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19/05/13 21:34 Filed in: Musing
A scene from the Differentology video directed by Nigel Thompson
I know now that I'm not the only person to declare themselves disappointed with the Black Ice Studios video for Differentology, Bunji Garlin's defining song for Carnival 2013.
It isn't just that it looks so much like this old 3 Canal video for Mud Madness, it's that it aspires to become something as mighty and evocative as the song and fails so dramatically.
I kept looking at it and thinking that it looked like one of this dreadfully ordinary photographs that people think get ennobled by dramatic Instagram filters.
Of course, that might be because so much of the video is layered with pointless color grading and hokey directing decisions.
Even a potentially powerful shot, of Bunji staring square at the camera, intense despite the goofy helmet and the mud people suddenly appearing to spring out of his body like a kind of exploding centipede doesn't have the impact that it should. They kind of sputter out from behind him, unsure of where to go next.
It's kind of weird looking at it. All the elements to create a good video are there. A dramatic location, costumes from K2K and Tribe, people willing to wallow in mud and get buried in earth, an attractive local MMA fighter in a loin cloth, swords and axes and a blasted horse, for goodness' sake.
It's a grocer's list of funky stuff that seems to have gotten stuck in a bad episode of Will it blend only to defy the whirling blades of in Nigel Thompson's edit suite.
I don't have any illusions that a music video should make sense. I have no problem with warriors from two entirely different centuries clashing in battle (though they mostly circle each other, waving swords about). Nobody makes videos that make less linear sense than Tool and their work is consistently fascinating and involving. Nothing about this video is any of those things,
I'm a big fan of Bunji, writing one of the first major evaluations of him as an artist in 2000 when I became thoroughly smitten with his five releases that year.
His work with Nigel Rojas on Differentology wasn't particularly surprising to me, though it pleased me as much as it did everyone else. I'd seen this side of young Mr Alvarez ever since that break-out year in his dramatically under appreciated collaboration with Walker, Woman. That was the first time I'd heard rock merged with rapso and I really liked it even if virtually nobody noticed it in the year of Bad Man and Gimme the Brass.
I submit that the backlash, growing quietly by the second, apparently, against the Differentology video isn't that it's a bad video, it's that it's the wrong class of video entirely for the song. For virtually any other song this season, the video would actually be just fine, maybe even a little ambitious. But Differentology demands the absolute best we have to offer in visuals, because for most of us who loved the song, it stirred our jaded souls and encouraged the very best in us.
Far from different, it's just too damned ordinary and that probably what grates on our collective nerve.
13/05/13 22:36 Filed in: Website Updates
09/05/13 15:08 Filed in: News
Gail Massy photographed at Lonsdale, Saatchi & Saatchi by Christine Punnett.
Photograph used by kind permission of the author.
Losing Gail Massy is a lot like losing a percussion instrument in a good band. The band can play on, but somehow, things never sound quite the same and the band never keeps the same tight rhythm it once had.
Who was this player? Most people knew Gail as a quiet, solid performer, someone who could be depended on to do exactly what she promised with skill, dutiful care and no small amount of talent.
An enormously private woman, you knew exactly as much about Gail as you needed to in order to work with her. I’d flown to St Vincent on assignment with her, sat around for hours waiting for clients to get their act together to be photographed throughout the country and a bit further in the past, watched her run one of the tightest sub-editors’desks in this country at a newspaper at the Express.
I think about Gail now, and I’m infuriated with myself because of how little I knew her. I know that I’m not alone.
Her employers would have liked her. She did her work efficiently and without fuss, meeting deadlines and managing staff with a skill that made her look as effortless as a hummingbird at a flower, every bit as beautiful and elegant and working just as hard to hover there, apparently help up by magic.
But the people that she worked with loved her. She had a remarkable ability to manage up as well as down, winning the respect and trust of her staff who admired her skills and appreciated her firm but generous manner.
She had the rare position in my life of overseeing the publication of the first two years of my column BitDepth when it began its life as a commentary column on the Express’columnist’s section and then again took a leading role in wrangling my photographs when I returned to professional photography full-time in 2005.
I know, without any doubt at all, that Gail pressed for my presence on several of those early jobs at the agency she worked for and I tried to reward her trust in me by doing my best, doing it promptly and giving her work that helped to build her department.
