end up on the same side of the stage in the Courtyard Theatre.  For productions of Hamlet, Love's Labours Lost & The Tempest in the past six months, I have been placed in the same place give or take five seats.  Figure in that these are the only times that I have sat in the stalls in this space, and one starts to think that Aisle 7 is becoming 'Tom's Aisle'.  I like it from there: you don't have a front-on view (so you get a slightly less expensive ticket) but you feel in extremely close proximity to the play.

I thought that the Baxter Theatre Centre production of The Tempest, which I saw this evening, is excellent and really rather beautiful by the by.  The wedding celebration/performance - conjured by Prospero for his newly married daughter, Miranda, and Ferdinand, the Prince she has met just hours previous - was a thing of wonder that combined dancing, singing and puppets of giant, dancing figures.  At first, every time a new element was brought to the party, Ferdinand, perched on a tree stump next to his new wife, looked shocked and genuinely afraid (Miranda, on the other hand, is used to her father's antics, and was delighted but not unsettled).  The production is full of moments of imaginative and inventive beauty such as this, which struck me, like Ferdinand, as pure magic.

Anthony Sher is a conflicted Prospero of ugliness and tenderness.  When he recounts to Miranda the story of how they arrived on the arid island, Sher paced in angled lines through centre-stage.  He was hunched and frequently swivelling, to embody a twisted sense of built-up aggression at his enemies, and guilt at not having told Miranda before.  He was restless, and just a little bit vulnerable. I found his caring attitude towards Miranda really quite touching.  I was also sorry to have missed the detail of Sher's delivery of the key soliloquy in which he ponders how to treat his captured enemies.  I was admiring the wonderful lighting effect, which created something like a wall of light around Sher and then immediately doubled up as a figurative prison for the Royal party.

John Kani's face has been through a lot.  He wears experience of post-colonialism and apartheid; it is an honour to come into contact with such experience.  For me, this is what made the final spotlight on him - after Prospero's final lines which act as an apology - so powerful, it brings us into contact with experience.  It is also an ambiguous note; Kani's Caliban doesn't know how to react in the moment, and how he will react is only up for speculation.

I was also touched by Miranda's innocent joy and curiosity, also beautifully played.  Some moments to mark a lovely solo outing.  The trains from Stratford to Leamington are ridiculous - I waited 80 minutes on the platform.  I read the programme cover-to-cover, but didn't have the energy to crack on with The Golden Bowl.                


January 06, 2009

BD Live.

Writing about web page http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/05/technology/05bluray.html?ref=business

The New York Times give something of a preview to the Consumer Electronics Show, which starts on Wednesday in Vegas.  "Nearly two million square feet of convention hall will be stocked with the latest mobile phones, portable music players, digital cameras and expensive flat-screen televisions."  I don't know much about the event, but I expect it involves a lot of dudes in suits and shades telling anyone who will listen that they represent the next big thing. 

This article focuses upon the challenges facing Blu-Ray in the market.  A central difficulty is how to tell audiences that Blu-Ray is significantly better than DVD (because, well, I'm not convinced that it is).  One of their strategies is to introduce a 'BD Live' service:

Analysts say they expect companies to announce more support for a feature called BD Live (as in Blu-ray disc live), which lets people download additional material from the Internet and interact with friends in text chats that appear on the television while playing a movie.

I often find it annoying enough when I get distracted by a real thing when watching a film.  Let alone a chat box unexpectedly intruding upon the experience.   This feeds into a model of how audiences consume films as digital media that is often propagated in discourses - as one of many 'competing elements', to borrow Aylish Wood's phrase, jostling for perceptual position.  I haven't used XBox live all that much, but in my experience it is less interesting for the social opportunities it provides and more so for how it enhances collaborative gameplay.  I want to talk to people so we can figure out how to shoot these zombies up, not so they can tell me about their day - I have friends to do that with.

It could be interesting to imagine how such a BD Live feature could be used to create collaborative, real-time film criticism - like a user-initiated director's commentary, a phenemenological commentary.  This seems to be more thought and imagination experiments though, as I imagine the appeal and utility would be novel but short-lived.





