All entries for April 2008

April 28, 2008

reckless moment 28th april.

Last week was mostly spent marking the rest of my students' essays - there were a couple of really quite good ones, which is always exciting.  I also read Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, a novel that is particularly insightful and brilliant on the subjects of how we see ourselves and the way we live our lives, and our relationships with other people. 

I didn't get to go to bjj class once last week, mostly because of how unbelievably time-consuming marking is, but I think I'm going on Friday and Saturday this week.  My partner-in-crime Rosie received a bronze medal in the women's white belt lightweight category at Gracie Invitational on Saturday though - so go say congratulations to her.

But but but, tonight I'm going to be hosting our comedy show The Reckless Moment at Robbins' Well (in Leamington).  It is the first one since the beginning of March, and so you should definitely come and say hello.  Literally, come and say hello.  One of the ace things about The Reckless Moment is that, at its best, it feels like a group of friends come to watch some comedy that they enjoy.

The headline act on the show tonight is Josh Howie - who is a comic I met years and years ago (although he won't remember) when I used to help run Lone Star club in Folkestone.  He performed in October 2004, and he struck me then as a funny and clever man.  I don't remember his jokes as being as deliberately offensive as they were when I saw him a couple more times in Edinburgh 2007 - but if anything he's even funnier for it.  But yes, he is hilarious and sharp and rude and just a little bit smug, and I'm really excited that he's agreed to perform at our show.

Also on the show are Rob Coleman (a nice man I have met a couple of times before), Alex Maple (a new-ish act who I've never seen before but who I have a gut feeling is going to be brilliant), James McPhun (a second year theatre & english student at Warwick who is one of my best friends and is always great), and Simon Dunn (another of my best friends in the world, and someone who is planning his first solo show this summer, and trying new jokes for that out).  Pete the Meat will also be appearing for the final time ever (in a meat-eating capacity, at least).  

So do come to Robbins' Well tonight if you want to, it starts at 9pm and costs £2 to get in.  I hope it'll be great.


April 16, 2008

"it takes a kind of gene we all share about being perpetually dissatisfied

I just read a pretty decent interview with Richard Linklater, conducted by Kevin John Bozelka, that was published in the latest issue of The Velvet Light Trap (it's a subscription journal - but Warwick library has a subscription for all students and staff if you're based in these parts).  As always, Linklater is enlightening about the subject of getting movies made in the contemporary era (the interview is not about the aesthetics of film, but rather about the economics of filmmaking) - his work in several different paradigms of moviemaking (sequels, adaptations, remakes etc) mean that he is well-versed in many modes of procedure.  There's also at least one quotation that will function as a wonderful epigraph for some part of my project.

Just wanted to quote him here on the subject of human nature, and the phenomenon of 'it was better in the old days'.  Linklater is very well-read, and is eloquent on these type of issues.   This plugs into something that I think about often, and gives me hope that not everybody is obsessively fixated on the negative.

You know that's the joke about Austin. I use a song in Slacker, the last song, the Ed Hall song, and the line in it was "things were so much better before you were here." Whenever you showed up in Austin, pick a year, whenever you got here, you just missed it. This club just closed and this just happened. It's all behind us. You run into someone who is a certain age and it's "it all died with the Armadillo [World Headquarters]." You run into certain people who say it all died when the Beach closed or when Liberty Lunch closed. Usually it's music venues. It takes a kind of gene we all share about being perpetually dissatisfied. But around 2000 I got to know the city government at the time because we were getting the Film Society to take over the old airport and make a studio out of a few hangars there. And I appreciated the government leadership. [Mayor] Kirk Watson was a good leader at that moment, so the ship didn't totally go in the wrong direction. There was a lot of smart urban planning and thought that went into it. It could be a lot worse, is what I'm saying, had there been no oversight. I think there was some good leadership at some crucial moments that kept us from going completely off the rails. But that's completely unappreciated. (Velvet Light Trap 61 (2008), pp. 55-56, my emphasis).

What a hero.

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Ollie Johnston, who was one of the principal animators in Disney's classic era of feature pictures, died on Monday.  I read a lot about him when I was writing about American animation for my MA, so this is sad to hear.  Cartoon Brew have collected a brilliant amount of tributes and obituaries - do read some if you get the chance, as they are a glimpse into a fascinating period of filmmaking. 