It was on one of those projects that I shared in two Addy wins and Gail’s early efforts at championing my work led to my winning and holding on to several accounts who continue to make use of my services to this day.
One of the last things that Gail did before she retired from Lonsdale Saatchi & Saatchi was to write and e-mail me a very kind and utterly unsolicited testimonial about the work we had done together.
Of course, I managed to lose it (along with pretty much all my e-mail from 2011) and I had to call her and ask if she could find and resend it.
It took a couple of weeks, but she did exactly that.
When I heard that she had passed away on Wednesday, the first thing I thought of was that phone call. I’d asked after her health, she’d brushed it off, gently but firmly, and promised to resend it if she could find it in her sent mailbox. A week later, it popped up again. I sent a short note thanking her and that was that.
When we spoke, it seemed like she had mentally added my request to a long to-do list she was working through.
I am so sure that many people had pretty much the same experience with Gail in these last few months of her life. Not the type of woman to chase a last ditch bucket list, Gail probably spent her time tidying her life and preparing for the worst possible outcome.
She was a staunch and steady friend to those that she welcomed into the fullness of her life. I know her friendship with Willys Marshall, a mutual friend, was a true and trusted one over the two decades that I’ve known them to be buddies.
I wasn’t in that circle, but the richness of my own relationship with Gail, who always rewarded a quick visit or a hail out with that big, bright, absolutely pleased smile, does not leave me envious.
Now, she is gone. That clear voice of purpose, that silencing sound of sanity that kept many projects on track when they were hellbent on derailing, is gone.
When this country needs more such cowbell, there is now, measurably less.
Your time with us was appreciated Gail Massy. We are all the richer and better for it.
06/05/13 22:02 Filed in: Website Updates
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29/04/13 19:59 Filed in: Talks
After getting my copy of the book signed by Professor Robertson. Guardian journalist Michelle Loubon is at centre.
Photograph by Peter Lim Choy.
A few weeks ago, I accepted (with no small concern) an invitation from NGC Bocas Lit Fest Programme Director Nicholas Laughlin to chair a talk by Professor Ian Robertson, who would be speaking at the Big Idea lecture on his book The Winner Effect. After reading most of the book, I wrote the following introduction for the eminent neuroscientist for his talk on April 28, 2013.
There's a really good chance that you aren't here to explore the literary merits of Professor Robertson's book. This is a book, after all, which has been titled The Winner Effect, and subtitled The science of success and how to use it.
There's the distinct smell of publisher enthusiasm about that title and the charming turtle with a rocket strapped to its back all but screams "self help" book.
But who, after all, doesn't want success. Wealth, women/men, fame, lasting glory. These aren't words that tend to send us into a depressed funk.
Unless, of course, we're considering just how far we are from attaining any of them in any sustained way.
So here are some interesting things that you should know about The Winner Effect.
First up, this isn't a self help book. It may help you, but it won't hold your hand and seek to assuage the agony you feel about your personal doldrums.
It is a work of science.
There's nothing I can use to convey this more clearly than to note that along with the thorough index, there is a footnotes listing with 193 links back to the reference works and publications that constitute the background findings that Professor Robertson has referenced for this work.
Second. It is a book, not a paper. It is written engagingly and often wittily, the author seeing both the charm and the quiet horror of some of the conclusions that science has reached about the way that brains work.
In this work, you will read the tragic story of Paulo Picasso, the strategy of Don King and the researcher who goes by the nickname Genghis Dan, all of whom contribute bricks to this remarkable literary construct about the way our brains manage the influences and inputs we think we're handling all day long.
It isn't the work of a journalist making sense of science. It's the work of a neuroscientist putting in his best effort to make the staggering science of the mind read like English and to engage a general readership in contemplating its nuances.
Some of it will seem headslappingly obvious. Damn, you'll think. So Norman Vincent Peale was right? I really should think and grow rich?
As you'll discover, most of the answers to the imponderables we've been living with since birth aren't answered with a simple yes or no.
There's a lot of "it depends" in here, an acknowledgement that every individual brain responds to wildly different external stimuli not only according to the specific chemistry and DNA sequencing that underlie each of our own, personal thinking organs, but also because we've all been conditioned to think about life and its problems differently.
There are answers in here, but these aren't easy answers. You won't come away from the book with a list of ten to-do items that will guarantee you future success, though I imagine that Professor Robertson's publishers would have been thrilled to advertise such a thing.
