Friday, December 29, 2006

Back to basics

The germ of my plays? I'll be as accurate as I can about that. I went into a room and saw one person standing up and one person sitting down, and a few weeks later I wrote The Room. I went into another room and saw two people sitting down, and a few years later I wrote The Birthday Party. I looked through a door into a third room, and saw two people standing up and I wrote The Caretaker.

--- Harold Pinter

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tell it like it is

From "Philip Yeo moving to PM's Office", Today, 23rd Dec 2006:

Singapore's strength lies in execution — not ideas, nor strategic planning, said the fast-talking Mr Yeo.

And prowess in execution is easily learnt by other countries.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

365 films in 365 days

Jonas Mekas, veteran of the American underground art scene, is going to combine new footage with footage that he's been recording most of his 85 years.

While most of those friends -- Andy Warhol, Stan Brakhage, Allen Ginsberg -- have departed for that rent-controlled loft in the sky, Mekas continues to create and innovate.

On Jan. 1, a week after his 85th birthday, Mekas launches a yearlong film-a-day series. He'll post a new poetic short at his website each afternoon until the end of 2007. He hopes film buffs will watch them on their iPods.

Read on for his thoughts on using different formats, the essence of art, and the relationship between content and the technology used to record it.

Wired News: Short films from a Long Life

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Saatchi and Stuart

Charles Saatchi, owner of Saatchi Gallery, is a smart man:

In May Mr. Saatchi, famed for spotting young unknowns and turning them into art-world superstars, created a section on his Web site for artists of all ages to post their work at no charge. It is called Your Gallery, and now boasts contributions by about 20,700 artists, including 2,000 pieces of video art.

Everything there is for sale, with neither the buyer nor the seller paying a cent to any dealer or other middleman. About 800 new artists have been signing up each week.

And since Stuart (shorthand for “student art”) went online last month, some 1,300 students (including 450 in the United States) have created Web pages there. No one vets the quality or style of the art.

With dealers and collectors scouring student shows for undiscovered talent and students hunting for dealers to represent them, Mr. Saatchi has tapped a vein that can’t stop gushing. If Stuart gains anything like the cachet of MySpace, it has the potential to morph from a nonprofit venture into a gold mine for Mr. Saatchi. (More from the NYT)

Now why didn't someone else think of that first?

David Bowie x Bing Crosby

Yep, strange but it happened in 1977.

The Washington Post explains:

The notion of pairing the resolutely white-bread Crosby with the exquisitely offbeat Bowie apparently was the brainchild of the TV special's producers, Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, according to Ian Fraser, who co-wrote (with Larry Grossman) the song's music and arranged it.

Crosby was in Great Britain on a concert tour, and the theme of the TV special was Christmas in England. Bowie was one of several British guest stars (the model Twiggy and "Oliver!" star Ron Moody also appeared). Booking Bowie made logistical sense, since the special was taped near his home in London, at the Elstree Studios. As perhaps an added inducement, the producers agreed to air the arty video of Bowie's then-current single, "Heroes" (Crosby introduced it)


The original plan had been for Bowie and Crosby to sing just "Little Drummer Boy." But "David came in and said: 'I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?' " Fraser said. "We didn't know quite what to do."

Fraser, Kohan and Grossman left the set and found a piano in the studios' basement. In about 75 minutes, they wrote "Peace on Earth," an original tune, and worked out an arrangement that weaved together the two songs. Bowie and Crosby nailed the performance with less than an hour of rehearsal.

And that was almost that. "We never expected to hear about it again," Kohan said. (click for more)

(From Boing Boing)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Delicious Library

Discovered via the Penguin Blog: Delicious Library!
Get your Mac, a webcam, and Delicious Library and rediscover your home library. Just point any FireWire digital video camera, like an Apple iSight®, at the barcode on the back of any book, movie, music, or video game. Delicious Library does the rest. The barcode is scanned and within seconds the item's cover appears on your digital shelves filled with tons of in-depth information downloaded from one of six different web sources from around the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tan Pin Pin on film school

Tan Pin Pin, speaking from considerable experience, on the benefits of film schools and what prospective film students may want to look out for:

In the best case scenarios, film schools (or education for that matter) allow you to find your voice and they also provide a supportive enough environment to help you develop it. That was why, although I enjoyed my time making Under One Roof, I had to leave Television. The harsh daily grind of TV-making was killing my own filmmaking voice I had and I had leave to save it. I decided to enroll myself in film school, to not just learn the technical side of things (that you can learn as an apprentice), but to set time aside to help me define, refine my filmmaking voice in a structured environment. I knew I had that voice, but had trouble articulating, accepting it and I needed a little help.

Read the rest of the post.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I got an iMac over the weekend.

And yes, I've already pressed the F9 button on my work (Windows) laptop more than a few times today.

'Be short, be simple, be human'

All entrants into the service come equipped with a vocabulary of common words of precise meaning adequate for all ordinary purposes. But when they begin to write as officials they have a queer trick of forgetting them and relying mainly on a smaller vocabulary of less common words with a less precise meaning.

