Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Month: February 2009

Shortcomings

Tomine’s genius is to strip his medium of every possible type of grandiosity or indulgence, and the result is that life itself floods in.

-Jonathan Lethem

Shortcomings

Last week I was browsing Forbidden Planet’s signed books and came across Adrian Tomine, a graphic novelist with whom I was not familiar. His real world stories revolve around relationships and immediately evoke Daniel ClowesGhost World, in both visual style and socially awkward characters, although the subject matter is slightly less offbeat. I picked up signed copies of Shortcomings and Summer Blonde and devoured them in quick succession. Particularly interesting is Tomine’s often cinematic style in which the reader feels they are watching a scene through a camera, lingering with identical panels. Scene changes are often abrupt, occuring in the middle of a line, and many conversations are joined mid-flow. From context it is always easy to extract what has been discussed previously, but the precise words are left to the reader. As contemporary fiction that just happens to use a different medium, Tomine is subtle, intelligent, easy to read and highly recommended.

While I still love my current camera lens (a Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) there are certain things it can’t do. The main issue is low-light shooting since I detest flashes. If the subject is stationary there is little problem, particularly with the lens’ image stablisation, but those of the organic variety do have a tendancy to move. The trade off is then blurry shots or dark images. In short: time for a secondary lens. It didn’t take much research to stumble upon Canon’s EF 50mm f/1.4, a prime lens (non-zoom) that is by all accounts beautifully crafted, letting in a huge amount of light and producing incredibly sharp images. Unfortunately I wouldn’t know. Nowhere in London has been able to sell me one. Because they don’t have any. If any photographers out there have a secret supplier please let me know.

A few days ago I mentioned the sudden expansion of Twitter as celebrity bloggers brought it into the mainstream. It becoming mainstream, while it may be less of a “club”, is no bad thing. The celebrities, however, might be. Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross both have extraordinary numbers of followers but, while both being intelligent and witty people, neither really seems to have that much to say. Rather their feeds are filled with drivel, mostly pandering to people who want to receive that one personal message from their célébrité du jour. I am not saying I have found the perfect balance for my own Twitter feed, but I also know that there is enough background noise in my life without needing to add these kinds of celebrity microblogs.

I do have one on my list though: Neil Gaiman. It’s not that unnecessary minutiae do not appear in his, but the majority are interesting links related to his work and that of his acquaintances. If you must include celebrities, I strongly recommend TweetDeck which lets you organise the feeds of those you are following into multiple columns so you can separate out friends for example. By default it also keeps replies and direct messages separate so you can easily identify and respond to them. TweetDeck requires the Adobe Air platform to be installed.

An Oscar a Day?

Apologies for the short downtime this morning due to problems with some behind-the-scenes upgrades. Typically the start of the year features several films that might legitimately be described as Oscar bait, the idea being that they will remain fresh in the Academy’s mind when it comes to that pesky system of actually selecting the winners. This year things have gotten a little ridiculous with virtually nothing of that callibre being released throughout the year as if everything has been saved until now. Is Hollywood’s memory really that short-term? The studios and distributors certainly seem to think so. This has caused a sudden flood of releases I’m keen to see, with the result that I’m quite likely to miss a few. In a vain bid to rectify the problem, this week has almost turned into an Oscar a day, with The Wrestler (last night), Frost/Nixon (tonight) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (maybe Friday) all down for viewings. The downside is at that rate I almost certainly won’t have time to write reviews for everything I would like to. We shall see.

Mostly today’s post is another catch-up with things I’ve been meaning to mention:

  • With its rapidly growing popularity, and celebrity users making the service mainstream, c|net gives a Twitter masterclass that discusses the full range of features. I’m endeavouring to make better use of it without it degrading into spam — Goldilocks tweeting: not to much and not too little…
  • Lifehacker advises on cheap upgrades to your Home Theatre setup.
  • Top 10 sights on on Google Street View.
  • MIR-12 is an ARG advertising campaign that got off to an impressive start with its supposedly leaked footage of a foiled assassination in Russia that many mistook for real (although given the news reporter in the video that’s slightly surprising). It’s getting underway now, and is thought to be for Activision’s upcoming Singularity.
  • GiantBomb highlighted a brilliant recent Videogame Classics trend of redesigning boxart in the style of classic books (think the abstract artwork of Penguine Classics). And it’s not restricted to gaming either, with classic films getting the treatment too.
  • Apple has made noises about the new Palm Pre and their intention to defend their IP rights, no doubt referring specifically to their recently acquired multitouch patent. However interesting articles from BNET and RCRWireless muse on whether this would be a wise move, and whether Apple’s patent will really stand up to close scrutiny. In particular they note Apple failed to mention prior art published by University of Delaware academics (now employed by Apple) which may invalidate their claims. This is not to mention the fact Palm has been in the mopile industry far longer, building up its own stack of patents, several of which the iPhone itself may infringe.
  • With February 14 rapidly approaching, nothing says “love” like a stylish Left4Dead Valentine’s Day card (scroll halfway down) for that special zombie/survivor in your life.

Being Human

The cast of the pilotBeing Human was easily one of the most intriguing pilots I saw last year (and probably the only thing I watched on BBC Three). The supernatural drama was broadly about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who end up in a somewhat unusual flatshare. Existential overtones abound as each of them is struggling to cope with their own condition, but together they find some balance of normality.

Given the silence that followed, I assumed it was unsuccessful and never picked up. So I was pleasantly surprised to find it appearing on the BBC’s schedule for the start of 2009, although it appears there have been some not insignificant changes. The premise remains the same, but of the main cast only Russell Tovey returns as the socially awkward werewolf George. The replacements for vampire Mitchell and Annie the ghost seem to fit a general desire to make the show more mainstream, losing some of the pilot’s gothic sensibilities.

The cast of the the seriesMitchell suffers particularly from this, morphing into a largely uninteresting good-looking charmer, albeit with a generic “conflicted vampire” struggle to control his bloodlust. This is, presumably, intended to draw in female viewers. In the pilot Guy Flannagan’s delivery had a strange precision that made his words seem like those of someone far older than he looked, while Aiden Turner never seems anything but a twenty-something. Meanwhile Annie seems less oddball but more unstable. Because these characters no longer all come across as outsiders (Mitchell is too socially adept, and Annie presumably was in life) the original group dynamic is lost and they do not seem to hang together quite so well anymore.

These negative (if more attractive) casting changes are not insurmountable if the scriptwriting can hold up, but if the changes do represent an apparent move towards the mainstream, this does not bode well, stripping the show of its uniqueness and relegating to a generic supernatural drama that is unlikely to last long in the wild before being put down.

"You shouldn't trust the storyteller; only trust the story."

(CC) BY-NC 2005-2017 Priyan Meewella

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