Friday, October 29, 2010

The Little Prince

My God Daughter's christening is tomorrow, and my mother instructed me to buy her something that "she will have forever".  Well, whatever I got for my Christening (a silver spoon?  a rattle?) is long gone.  So what kind of gift will you really have forever?  Answer:  A book.

This led me to a book shop where I bought a hard-backed copy of "The Little Prince", and promptly started spazzing-out with the shop assistant about what an incredibly, amazing work of literature it is.

I like it just a little bit!

It's ostensibly a children's book, and for a child it's a great read.  But when I picked it up again as a teenager, I realised what a rare gem it is.

It tells the story of a man who, stranded in the desert, meets a strange little boy.  This little Prince has left his home planet to explore the universe.  Through his adventures, and his innocence, the book makes touching observations about life and human nature.

For me, the most potent moments in the book are the relationship he develops with the little fox that begs to be tamed ("You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed"), and his departure from the planet, which leaves the narrator and reader in a state of ambiguity about life and the after-life.

Originally written in French by the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery (who did many of the illustrations), it's less than 100 pages long, and it's just beautiful.  Read it here. 

A graphic novel has just been brought out.  For me it's sacrilegious, but out of interest... 

And if you're lazy, you can always watch the cartoon ;)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Alex Box

"Fashion statement" is one of those phrases used so often that it's meaning is forgotten.  "Statement" indicates there is something to say.

Branded as a pretentious and vaccuous industry, many fashion statements do seem to be purely aesthetic. But sometimes, there is a sense that it's saying something.  That's what I thought when I first came across the work of makeup artist Alex Box.

According to her blurb: "Alex Box gives full access to images which radically unsettle and deconstruct conventional images of beauty in fashion."  My background is film, not fashion, yet from my lay man perspective, I do feel the thick layering of the makeup hints at the exploitative aspect of the fashion industry.

Irrespectively, the result is beautiful.  When Box paints, the face becomes a canvas, the image is a work of art.  Originally an installation artist, she's brought the three dimensional quality of video to these paintings on the face.

One year ago today, the first exhibition of her work (captured by the infamous fashion photographer Rankin, and later published as a book of photography), was launched.  I thought this would be an apt day to share it with you.  Enjoy!

Box even has a place of pride on my bedroom wall :)


Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Imagining the tenth dimension

Quantum physics is fascinating.  For me, it's the meeting point of science and spirituality.

This amazing little video advertises itself humbly as "A new way of thinking about time and space."  But actually, it makes quantum physics understandable, and engaging.  Enjoy the feeling of your brain flexing :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Late Bloomers

Prodigies are sexy.

Full of potential and talent, they rock the world for a few years, make a dramatic exit, and leave a legacy.

After being slightly sickened by my own post yesterday (where I was talking about the success of the xx, who are all 20 years old), I decided to look to the old-timers to see if there was hope for me (I'm 28).

Typing "late bloomers" into Google yielded some reassuring results:

  • Verdi composed Ave Maria at age 85.
  • Harlan Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 65.
  • Ronald Reagan didn't get into politics until he was 55.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of Little House on the Prairie) published her first book in her 60s.
  • Rodney Dangerfield didn't start doing comedy until he was 45.
  • Cezanne's most highly prized paintings were done in his 60s.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's best films, including Vertigo and Psycho, were done in his late 50s and early 60s.
  • And best of all - Leonard Cohen did not begin his music career until he was 32!
Time to embrace the Zimmer frame!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The XX - sold out?

If The Beatles were bigger than Jesus, are the xx about to rival Coca Cola?

London band, the xx, are no stranger to success. Their sound has that special quality that allows everyone to connect with it: it's fresh, unique, and yet familiar. Critics love it, and commercially it's been used for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and TV shows like "Grey's Anatomy", and "Beverly Hills 90210".

But global brand Apple have just released a new iPhone / iPod Touch application: beautifully-shot films of the band the xx, performing.

