Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Artist

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Last night I was generously invited to an NYU film class hosted by the brilliant Professor Richard Brown. He first briefed us on the history of silent film, taking us through to the transition into talkies and tappy dancies (not its technical term) up until the sound revolution that we know today. And all using the backdrop of a new flick by visionary French director Michel Hazanavicius : ‘The Artist”. M. Hazanavicius also wrote the piece, as an homage to the old Hollywood Golden Age and succeeded magnificently in recreating this mystical era of cinema. Set in the late 1920s, film making was tough. As silent movies, this beautiful art, began to vanish due to the introduction of sound, thanks to the Bell Laboratories and other technology advances, the world of film was changing rapidly. First, sound accompanied the piece, whereas before the theatres would play live music as the film rolled. Then soon after the audience first heard words uttered. Words from their icons. Their Hollywood legends. They could not resist it. And “talkies” appeared on the screen. However, this was a sad time for the old school silent troupe. Actors with awkward voices lost favour as the audience had grown to imagine and expect a certain tone and if they didn’t match it in reality? Well then they were out. The sets changed to accommodate the new wave of sound recording. People lost their jobs as this form of art evolved hurriedly forward to the next generation of cinema.

Hazanavicius wanted to retell that era. He wanted to shoot an authentic film. With his finely chosen cast, each offering a spot-on period look, the expressive face that is so necessary to silent film and the subtle references to a long dead past, he has nailed it perfectly. The first 10 minutes are rough. I had to really concentrate since my only tool was vision. However, soon enough I became lost, along with the audience, in this magnificent and triumphant work. What can I say about the music? Breathtaking. The cinematography? Stunning. The cast? Astounding. This is a cast who shoot film in sound. They talk to make themselves understood. And yet their actions, their pitch-perfect facial expressions are amazing. Hazanavicius, we are told, always kept to the theme and throughout shooting, the soundtrack is played to maintain an atmosphere. Hold them in character and help these modern actors adapt to the silent world.

Honestly I urge everyone to see it. It is absolutely a work of art and a gripping love story. The two leads Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo steal the stage. Their faces are mesmerising and I believed every look. I will see this again and maybe again after that. And what perfect timing, I thought to myself, that this tribute to classic Hollywood has come one week before a very delightful Thanksgiving trip to Los Angeles. I think I use fate too much? But come on it seems likely right!?

Occupy Wall Street

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As the sun sets on this Thursday (aka Thursday slump) the lights come on in the Chrysler Building. Hanging in the air are 4 helicopters. Far away downtown from my lab like dragonflies waiting.

2 days ago Zuccotti Park was evacuated. A private space not owned by the city the rules are different. There is no law against tents, sleeping bags and occupying the park indefinitely but the authorities have had enough and on Tuesday morning the police rolled over the occupation with no mercy. Zuccotti Park was emptied. Forcibly.

But they are not impressed. As you can well imagine and tonight as the city officials prepared for protest mayhem the tension in the air is palpable!

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital released the following:

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are planning on occupying multiple subway stops beginning at 3:00 p.m. throughout the five boroughs.

Below please find information from the group’s website, including a list of designated “hub” subway stations identified as designated protest sites, a plan for a large gathering in Union Square at 5PM and indication of plans to march NYC area bridges this evening.

  • Bronx
    • Fordham Rd
    • 3rd Ave, 138th Street
    • 163rd and Southern Blvd
    • 161st and River – Yankee Stadium
  • Brooklyn
    • Broadway Junction
    • Borough Hall
    • 301 Grove Street
    • St Jose Patron Church,185 Suydam St, Bushwick
  • Queens
    • Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave.
    • Jamaica Center/Parsons/Archer
    • 92-10 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights
  • Manhattan
    • 125th St. A,B,C,D
    • Union Sq. (Mass student strike)
    • 23rd St and 8th Ave
  • Staten Island
    • St. George, Staten Island Ferry Terminal
    • 479 Port Richmond Avenue, Port Richmond

Take The Square – 5:00 p.m.