January 04, 2009

the sunday suplex 04/01/08

Some Sunday links to tide you over.  Built like my ideal newspaper.

2009 Resolutions for Film Criticism - Aaron Hillis et al - Hillis has taken over GreenCine Daily, and is employing a quality over quantity approach.  This is a podcast featuring him, and three other critics from New York.  There's nothing revelatory in it but it's interesting and entertaining (although the fact that they keep talking over each other might imply one thing that is wrong with film criticism, and all human discourse).

New New World: An Exchange, A Conversation, An Epigraph - Ryland Walker Knight & Keith Uhlich - Haven't listened to the podcast yet, but the exchanges about Malick's The New World are quite wonderful.

'August: Osage County' - Michael Billington & What To Say About August: Osage County - Mark Espiner - for context to my latest entry.

PS In A Podcast - I haven't listened to it yet, but my friends Pete Smith and Paul Savage are both funny and have a new podcast

Preview: Sengoku Seventh Battle - Jordan Breen - The sport section.  Entertaining event, and Breen as always got me psyched up.  Read this, and then find the fights on YouTube.

And, things to do this week: The University Drama Society are putting on 'Elephant's Graveyard' by U.S playwright George Brant at the Arts Centre Weds to Sat.  It's a new play that hasn't been performed in Europe before, which is unusual for the drama society but makes it all the more exciting.  

There are also some short runs of interesting films at the Arts Centre this week; I hope to be able to check out Rivals by Jacques Maillot, and Choke by Clark Gregg.

And, the last couple of days, I've seen listening to The Skints self-titled e.p, 'Come All You Madmen' by The Briggs, and 'Sketches of Spain' by Miles Davis & Gil Evans.

Have a good Sunday.



This is the way the world ends.

Hot damn, 2009 has gotten off to a good start.  I would hate to spoil the play for you, so if you're planning on seeing August: Osage County don't read further; I'm immediately interested in surprises and endings.

There were some moments in August: Osage County (by Tracy Letts and Steppenwolf theatre company), which I saw at the National Theatre last Friday, of collective audience response that rivalled any shared experience I can recall in a theatre or a cinema.  I'm more accustomed to such palpable communal responses in a comedy club, where most people laugh at the same time at the same thing and feel like they've shared something.  And there's a lot of shared laughter in August, there are some hilarious moments.  Yet the collective responses go beyond this: shared surprise when Ivy (Sally Murphy) and Little Charles (Ian Barford) embrace for the first time outside the front door; shared repulsion when Steve (Gary Cole), the youngest daughter Karen's confident fiance who wears shades indoors like a dot-com millionaire (although he's clearly a wannabe at best), slowly groping the neck and face of fourteen year old grand-daughter Jean (Molly Ranson); shared horror when it slowly becomes clear just how few secrets people are able to keep from the hawk eyes of matriach Violet (Deanna Dunagan - in the performance of a lifetime).  These responses testify to the pleasures of a communal audience experience; a lot of work can only elicit such extreme social reactions if someone's phone goes off.

It is an enormous work with more ideas and references than I or anyone could hope to immediately comprehend in full, many of which are specifically tied to place - the 'Plains', and more generally America.  To this extent it aligns itself with an excellent tradition and history.  Rose, who I saw the play with, said afterwards that the only thing she could think to compare it to, in terms of size, was Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.


                                                    august osage county

One of the play's big ostensible themes is power and control.  One of the play's signature moments is at the end of Act 2 when eldest daughter Barbara (Amy Morton), after a monumental (at least to an outsider) family feud over dinner, screams 'I'M RUNNING THINGS NOW' - a moment that is referenced, and turned back in on itself, later by Ivy when she says 'You did say you were running things now'.  Violet appears to have acquiesed to this hostile takeover of power, yet in the endgame we see that in her head she never relinquished control.  For Violet, knowledge is power.  Particularly secret knowledge.  Time and again she makes others aware that nothing happens in her home that she doesn't know about: she prides herself on this declared omnipotence, no matter how hard people try to operate undercover.  It is however a particular brand of knowledge; perhaps it could be described as all evidence and no comprehension, or perhaps knowledge about everything else apart from one's self.  She stores and locks knowledge away (perhaps the lock-and-key of the safety deposit box is a good metaphor for this), not thinking to share it for a common good in case it loses its exclusive sheen and can be less effectively used as a weapon of power.  The idea is that those who claim to know everything are missing out on more than they care to realise.  

