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Showing posts from 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year (to those of you for whom it will be a new year) and warmest wishes to all who have sent me holiday greetings. I'm enjoying some intensive family time and cannot reply individually, but please enjoy the season, enjoy the moment that is forever constant and forever changing, be peaceful and loving in your hearts, take time to think of the smallest creature and the most ignored person, and live 2014 with a passion for everyone and everything. Peace, love, infinite oneness. And cake :)

(Photograph Copyright 2013 by Alexander Chow-Stuart)

American Hustle - and White Rabbit in Arabic

American Hustle is my film of the year because it's a magnificent, warm, funny, outrageous, quirky, affirming celebration of life – and, ultimately, love.

In a year when American cinema in particular seems obsessed with lone figures surviving – Gravity (the most undeniably cinematic of the loner/end of empire canon); Captain Phillips; All Is Lost; Spike Jonze's reflections in Her on our increasingly overwhelming relationships with technology (that or his breakup with Sofia Coppola); Inside Llewyn Davis (more like a struggle to endure an overdrawn underworld myth) – it's incredibly refreshing to see David O Russell choreographing such a beautifully judged, inclusive and loving ensemble film as American Hustle.
From its unforgettable opening with the World's Greatest Combover (and a sweeping Duke Ellington track, Jeep’s Blues), to its extraordinary, thrillingly cinematic highlights – such as the coming together of opposing forces ("I know who you are!") amid smo…

My Holiday Pick - Hyperbole And A Half by Allie Brosh

There are many gifts you can give this holiday season, but my pick is a warmly colored book of highly idiosyncratic cartoons, Hyperbole And A Half, by Allie Brosh, whose autobiographical blog of the same name has featured on this blog at least a couple of times in the past.

Brosh, who appears in the cartoons as a funny squiggly creature with big eyes and stick limbs, examines her life with enormous honesty and humor, ranging from everyday situations that we all recognize to poignant childhood memories and an exploration of her devastating experience of serious depression.



In an interview with Terry Gross for NPR's Fresh Air, Brosh explained how she came to draw herself as a strange tube-like being with a pointy triangle for a ponytail:


"The reason I draw myself this way is that I feel that this absurd squiggly thing is actually a much more accurate representation of myself than I am. It's a better tool for communicating my sense of humor and actually getting across what I…

Throwing Snow in the Boiler Room - Ambient Bassy Trip Hop Music and Video

While I'm in my ambient dance trip hop mood, here's a truly beautiful set by British DJ Throwing Snow (Ross Tones) on video Live in the Boiler Room in London (courtesy of YouTube).

Tones is fascinating to watch as he works with a quiet concentration on the wholly original, fabulously bassy and enveloping sounds that he creates with a mix of samples, tracks, keyboards and iPad. 

He's one of the few DJs I've seen who doesn't use headphones, and whose focus on his work is such that he creates an almost tangible private space around him. 

His music combines elements of two of my all time favorite artists, DJ Shadow and DJ Cam, with its mellow, dancey beats, intriguing ambient samples and totally seductive bass lines.




Born in Bristol (the city that produced Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead and Roni Size to name a few), Tones is also one half of the duo, Snow Ghosts, featuring singer Augustus Ghost (Hannah Cartwright) - who performs at the end of Snow's set Live in the…

Maribou State at the Boiler Room - Beautiful Music and Video

Some of my favorite sounds at the moment - not least the stunning Blue Sunday (with its totally seductive opening) from Truths - are by a British DJ duo with the highly evocative name, Maribou State.

Signed to Norman Cook's (aka Fatboy Slim) Southern Fried Records, Liam Ivory and Chris Davids create distinctive, mellow, drum and bass influenced music that mixes ambient sounds, often-fragmented vocals and haunting beats to startling effect.

This video of Maribou State (above) spinning at Brighton's Boiler Room is a perfect window on two fast-rising DJs displaying their very considerable talent and creating a solid, beautiful and very chill set that flows with an intriguing rhythmic narrative and some expert and seemingly effortless mood and beat shifts. It also shows two guys clearly enjoying what they're doing. 

Be sure to watch all the way through to catch the tasty swing into Throwing Snow's fabulously bassy and hypnotic Lingerwell.

Check out Maribou State's Facebook…

Miso in our Christmas Tree

A Christmas tradition in our house: our lovebird Miso in our Christmas tree! This will be Miso's sixth Christmas with us. He's firmly in control of all celebrations.


Oscar's Oasis Rules!

My children and their best friend have just introduced me to a cartoon show they all adore, Oscar's Oasis (available to stream on Netflix) - a French-South Korean series of very distinctive shorts that riff on the frenetic pace, ambience and non-verbal humor of Chuck Jones' classic Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons, but bring a whole new energy and contemporary rhythm to the always-chaotic and hilarious proceedings.




As in the Roadrunner cartoons, food (and water or other refreshment) is the focus here. The setting is a desert - drawn, as Wikipedia points out, from elements of the Sahara, Kalahari and North American deserts.