--- Gowers, The Complete Plain Words (3rd Edition)

Picked this up over the weekend at Kinokuniya Bargain Alley. It's a bit battered, but a book like this wants to be worn out. Incidentally, it's a Penguin Reference edition. Simple yet striking design: the horizontal grid reminiscent of early Penguins, the distinctive rounded corners, and sleek Futura.

Kaliya Mardan

Kudos to the National Museum for bringing in the 1919 silent Indian film Kaliya Mardan for a screening as part of its opening celebrations this month. Apparently the most extant work of D.G. Phalke (according to the NYT). I hope the Cinematheque (the ostentatious name for the film programme there) will continue bringing in such works -- manna to film buffs and academics!

This was a rare glimpse into what film was like when it was new. When all the conventions that modern audiences are used to hadn't been invented yet. We're so used to movies now that it's difficult to imagine the fear and excitement that cinema once elicited. "Movie magic" has become such a cliche now, but it really was magic once.

What it was like when the world was new?

The screening was preceded by a documentary of D.G. Phalke's life and work, with snippets of him at work and bits from his films. What impressed me the most was the ingenuity involved in creating the special effects. I'm so jaded by CGI that camera tricks look charming in comparison. You knew that the people involved only had camera, film stock and their imaginations to work with. They all basically experimented with multiple exposures instead of manipulating vectors on a computer screen.

The other fascinating thing was that films were shot for audience participation -- hardly the rarefied objects they've since become. For instance, every shot was pretty much at waist-level and the actors keep glancing at the audience. Some of the latter was probably due to inexperience, but somehow there is a charming lack of self-consciousness throughout the film. It feels like you're there in the film with the actors. Intentional or not, this fit in very nicely with religious aspect of "mythologicals" -- audiences would chant and sing to commemorate the deity on screen. Audiences were expected to make noise. Contrast that to present ideas about filmmaking, where filmmakers try to build a hermetic, self-enclosed world and the audience is detached, elsewhere, watching like gods.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

On "Credibility"

Many Singaporeans online appear to think that all opinions should be equally respected so long as they come from individuals. This is silly, because the right to say what you want is not the same as being credible or correct.

The Straits Times used to derive a lot of its credibility, in the eyes of most Singaporeans, from the fact that it was a government mouthpiece. So the paper's reputation was tied to how well people thought of the government.

Now, some Singaporeans appear to be ascribing credibility to sites that are not the Straits Times (especially blogs), simply because these sites are not the ST. My guess is that this is a knee-jerk reaction against The Straits Times' pro-government stance; a reaction fuelled in part by grievances against the government.

But fundamentally nothing much has changed. Many Singaporeans still define the "credibility" of a source by its distance from the government. Whatever happened to thinking critically? Non-ST sources need to be questioned too.

Also see Seah Chiang Nee's article on the "credibility gap" between bloggers and the offical media. Akikonomu has a response.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Yet another S'pore film site? sgNewWave

Students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film and Media Studies have set up their own film commentary site, ambitiously called sgNewWave ( Moreover, they apparently want to make this the Singapore equivalent of Cahiers du Cinema.

Well, we'll see.

I like how their masthead is a nod to Sight & Sound, but did they really have to use Impact?


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sight and Sound

Directors, scripts and actors are important, but film is fundamentally an experience of sight and sound. Two recent articles from The Guardian:

One on music in films. The writer criticises Woody Allen's exploitative use of Gershwin in Manhattan.

Because Gershwin's music had already been enshrined in the cultural pantheon for decades, its use in Manhattan seems like an extraordinarily cunning trick, like citing Descartes in a school report and acting like you and René were old drinking buddies. Gershwin is not being recruited here merely to provide ambiance; Gershwin, with assistance from the great cinematographer Gordon Wills, is on hand to evoke the emotions that Allen's screenplay and characters cannot.

The second examines Michael Mann's obsession with architecture and design:

Manhunter is set in Atlanta. White tiles and neat Swiss typography establish the police station as a place of authority, but equally the whiteness and geometry of Lecter's cell is a diagram of depravity, a frame for deadly menace. Meanwhile, over in the serial killer's apartment, there are modernist Alvar Aalto stacking tables, nicely suggestive of tidy-paws preoccupations. A white version of Richard Sapper's low-voltage Tizio desk light coruscates in one scene, next to an old-generation white Bell telephone with a lasciviously curly flex. Everywhere Mann uses architecture to express a psychiatric state.


Manhattan music mystery

Star Vehicles

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The cutest hellhound ever

Yes, there are stuffed toy versions. I've seen one in person and it's devilishly cute. Wonder where I can get one here?

Go visit Cerbi.

Stats for cocktail parties

BBC NEWS | Business | Richest 2% own 'half the wealth'
The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of all household wealth, according to a new study by a United Nations research institute.

The report, from the World Institute for Development Economics Research at the UN University, says that the poorer half of the world's population own barely 1% of global wealth.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

She either loves him very much...

... or has too much time on her hands. A boy wakes up to find a map of locations along the route he takes to school, where his girlfriend has illustrated lines from "Fly Me to the Moon". It's really sweet; she's a keeper. Lucky bastard.

See the rest of the street art here. Thanks to Wooster Collective!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

For logophiles

For extreme logophiles, you now have Wordie. It's Flickr but with words.

/heavy breathing