This made me think about Douglas Pye's keynote presentation at 'Continuity and Innovation' at Reading University last September, in which he praised Tommy Lee Jones's characters in No Country for Old Men and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada for acknowledging the limits of their own knowledge (and juxtaposing it against a quotation about knowledge from Donald Rumsfeld).  Perhaps like Rumsfeld, Violet is a character who doesn't see the limits of her own knowledge - which builds her up for one large dramatic fall.

And the fall is astonishing.  In its final moments, the play switches key into a more dreamlike state.  As the lights gradually diminish Violet stumbles around the almost-empty house, almost crawling up the huge flight of stairs, and finds Native American housekeeper Johnna (Kimberly Guerrero) in the attic.  Violet counts those who have left, repeating 'They're all gone', whilst Johnna sings a nursery rhyme (one of the play's distinguishing dramatic devices) 'This is the way the world ends'.  It sounds corny, but I found it beautiful.  Together, the two voices put a defining exclamation mark on an enormous piece of work.  

There's more I want to say about this play, and certainly much more in it than I'm aware of.  I want to write about how second-generation cinephilia is referenced and what functions it fulfills.  I want someone to tell me about the significance of Johnna, and the history that her presence in the household recalls.  I want to find out more about the T.S Eliot references that begin the play, and glide around the house.  I've read somewhere that many people find something in this play that rings uncomfortably true for them; if there was anything, it was the attitudes of Barbara and (particularly) her husband Bill (Jeff Perry), the two professional academics.

And I can't see this production again - I'll have to work from memory, and the naked playtext.  This is the closest thing to old-time cinephilia that I have experienced; I can't just grab a DVD from the shelf and re-visit or clarify this experience.  And for me that makes it exciting, but it also makes me anxious that the memory will slip away and I'll be left thinking 'What was that play about?  I remember I liked it...' before long.    



December 31, 2008

the cordelia dream

I'm often complaining (probably a little too loudly, and ignorantly) that the world is too commercialised, too plain, too blank.  This comes up in my work, in the form of anonymous multiplex cinemas that are more like airports than somewhere special where you can expect to experience something memorable.  It's no surprise then that I loved finding and being in Wilton's Music Hall, in a back alley in East London about 10 minutes walk from Tower Hill tube.  Despite the decaying and crumbling walls, the building had been decked out comfortably; there was a cosy candle-lit cafe area, which sold so much mulled wine that the whole theatre smelt like Christmas.  The playing space itself was very spacious, almost sparse, with a stage raised very high (but not high enough to come anywhere close to using all that vertical space).  It was a little like a space you expect to find at the Edinburgh Fringe (it reminded me a little of the Main space at the Roxy Art House in Edinburgh), only - y'know - comfortable. 

wiltons door

Some disorganised thoughts about the play.

The Cordelia Dream withholds two key pieces of information from its audience, one in each of its two acts (incidentally, I hate to write spoiler alert, but if you don't want to know anything about the play then stop reading).  In neither case however did the revelation make me seriously re-consider what had occurred before.  

As we enter the theatre a Man (David Hargreaves) is sat at an exquisite grand piano.  He must have spent every penny on that piano however, as he is wrapped in a cheap green sleeping bag to keep warm and his blank walls are decorated just with peeling eggboxes.  Unlike the peeling walls of Wilton's, it's safe to assume that this Man's walls were never attractive.  A much younger Woman (Michelle Gomez) enters, and the two talk like old lovers exhuming an old argument; she criticises his arrogance and picks at his sexism, whereas he acts indignant and is given to huffing and puffing around the huge inconvenience that she presents.  There is an undercurrent of violence; at one point she interrupts him, and he disproportionately screams for her to let him finish.  About half-way through the first act, it becomes clear that he is her father; the earlier discussion about the (lack of) possibility of her naming her child after him makes a little more sense.  Yet nothing major seemed to change or to shift with this revelation.

cordelia1

There's talk of a dream about Cordelia and Lear from King Lear - apparently it's why she came to see her father in the first place.  We can see his misogyny in his provocative interpretation of the play ("Cordelia wanted to be hung // Her death was necessary for her father's salvation.").  Is King Lear something they've discussed, and disagreed on, at length in the past?     