I couldn't sleep last night so I watched the first six innings or so of the Marlins.  They won 4-0, with another really great performance by Scott Olsen (who has become the most reliable starting pitcher they have - the other contender to that throne, Mark Hendricksen, starts tonight).  I just found this excellent article, 'Marlins look good, but attendance doesn't' by Greg Cote - which is worth a read if you want to get interested in baseball with me.

I'm excited about UFC 83 on Saturday - my favourite Georges St. Pierre is challenging for the Welterweight Championship.  Good interviews with him here and here.

And if you haven't seen the new Bjork video yet, you really should because it's amazing. 


April 06, 2008

bjj training scrapbook: single–leg takedown, and more guard passing.

I was walking home from the Parade at about 4.30am Saturday night/Sunday morning.  I live about 25 minutes walk from here, and it was pelting with snow.  Properly pelting.  About 3 minutes from the Parade, on Warwick Street, I was already covered in snow when a Castle Taxis vehicle stopped on the other side of the road.  From his window, the driver asked if I was going towards Warwick.  When I said I was going in that direction, he told me to jump in and gave me a (free) lift home.  "Can't let you walk home in this weather, mate."  It made me overjoyed and delighted - and is one of the best things that has happened so far in 2008.  If you're looking for a cab in Leamington or Warwick do use Castle Taxis (01926 494989).  

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I submitted about 9000 words on Friday afternoon, which I estimate is about half of a chapter about digital video.  The problem was that I set out to do so much that the amount I did do made any barely any headway into my research questions.

I had another BJJ class on Friday evening - I meant to write up the class sometime earlier this weekend, but I've been busy watching the wonderful Frank Turner in Coventry (WONDERFUL folk-rock songs about life, existential crises and really wishing everyone else would want to make the world better), and seeing the mighty Never Back Down (Mr Miagi-tastic). 

Chiu showed us a single leg takedown.  From the elbow-and-collar grip, you quickly pull your opponent's gi downwards and then back up - in order to force them off-balance (this, or a variant of this, is standard to all the takedowns from standing that I know so far).  When they are off-balance, you shoot in as per a double-leg takedown (i.e. down onto your right knee, which should be placed between their legs, with your left foot further forward) and lift their left leg from the ground.  You then try to stand up, and basically circle round to the right - forcing them to put all their body weight onto the one leg that they still have control of.  This seemed to work better if you also had control of their gi collar, which you can use for extra leverage to throw them off-balance.  They'll hit the mat...

We then did some more work on controlling your opponent's legs when guard passing.  This is an important detail, that will work in conjunction with the guard passes we learnt in this session.  Standing in front of your opponent, you control their legs by grabbing their gi pants at the bottom in the middle.  You need to grip this really tight - I was working with Luke on this, and he said you pretty much needed to cut off your opponent's circulation in their legs.  To try to restrict your movement, your opponent will hook his legs around your arms (and, if they can, grab your gi by the wrists).  To break any control your opponent has, you need to push inwards and down to the floor, whilst also stepping backwards yourself.  You need to force your opponent's feet to the floor, and keep them there.  If you've got this controlled, then you should be able to pass as per the previous entry.

On a less technical note, I experienced my first real 'disheartened' moment that I've read so many people write about.  I felt like a complete joke in class, like all my movements were completely artificial, terrible and embarrassing, and just like I wasn't able to put anything into practice.    It was only when I got home that I remembered Aesopian's advice, which I've posted about before:

Realize that everyone else went through the same issues and understands what you’re going through. You’re not stupid if you don’t know something yet—that’s the whole reason you’re at class.

So relax and don’t sweat it.

I have another class tomorrow, so will try and keep it in mind.

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I'm pleased to say that Florida won their weekend series over Pittsburgh.  They won on Friday (the first game I got to follow live this season) and Saturday, but sucked really hard on Sunday.  Still, 2 games to 1 is enough to win the series - and now they're travelling to Washington for games tomorrow with a current season record of 3-3.

Charity shops in Leamington are wonderful - I managed to buy the entire first series of The West Wing, and the 1989 Charlie Sheen baseball film Major League, on VHS for £3.50 combined from Myton Hospice.  Sweet.  If only I could find the time and motivation to watch and read all these things!

Jay Hieron vs Mark Miller from Friday night in New Jersey.  Hieron is very impressive. 


April 02, 2008

essay writing.

I'm only about half-way through the writing I need to do today, but wanted to stop by and share some things on here.  The chapter isn't going badly (thanks for asking), so far I've written: an introductory anecdote, an explanation of 'the science of digital video', a long methodological consideration, and an orientation to films that have been filmed on digital video.  I was worried, and voiced this concern to JZ last night, that this was all ground-clearing guff. 

