Sunday, 17 January 2016

Seen and heard: December 2015

Filmish – nice graphic / comic introduction to film studies (seven chapters on The Eye, The Body, Sets and Architecture, Time, Voice and Language, Power and Ideology, Technology and Technophobia), with illustrations from many classic films I knew and many I didn’t. Worthwhile enterprise, though not on the same level as Scott McLeod’s Understanding Comics.

Memoryhouse – wonderful album from contemporary classical composer Max Richter, which we first heard as the music to the BalletBoyz 'Serpent'. Rather like the music of Philip Glass, for which we mistook it initially, but there’s something different and more tuneful about this. It’s also more sad, with track titles and spoken elements suggestive of poetry and reminiscences of European catastrophes. We put it on, intending just to check it out, and sat listening in silence for the whole album. Deservedly famous and successful.

A Bridge Over You – the NHS Choir’s mashup of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and ‘Fix You’, which a widely-supported campaign took to Christmas Number One - so hat tip to Justin Bieber for telling his fans to support this rather than his own competing single. Apparently the BBC insisted on producing a new video as part of their promotion. I’m biased of course, but I prefer the original 2013 video produced by my sister’s company: it positions the viewer as a patient, feeling small and vulnerable, receiving the singers’ compassion, which is why some people were moved to tears; the new video makes the viewer an observer, with the staff singing to each other around a piano, and for some reason buries the song’s words beneath the text of the marriage service (“to have and to hold…”). Gareth Malone, when he set up the workplace choirs, took pains to find a song which the people could really sing, which truly expressed them and their work, and that’s what ‘A Bridge Over You’ did and what the original video did too: it was actually in alignment with the song. The new video reduces the song to a backing track. It may have been effective as a campaign video, but I can’t imagine it moving anyone to tears.

Christmas messages from the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Pope – which all in their own way addressed terrible recent events and people’s sense of the world descending into chaos. Simplest and best was the Queen, quoting the Gospel of John: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

Mercy as the Resolution of Paradox: A View from the Enneagram – webcast by Richard Rohr (Franciscan spiritual teacher) and Russ Hudson (Enneagram guru) from the Centre for Action and Contemplation. Intense but easy to follow, despite its two-hour length, which is a reminder of how effective video lectures can be with the right presenters.

Lara Croft Go – excellent turn-based puzzle game, which has made many reviewers’ Best Games of 2015 lists (Guardian, AppUnWrapper, Gamezebo, Apple). You have to figure out how to move Lara past dangerous animals (snakes, spiders, lizards) and lethal hazards (collapsing floors, rotating blades, rolling boulders, arrow traps). Tremendous “just another screen” addictive quality; effectively Monument Valley with added danger.

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