What you're most likely to do is put the book down. Pause to consider it for a bit, and say, "Wait, what?" and begin flipping back through it again to review a chapter or two.
I know I did.
A writer who can do this hardly needs someone to mediate between him and his audience, so I'm here to have fun right along with you.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Professor Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, Professor at University College London and Bangor University. Scientist at the Rotman Research University of Toronto. Trained clinical psychologist and neuroscientist and I can assure you, a man who writes.
23/04/13 00:13 Filed in: Musing
Portrait by Darren Cheewah. The animation reveals the original self-portrait the art is based on. Reload the page to view the animation again.
For the first time in a very long time, I managed to draw blood while pulling a razor across my skin.
I don’t have a lot of facial hair, since “grass don’t grow on bottle” as we say in these parts.
Still, stubble ain’t sexy and untended, it can lead to ingrown hairs, so every couple of days, I’ve been in the habit of running a razor across my face to clean up the straggling bits of growth that crop up rather casually.
Lately, though, particularly among folks who take note of stuff like one’s Facebook avatar, some may have noticed over the past couple of months that my normally close haircut has gotten a whole lot closer.
The change was dramatic enough to spawn a short thread on my new profile photo on the social media website.
Most dramatically, ace illustrator Darren Cheewah posted a lovely piece of vector art based on the new photo, a drive-by drawing, I quipped that was far superior to my rather smug bit of self-portraiture.
This public intervention by a few kind folks came as a bit of a surprise, rather like discovering a debate over my preferred brand of cornflakes (I eat a perfectly horrible breakfast of oats and chipped dried fruit, thank you) and stoked my curiosity about how folks respond to apparently pointless personal details offered online.
My razored head happened quite by chance. A couple of years ago, my longtime barber closed up shop, admitting that his eyesight wasn’t as reliable as he would have liked.
He could probably have continued doing my haircut for years more, since was basically an even stroke from front to back with the clippers.
The household management offered to take over the task, and I bought a hefty pair of Conair clippers after reading several reviews for competing products at Amazon.
So until February this year, we had a regular date roughly three times a week to cut 21 days of growth back to something manageable.
Last year, though, my barber noticed that after cutting into both sides of my hair, a funky mohawk remained. I’d done a mohawk decades ago for Carnival, and we decided that 2013 would be a good year to do it again.
We both forgot, and on Carnival Sunday we were back to the same place we were the year before, the planned mohawk blowing across the floor.
“Hey,” the management said, “why don’t we shave it off?”
So I did, and I’ve been doing so for the last couple of months, discovering what it’s really like to shave through hair.
First, I found that double bladed disposable razors wouldn’t, and you must excuse this, cut it. They worked just fine for my sparsely populated cheeks and neck, but faltered badly on fast growing scalp hair.
A sample triple bladed razor in my big pack o’disposables offered a hint of the solution though. So my next purchase was a five-bladed Fusion razor. Score. The five bladed beast sliced through my head growth leaving behind nothing but smooth scalp.
Until Sunday night, when I decided to push an old Fusion cartridge too far and discovered just what a razor past its prime does. Pressing down a bit too hard to get more bite into the five-day old growth, I managed to lop off a neat centimeter’s worth of scalp and start a boxing class flow of blood down my forehead and into my eyebrow.
After a couple of seconds of examining the wound the mirror and imagining myself a sa cinematically bloodied Apollo Creed, I hustled off to get the Dettol.
So after years of shaving, I’m learning how to shave for the first time. First lesson? Replace the damn razor when the indicator says it’s done and don’t try to be cheap. Second? Don’t keep the antiseptic all the way in the back of the cupboard anymore.
More lessons to come, I’m sure.
23/04/13 00:12 Filed in: Website Updates
BitDepth#882, a look at the public sector discussions at CDX2, is posted here...
15/04/13 21:18 Filed in: Website Updates
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Local Lives 16, an expanded gallery of images documenting Sonny Murray, an elder of the Tobago goat racing community, is posted here…
Download PDFs of the published version of this photo essay and others here.
You'll find the text accompanying the story here.
08/04/13 23:00 Filed in: Photography
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Local Lives 15, a gallery of images documenting the Phase II journey to Panorama is here.
Download PDFs of the published version of this photo essay and others here.
You'll find the expanded text accompanying the story here.
11/02/13 21:57 Filed in: Website Updates
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