At 5 pm, tens of thousands of people will gather at Foley Square (just across from City Hall) and then march to the bridges.

Thank you.

Better go to the movies then!

Thursday slump

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Hello Dear Readers,

Today I speak to you from the almost comfy chair in my lab procrastinating about all the many things I need to complete. First off, I need to update my lab book. A dedication I value highly and definitely owe all to my mother, who has drilled into her girls a love of school work. From an early age, we were made aware of the importance of neat and tidy working. Schoolbooks were covered immediately with clear sticky plastic to avoid doggy ends ruining their look. Heaven forbid if a bubble formed, tarnishing the perfection that we strived to attain. Tears would probably ensue. Our stationary boxes were full of misplaced office supplies from our mother’s workplace. Brand new highlighters, pencils and pens with rubbery handles for comfort. Staplers, post it notes and pads and pads of lined paper so that we could feel free to be creative in the academic sphere. No thought for the poor trees. Our satchel would always be flat. No backpacks for us. We respected the need for ordered piles. No strewn uneven resting places. After all clear plastic can only do so much. One also needs to maintain a calm and equilibrated environment for the books.

So as I sit looking at my agonisingly nearly up to date lab notes I wonder why today I am not so keen to get stuck in. Selotape at the ready, protocols eager to be documented, highlighter pens on guard.

I open my blog. Sit for a moment with nothing to say and consider how best to approach this post.

I also need to write a few emails that require more thought than waffling about my To Do list. I need to make a list of appropriate cell lines for my next experiment, which will require a little trip to another lab to gather the information. Not an option today. How bizarre. I need to relabel an experiment that was not dealt with efficiently yesterday evening as I bolted up to Harlem for a squash match, rainy darkness outside grinding transport to a halt. I probably should read a paper on chromatin. Probably best not to read it in this frame of mind though. So I won’t.

I type a couple of paragraphs in my blog wondering, since no planning was done prior to the first word, where I might be going with this. What is my angle? Will I have a closing statement that can round off the piece concisely so that I can get on with the tasks at hand? The tasks I am getting paid for?

I daydream about my week. It is Thursday at least and the weekend is close approaching. I will have writing class, more squash and a strange and hopefully wonderful event in Brooklyn that is as mysterious to me as it probably will be to you, the reader. Sorry if I could expand I would. I think Sunday will be a day of rest and a review of the weird and curious “The Danger

You are invited to an all night interactive tableau of liquor and fire, beauty and grace and the indelicate story of the closing of TheDanger (and the start of something new.) This event is an intimate ode to you, the city we love and the gorgeous nights you make worthwhile.

Featuring:
Dozens of performers spread across two epic spaces hidden deep within the dark corners of Brooklyn. You will begin in a historic former factory in South Brooklyn between Red Hook and Gowanus. From there you will be transported, in style, to the second location: a luscious speakeasy that is too delicate to reveal publicly.

Maybe I should get on with the day. Thursday slump is inevitable and so I must embrace it!

Finally Meeting Alec

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It was my birthday yesterday and I was excessively enthusiastic for near-30 digits. As if getting an excess of presents and sugar was not enough I was also able to fulfill a (lifelong?) dream to meet the man. Mr Alec “he is just too cheeky” Baldwin, as I was reliably informed by Giles, would be reading from a book in a SoHo bookstore. 7:30pm.

Fingers crossed

As always, I had taken on a little TOO much for one day and was then presented with the opportunity to rush downtown immediately after a squash match to see Baldwin himself in the glorious flesh! Could I resist? I could not.