Just think about how often you idly play with your phone. Now imagine how many people have iPhones. In this age of digital interactivity, an iPhone app brings a level of infamy we can't even anticipate. the xx are going to the mass consumer audience.

Crossing a fame barrier is a sensitive moment in any artist's career. As time passes, and the growing fan base obsess over their subtle and lyrical sound, critics will wait with baited breath for "the (disappointing? mind-blowing?) second album". Like lambs to the slaughter, pressure like this can kill creativity.

I'm not going to make any stupid puns about these guys having the X factor (although I think I just did..?), but I feel these guys have the talent to produce a second album that parallels their incredible debut. However - a lot of success comes down to being supported creatively in difficult moments. I hope they have a good manager.

Anyway, here's my favourite part: sharing their music :) One of the great things about this band is that they don't have "a song". Each of these tracks stands alone. Enjoy.

"Crystalised" was used during the 3rd season of the TV show 'Gossip Girl'.

"VCR" was featured in an episode of 'Lie to Me'.

"Islands" was used in 'Grey's Anatomy'.

(This video was directed by Saam Farahmand. He later created "an audio-visual sculpture" of their album, which was the inspiration for the iPhone app.)

"Intro" was extensively used on television: in an AT&T commercial; during the series Cold Case; often during NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, for the BBC News Newsnight coverage of the 2010 general election; and also in Law & Order on the Dutch television network Net 5. (thanks Wiki)

"Heart Skipped a Beat" was featured in a 2009 episode of '90210'.

the xx are a trio from London, England, United Kingdom, formed in 2005. They studyied at Elliott School: a institution which also gave birth to Hot Chip, Burial and Four Tet. They have all just turned twenty.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Released in 1992, 'Baraka' is a timeless fusion of music and some of the most beautiful shots of all time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Prisms of Light" Production diary

In the throes of editing my own documentary, I recently took a retrospective look at one phase of the trip, and what I experienced. Hope you enjoy!

"Prisms of Light"

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rafał Olbiński

Rafał Olbiński is unique as an artist because he paints the way a writer would write. I enter into visual dialogue with him, because he uses allegory, double entendres, and symbolism to create a visual vocabulary.
This "literary-style" of painting lends itself well to the posters for classical theatre and opera that he designs.

Polish posters characteristically depict themes metaphorically rather than directly, but have quite a sombre tone. Olbinski brings a touch of humour to this style.













"La Traviata" by Verdi

And some of his other art work:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Creativity and the Education system

I think this amazing, impassioned TED talk will resonate deeply with anyone who feels the education system passed them by.

Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're being educated. He makes the point that there are multiple types of intelligence, but that only a few of these are nurtured by the school system. Standard education is based on outdated knowledge, and Robinson champions a radical rethink of our schooling systems, so that each individual's potential can be realised.

(If you haven't yet heard of TED - here's the blurb: "The annual TED conferences, in Long Beach/Palm Springs and Oxford, bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).")

Thursday, October 14, 2010

From beyond "The Dude"

Great article on Cinematography by the Cohen Brother's D.O.P, Roger Deakins:

The website also has a forum where he answers questions directly.. pretty rare to have access like that to an 8 time Oscar Nominee!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Goodbye Horses


The meaning (according to someone on youtube) :

In Eastern philosophy "horses" are symbolic/representative of the 5 senses - the things that keep us tied to the physical/material plane of existence. When you can transcend the limitations of these senses and achieve a higher level of consciousness, you are leaving the "horses" behind - "flying over them."
The song is about someone who is so affected so deeply by an event in their lives that they decide to give up the things that emotionally bind them to this world.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Disney and Dalí make movie

When I first read about this I presumed it was a joke! But in truth, in 1946, Salvador Dali and Walt Disney started to make a cartoon together.

Choosing a Mexican love ballad as the theme, the pair created drawings, paintings and storyboards for a film which, had it been completed, would probably have been an amazing surrealist fairytale. But after a few months the infant film was shelved. Disney's studio stated financial trouble as the reason.