The two characters are both classical musicians.  She is commercially and critically successful, yet he is not.  He blames this on her; he talks incessantly of 'the field', a space (of reception? of exhibition? what does he think this is?) that she is occupying.  If only she would clear this field and stop producing music, the commercial and critical attention would be focused on him.  His genius would surely be appreciated.  The Man appeals to a very old-fashioned, and firmly masculine, ideal of the Artist; a tortured genius bursting with profound ideas that will change the world.  In this ideal, the artist's lack of success is always because of someone else (a competitor who steals from him; the stupidity of the art world who just don't 'get it').  The Man delivers scathing lines to his daughter, poison-coated insults that are surely unforgivable; Hargreaves (excellently) dips them in sugar with a jolly delivery but it serves to make them all the more brutal.  The Act ends with:

Man: Will you come to my funeral?

Woman: Will you come to mine?

Man: I'll be there.

Woman: With your speech prepared.

Man: With my speech prepared. 

In the interval, the man deterioates further; we re-enter the space to find him almost-naked, curled in a ball upon his piano, the post has been piling up for days and days.  A box of formal clothes arrives, and he conducts an imaginary orchestra whilst the Woman slips in behind him (in the first act she rang the bell, by the second act he just leaves the door open).  There's more of a sexual element to their discussion now; he has seemingly lost his mind and doesn't recognise her, assuming that she is a groupie of his.  She sneaks up behind him, wrapping her hands around his tie - is she trying to seduce him?  or suffocate him?  When he does recognise her as his 'dog-hearted' daughter he panics and hallucinates, before wetting himself.  All the cigars and champagne in London would fail to mask the fact that he is a senile old man. 

cordelia2

It is here that the exchanges become odder - he changes into his pyjamas, and she puts on his piss-sodden coat and tails.  He recalls the Cordelia Dream, and smothers her face in blue paint because Cordelia was also blue when Lear brought her in.  The flucuations between insanity and sober rationality in the Man's state of mind, and between fantasy and reality in the play, were a little unconvincing to me.  I'm not too familiar with King Lear, so I'm prepared to think that there may be a whole layer of meaning that I'm missing though.   

The play explains some of these odder exchanges in its second revelation: the Woman committed suicide eight days before.  She is a vision to him, perhaps a ghost.  He thinks he may be able to recall the funeral, there were definitely people looking at him.  We know that she hasn't produced any work since their last meeting - ostensibly because he demanded it of her to clear 'the field', but more likely because she (like him) wasn't able to.  Despite the field still being clear, he hasn't produced any serious work - he is obsessed with writing his opus, but lacks the commitment (or talent?  perhaps) to finish anything.  His Romantic vision of the artist seems to have failed and collapsed - perhaps it never existed in the first place.  Where does artistic creation come from?  What skills does one need to create something beautiful?     

She's come to tell him that he's about to die.  Lear and Cordelia must die at the same time - one cannot exist without the other.  As he's about to die, she gives him the gift of a beautiful piece of music.  With this final gesture the creation of beauty remains romantic and mysterious, we can just pull it out of the air with the right talent.  Or maybe the truth will reveal itself after we're dead and gone.  His death is excellently handled; he stands on a stool, and a diminishing spotlight traps his terrified face before fading to black.  It reminded me of the iris effect in old silent movies.

I liked Hargreaves' performance - I mentioned above his delivery of vicious lines as if they were jolly ribbing.  Gomez is a little too uneven - her sudden shouts are disruptive rather than disconcerting.  The direction is pretty nifty - I liked the use of space, including actors sitting on the stage legs dangling above the floor.  The post coming through the door in the interval was also a nice touch. 

See also: Michael Billington on The Cordelia Dream.