Completely hyper with anticipation, I ran between court and subway stop, skipping stairs to save valuable minutes. Seeing a train pulling in, I swiped the metro card and dove into the carriage. The doors slid closed and I realised, with comic timing and to much dismay, that I was actually being directed UPTOWN. I sometimes do this. Jump on trains without thinking. Panicking I urged the train silently on to 68th St, hopped out, sprinted at full pelt upstairs, over and back down to the reverse platform, panting at this point and tearing my new scarf (birthday present) from around my neck, to the effect of cooling my overheated person. Can we get some air down here? Luckily, and perhaps as an act of fate, the next subway arrived in less than 2 minutes. I, flustered, bundled myself on with my endless baggage and plonked myself down on my bottom to wait. Sitting for 20 minutes with only 25 minutes to go before the Baldwin show, I was a little nervous. Toe tapping anxiously I could do nothing but rest, patiently. But as I approached my planned destination- Broadway-Lafayette- I realised that the subway didn’t stop there. An optical illusion on the map. And I remembered I had done this once before. But a poor product of evolution as I am, I had learned not a thing. And the train kept rolling on. DOWNtown.

Eventually resurfacing at Spring St I rushed up to Prince St to meet my co-adventurer and stumbled on and in to the appropriate bookstore.

The queue was winding, and the floor below, where Mr Baldwin was in session, was full to the rafters. They announced that there was a one in, one out policy for the reading. They were currently at capacity. And we must simply live in hope. But hope is a magnificent thing and always wins out. So soon enough it was my turn and without pause or care (Alec B tends to make a celebrity nuts monster out of me. I must work on that. Sorry G), I trundled down the few steps and positioned myself rudely between some new neighbours. Now calm that my goal would be achieved I sorted my ruffled self out. Dropped my bag, undressed to the boundary between decency and other, and practiced tip toes to get THE BEST view. A couple of other actors were also reading. ER’s Mr Green/Goose (aka Anthony Edwards) read about his private plane trip around the world. Nice. Another lady talked about Morocco. But the main event was still to come. I am getting goose bumps as I type this. Mr Alec “the magnificent” Baldwin was up next. A huge cheer roared in this low-ceiling book emporium as the big man stepped up to the mike.

Looking trim and magical he proceeded to read from his chapter on his loathing of L.A. He said absolutely nothing really but all the while, with his sultry voice, he entertained us all with his gripping prose. I was tippy toed for all of it, dodging an annoying little man who spent most of it taking pictures, and not just taking it all in. I think this is what I needed. To see real celebrity-loving nutbars was a jolt back to Earth. I love you Alec Baldwin, and my heart skips a beat when you giggle, but that was enough now. After all celebrities are really just people (some of them are just steely blue-eyed gods!)

Magnificence in human form?

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

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A perfect Halloween night!

This is a rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. Taking it’s cue from Plato and the Ancient Greeks:

Collected Works of Plato, translated by Benjamin Jowett

…..the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all rounf and moved round and round because they resembled their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, attempted to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods. Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained. At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way.

He said, ‘Methinks I have a plan which will enfeeble their strength and so extinguish their turbulence’ men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.’

He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like the purses which draw tight, and he made one mouth at the centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel); he also moulded the breast and took out most of the wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state.

After the division of the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they began to die from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call the – being sections of entire men or women – and clung to that.

Thus they were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position, and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways of business of life. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, seeking to make one of two, and to heal the state of man.

Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saying. When they reach manhood they are lovers of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children, — if at all, they do so only in obedience to custom; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded.

And such a nature is prone to love and ready to return to love, always embracing that which is akin to him. And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual ahlf of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and one will not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together, and yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover’s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.

and then came the bubbles. A million Fairy liquid bubbles from all around us, coating the ecstatic audience in a fine layer of washing up juice. Unable to scream at full volume for fear of swallowing too many bubbles I clapped harder. Then sticky we made our way home on the subway smelling of fresh lemon spring dew.

PS This next clip is entirely unrelated. Well I suppose they are both musicals so go on then! This popped onto my ipod during the commute home and I replayed it over and over and over until my stop. Someone bring Camelot back to Broadway? Anyone?