Dalí had already made two short films with Luis Buñuel, and was working on Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound", when he approached Disney at a Warner Brother's dinner party. He held Disney in high esteem, stating: "I have come to Hollywood and am in touch with the three great American surrealists - the Marx Brothers, Cecil B. DeMille and Walt Disney." Dalí believed he and Disney could create "the first motion picture of the Never Seen Before."

Though the collaboration might seem strange today (the current Disney empire is far from subversive), Walt Disney was actually a progressive innovator. Six years previously he had made "Fantasia" - a groundbreaking series of beautiful animations set to classical music. Like many things that are ahead of its time, it wasn't received well, and was a massive commercial failure. I suspect it was partially due to "Fantasia" that the company's execs decided to pull the plug on the Disney-Dalí collaboration, after a mere 15 seconds of footage had been created.

53 years later, when "Fantasia" had been hailed as a work of genius, and was being remastered, Walt Disney's nephew Roy Edward Disney, unearthed the dormant Disney-Dali project. He decided to bring it back to life, and a team of Disney animators finished what Dalí started. The result is "Destino": the six-minute journey of a beautiful ballerina through a strange desert land.

Researching this has opened a kettle of fish on Disney himself, but I'll leave my findings on him for another post!

Thanks to Rosa Maria at for making me aware of "Destino".



Monday, October 11, 2010

Banksy sings "The Simpsons"

Last night, the couch-gag opening of "The Simpsons" was storyboarded and directed by none other than Banksy.

Progressive or commercial? Hard hitting or heavy handed?  You decide...

Live the Questions Now

Live the Questions Now

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love
the questions themselves
as if they were locked rooms or books written
in a very foreign language.

Don't search for the answers, which could
not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.

And the point is to live everything.

Live the questions now. Perhaps
then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even
noticing it,
live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
"Letters to a Young Poet"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Ballad of the Sad Young Men

Today is National Poetry Day and, for shame, it nearly slipped by me.

Calendars generally inform us of these (important?) days, but I don't think I've ever celebrated anything but the standards - Christmas, Easter, Valentines day, Father's day. To be honest, they annoy me - I hate being pressurised to conform, and to buy presents. Wouldn't it be nice to celebrate all the lesser known days instead? I could see that actually enriching people's lives, instead of just being another greeting card sales ploy (bah, humbug!)

This month, for example, is Black History Month in the U.K. It highlights African and Caribbean history and heritage, and promotes a greater understanding of the UK's diverse cultural heritage.

It's also International Walk to School Month (although I can safely say this does not inspire me to walk anywhere).

But one thing I can do is share a piece of writing with you.


Sing a song of sad young men, glasses full of rye.
All the news is bad again, kiss your dreams goodbye.

All the sad young men sitting in the bars,
Knowing neon nights, missing all the stars.

All the sad young men drifting through the town,
Drinking up the night, trying not to drown.

All the sad young men singing in the cold,
Trying to forget that they're growing old.

All the sad young men choking on their youth,
Trying to be brave, running from the truth.

Autumm turns the leaves to gold, slowly dies the heart
Sad young men are growing old, that's the cruelest part.

All the sad young men seek a certain smile
Someone they can hold for a little while.

Tired little girl does the best she can
Trying to be gay for a sad young man.

While the grimy moon watches from above
All the sad young men play at making love.

Misbegotten moon, shine for sad young men.
Let your gentle light guide them home again.
All the sad young men.


I read this when I was a teenager, in a volume of poetry, and it stayed with me ever since. It made me sad to think of all these men who were feeling so empty inside, and who weren't able to communicate it. But what's interesting is that when I posted the poem, a guy read it and proclaimed that it was written by a man-basher...! When I read back over it, I could see what he meant (though I think 'man basher' is a bit harsh!)

So: a romanticisation of masculinity, a homage to men's secret hearts, or a condescending ode to "boys"... what do you think?
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