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April 03, 2006

Another Horsedreamer's Blues

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Last week I was the proud owner of some sort of time turner. You know, the kind that Hermione uses at Hogwarts? It wasn't as if I could go back in time to set things straight, but I did get to do work at over 200% efficiency! While my laptop was flying around trying to calculate whatever 100,000 bubbles are up to, I couldn't use it [even using Notepad caused such havoc that the poor thing nearly crashed head first on our IKEA table] so had to find out what life would be like without a computer and all its goodness.

Also, not being as involved in Rev anymore leaves me to find a new hobby. The answer lie in the magazine rack of Costcutters, in the geeky section. Computer Arts is a wonderfully cheerful magazine that treats its subject in a professional manner, without losing accessibility to poor noobs to computer graphics. But it had to wait to be read, because at home I found Graphic Design School, which promised to teach me principles and practices of graphic design.

And so it did.

In principle, design is very subjective, and as such the author encourages us to experiment a lot ourselves, and don't take his words as a law. There are however quite a few tricks to learn and a few pit holes to avoid. Some of these come down to common sense – but it is useful to read the reasoning or history behind this "sense" – others are words of caution: design often isn't what you want.

Graphic Design School is a great start if you'd like to get into design. It obviously isn't an art course, but it's a good guide and it encourages the reader to get involved. It convinced me to spend the next sum of money I save on Adobe stuff (Creative Suite 2 for "only" £ 346.63 for students – ok, it is quite a save from a near £ 1000!) instead of another bunch of CDs I'll never play.


February 08, 2006

A Novel

Writing about web page http://www.jonathansafranfoer.com/

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Just in case it wasn't clear, this is an entry about a novel. Jonathan Safran Foer is the author of Everything Is Illuminated [_which I'll start reading soon, and a film review can be read here

I got this book in a new year daze. My friend and I had the best new year's day one could wish for, which ended with watching 4 or 5 episodes of Grey's Anatomy, but somewhere between getting up at 4pm and going to bed at 2am, we were mesmerized for 3 hours by an amazing man. An amazing man that she [my friend] henceforth fell in love with has had an "art crush" on. Anyway, that was Jonathan Safran Foer in an interview held by Kristien Hemmerechts, a well-known [in Holland and Belgium] Flemish author, but a poor interviewer.

Fortunately, Foer was well prepared and knew exactly where he wanted to go with the interview, and managed to link his fascination for Woody Allen to his fascination for Stephen Hawking. He says all the right things, and seems to have the right channels open to link his feelings to his mouth. At one point he commented on the difference between his book and the film Everything Is Illuminated. Like every other adaption, the film deviated from the book at parts, and he was asked to what extent he minded. He related the issue to a possible situation where I painter would want to paint a portrait of someone described in his book.

To paint the right portrait, the painter won't read the description word for word, but instead will find out the person's character and role in the book. Similarly, the director of the film looked at the story of which Foer's book was an image [it's all quite mathematical, really], and as the film struck the right chords, told essentially the same story as the book, Foer saw no problems with passages being left out. [Please note that I saw the interview over a month ago with a hangover, and I obviously can't tell it as brilliantly as one of the best authors of our time].
Harry Altman

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is about a young boy, Oscar, who lost his dad on 9-11. He finds a key amongst his dad's belongings and the real-time story is about the boy's quest to find the lock. The link to 9-11 is subtle, and mainly appears through the boy's thoughts of how his dad might have died [was he so desperate that he jumped out of the window?] and his fears. This boy is however better described by his desire to learn, to invent, to make a difference. In that, he's so annoying that he become endearing - he actually reminded me of how Harry Altman from Spellbound was portrayed [see photo, or actually, watch that film!].

When watching a film, I expect to see wonderful images, or people or things portrayed in a way that looks into their soul. The story is generally told in 2 hours, and the director should use the medium to its full extent to let the audience understand the characters, the things, the wonderful images. With a book, the length is less limited, though every page should have its existence justified.

I've written earlier about Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons, and whether or not it's literature. Well, Jonathan Safran Foer has set the standard. Even though half the pages don't contain more than a single word, every single one of them is valid and constitutes to the body of the story. No words are spilled in vain, and the author has played with the layout of the book in order to make the literary experience more engaging – he lets you see what the characters see.

I haven't had this much fun reading a book in a while, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves to read.


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