As Oscar the lizard struggles to find and consume desperately-needed vittles, he is thwarted - and very occasionally assisted for a brief time - by a chaotic, equally determined trio consisting of Popy, a fennec fox, Buck, a vulture, and Harchi, a hyena, whose communal vehicle - and sometimes weapon - of choice is an old shopping cart.



The humor is entir…

Jony and Marc's (RED) Auction Raises Over $26 Million To Fight AIDS In Africa (Updated)

According to SFGate and Business Insider, Jony Ive and Marc Newson's first major Sotheby's auction for Bono's charity, Product (RED) - see my post below - last night raised over $26 million (I earlier reported over $12 million, based on an early post from Forbes.com) to help fight HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa.



Among the major highlights, Jony's beautifully-designed new generation (RED) Mac Pro sold for $977,000 (estimate $40,000-60,000; price includes buyer's premium), while the one-off Leica Digital Rangefinder Camera designed by Ive and Newson, and estimated to sell for $500,000-700,000, fetched an astonishing $1,805,000.





For the next auction, perhaps Jony will design what I'm waiting for - the electric (or perhaps hydrogen-powered) Apple iCar! 

(This beautiful concept design below is actually by Franco Grassi.)



See also these stories:



Does Apple's Jony Ive Have The World's Best Job? (Forbes.com)





TIME 100: Apple's Jony Ive Is An "Ar…

Jony and Marc's (RED) Auction - Sir Jonathan Ive, Marc Newson and Bono

In a few hours at Sotheby's in New York, Apple's design genius, Sir Jonathan Ive (better known as Jony), and his longtime designer pal, Marc Newson, will present an incredible selection of extremely beautiful objects that they have curated and/or designed for Bono'sProduct (RED), the charity Bono established in 2006 with Bobby Shriver to raise awareness of and to work to eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa.




Among the goodies up for grabs are an exquisite one-off Leica Digital Rangefinder Camera that Ive and Newson have collaborated on - estimated to be worth at least half a million dollars (I wish I were bidding for that!) - a truly elegant Steinway Grand Piano (estimate $150-200,000) and, one of Jony's own groundbreaking creations, the new Mac Pro in red (estimate $40-60,000)!









Proceeds from the sale will be donated to The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the world's largest financier of anti-AIDS, TB and malaria programs, which according to Wikipedia &q…

From Dawn to Sunset on the Beach - Pelicans, Whales and Memories of my Father

Living and writing by the ocean - in a spot we like to call Aldabra (which in reality is a remote and very beautiful atoll in the Indian Ocean) - the beach figures large in my thoughts and daily routine.

Usually I wake early, and on occasion I walk at dawn through the waves, past the occasional fisherperson, enjoying the darkness slowly transforming into light, the spray of the breakers, the pull of the tide around my feet, the constant barking of the sea lions, the damp of the ocean mist - and the sight of the sun breaking over the horizon to the east.






Recently, a few days before what would have been his birthday, I thought of my father as I trod the beach at dawn. He came from a tiny Scottish fishing village, Rosehearty, settled by Danes in the 1400s, on a forbidding coast actually farther north than most of Denmark - and not an unimaginable distance from the Faroe Islands and Iceland.



I visited his village only once as a young child of four or five, although I have fairly vivid memori…

MIT, inFORM, Radical Atoms - and the Mindblowing Future of 3D Displays and Physical Interaction (VIDEO)

This is a truly mindblowing development from a group of extremely talented and visionary people at the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab - a "Dynamic Shape Display" called inFORM that allows remote participants, using video conferencing technology, to physically manipulate real objects in an entirely different space - even on an entirely different continent. Cool music, too!

How long before we can virtually shake hands?




Here's more information about inFORM from the Tangible Media Group's own webpage:
inFORMDaniel Leithinger, Sean Follmer, Alex Olwal, Akimitsu Hogge, Hiroshi Ishii / 2013 inFORM is a Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way. inFORM can also interact with the physical world around it, for example moving objects on the table’s surface. Remote participants in a video conference can be displayed physically, allowing for a strong sense of presence and the ability …

The Story Behind the Immortal Bass Line of Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side (VIDEO)

Of all the tributes to, and stories about, Lou Reed over the past week, this is one of the most fascinating - even though it doesn't directly concern Reed himself, but rather Herbie Flowers, the legendary British bass player who created the immortal bass line that opens Reed's massive solo hit, Walk On The Wild Side.

When I first heard Walk On The Wild Side, it seemed the ultimate late night New York song: a transgender story (which apparently radio stations in the 1970s and since didn't even pick up on, despite the line, "Shaved his legs and then he was a she") featuring characters from Andy Warhol'sFactory, which sounded as if it had been recorded at about 1 am in some smoky lowdown basement hangout in the East Village.

The video above reveals the immense influence of Herbie Flowers - who had worked with David Bowie, who produced Walk On The Wild Side and the Lou Reed album it came from, Transformer, on Bowie's own classic breakout single, Space Oddity.

Fl…