After thinking about it more today, it actually makes a fair amount of headway into the chapter and case study.  I'm so used to the way I used to write as an undergraduate (and Masters student, I think): 'introductory paragraph, discuss something someone else has written about this film, extended textual analysis to disprove aforementioned someone else, conclusion'.  If I haven't started writing up analysis of a primary text, then I still feel like I haven't even started the chapter.  On the contrary, I guess that 6000 words worth of 'ground-clearing guff' must actually be quite important to scholarship - otherwise there wouldn't be 6000 words worth of things to be said.  If the reader has no idea about the types of films that have been filmed on digital video, then the 'orientating map' is necessary and actually is primary (and preliminary) work and analysis.  I would take this as a sign that my work and writing is maturing - but instead I'm going to think of it as something that I'm doing wrong.

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I'm casually reading 'Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia', an edited collection by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Adrian Martin, at the moment.  I'll study it more intensely as my work returns more generally to the topic of cinephilia, but right now I'm just reading passages every now and then (the form of the book actually lends itself to this).  I came across a couple of paragraphs by Martin, and thought that maybe they rhyme with my past 'on cinema for the sake of it' entry.

Because what is democratic in this video culture is precisely the capacity (or at least the potential) to suspend normative judgement about cinema - reminding me of one of my all-time favourite critical mottoes, the attitude attributed by Louis Seguin to Ado Kyrou of seeking 'surprise rather than satisfaction' and preferring 'discovery to certainty'. (7)

and

There is a recourse to the high moral ground - and to a certain lamentable purism - in a lot of film criticism today, even some of the most advanced.  We read or hear far too often that there are only half a dozed directors working today who fulfil - or might one day fulfil, if we're all lucky - the potential, the promise of this dazzling medium...As heretical as it sounds, even within this very cabal, I like the sentiment of Deleuze's casual prefatory remark in Cinema I: The Movement-Image: 'The cinema is always as perfect as it can be'.  Meaning that its potentiality, its virtuality is, in some way, right here now - if we know where to look for it, how to maximise it, why it matters, and how to make it dance, for us and in us, like Rouch's privileged, shamanic figure of the dancing Socrates. (7-8)

I'm not sure I would interpret the Deleuze quotation in exactly the same way (and I don't understand what he means by 'virtuality' here), but I don't know the Deleuze text so it is just an aphorism to me.  I like it though, and I didn't think I'd ever say that about a Deleuze quotation. 

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Some other things:

I had a nice time at my friend James' birthday party yesterday, although because of work and an impending cold I wasn't on particularly amazing form.

tom and becky 1st april This photo of Becky and I from the party does make me laugh however.

I was pointed towards The Big Think today, which looks like an interesting project.  Like YouTube with intellectual (and slightly elitist) leanings.  I haven't had time to look through it yet, but the one video I did watch was interesting and clear.

The Marlins beat the Mets 5-4 in extra innings last night although Vanden Hurk was pulled in the 4th inning (he'd already made 76 pitches!!!) which isn't particularly promising.

My friend Mike wrote a couple of nice entries yesterday: 'The Pre-Socratics were totally awesome.' (“This world neither any god nor man made, but it always was and is and will be, an ever-living fire, kindling in measures and being extinguished in measures.” - Heraclitus) and 'Roving sample robot' ("And I love the idea of a simple thing like this, the sole purpose of which is to rove about and find sounds and make rhythms, and treat it like its the most important thing in the world.")  Tell him I sent you.

I've made a couple of bets on UFC Fight Night this evening: Din Thomas (-183) over Josh Neer, Frank Edgar (-207) over Gray Maynard, and Kurt Pellegrino (+132) over Nate Diaz.  I always seem to bet for Din Thomas, and against Nate Diaz.  I really like the Lauzon vs Florian main event as well, it's two guys who seem awesome.  There's a fantastic article about Kenny Florian at Sherdog: 'Highbrow brutality' by Joe Hall.  

On the note of UFC, if anyone is geeky enough to get it, this post at Fightlinker is mean but hilarious: 'The most awesome thing EVER

Go look at the new releases by Fantagraphics and buy something!  If I do enough work today, I'm going to treat myself to the new softcover edition of 'Safe Area Gorazde' by Joe Sacco and 'Ganges #2' by Kevin Huizenga.  Only if I do enough work though, yeah?

On that note, I need to get back to work.  I'm on my fifth cup of coffee... 


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