Philosophy Tuesday

I noted Turning Red has some good stuff going on beneath the surface.  There’s plenty of it!  And one of the biggest that underpins the story is about integration.  It’s about yin and yang.  And it shows up most prominently in the film in two ways.

The first deals with synthesis and about how we can blend.  Mei doesn’t have to follow her mother or become her mother… or follow tradition or become tradition… but she doesn’t need to entirely abandon them either.  She can engage with both and, above all, make it her own.

Life and all of us within it are not trapped within a series of binary opposites.  The idea of “You are either this, or this” is not accurate.  Nor is the idea that our tastes, interests, attentions, fandoms, and more must be in opposition to others.  We don’t need to hate something else in order to like something.*  Instead, we can embrace broadly.

Mei’s admission of “But I’m scared, it will take me away from you,” is the crux moment for this thread.  Both she and her mother realize in that moment that it needn’t take either away.  We can all explore and grow and create ourselves (whether we’re 13 or older!) not in opposition to tradition but growing from it and even remaining in dialogue with it.  And we can pour in all else we love, mixing and synthesizing and dancing with it all as it becomes our own personal, glorious, and authentic self-expression.

* Quite the contrary, and I enthusiastically invite everyone to enjoy what they enjoy without engaging in denigrating that which you don’t enjoy.

** This idea and theme of synthesis also plays out beautifully in the movie when the old school chanting is joined by, and musically merges perfectly with, 4*Town’s Nobody Like U…

Storytelling Sunday – The Spidy Meta

I want to talk about the recent Spider Man Film, No Way Home, because there’s an aspect of it that’s super interesting to me.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and there are plenty of cool moments within – but the why of that is what I find so intriguing.

Before I get any further, as I always say, “Spoilers Ahead.”  But unlike the usual warning, in this case I really mean no, really, pause for a second here and if you if you have some interest in this film and haven’t seen it yet then, for some of the very things I’ll talk about below, it is really best to watch the film before reading further.

If you have seen it, well, let’s swing in!   Continue reading

Wonder Wednesday

I love the graphic design on this (alternate? fan made?) poster for Turning Red!

The post by Pixar says it was a poster inspired by Turning Red, but the the artist posted it after Pixar did noting they got to make an official poster.  I’m guessing they were inspired, sent it to Pixar, who also loved it and released it on their official account, and it’s the best of all worlds kind of story.  No matter what, it’s a great poster!

Art by Juan Useche

(And if you haven’t read my review, you can find it here)

Philosophy Tuesday

“Individual notes start to decay the moment they are born.

No note can escape this fate.

But together they work toward a crescendo that cannot exist in any one note alone.”

— Vihart

 

(Another wonderful, poetic, and philosophy-filled observation that becomes introspection that becomes inspiration, by the amazing Vihart.  Taken from an equally amazing video about Pi and music and more, which can be found here — check it out, it includes a musical challenge!)

Pandas, (CN) Towers, and Bands, oh my!

Turning Red quickly piqued my interest when the teaser trailer dropped.  For one, it seemed like an amusing premise.  For two, said premise involved a giant fluffy panda!  For three, it was made by Domee Shi, who directed the Oscar-winning short, Bao.  And four, it’s SET IN TORONTO.  The whole teaser and the trailer that followed were filled with such a warm sense of familiarity.  Plus, Pixar has been riding high with their last two releases.  Excitedly, I watched the movie the day it dropped…

Spoilers ahead!  Continue reading

Philosophy Tuesday

I want to talk tonight about the process of making art.  Because it is just that:  a process.

Rarely (if ever) does something come into our heads fully formed, gifted from the muses with perfection.  No, even in the best of circumstances we may have a vision, but it still needs to be rendered tangible so that it can be refined, then reviewed, then refined again.

More often, we begin with merely an inkling, or perhaps a smattering of them.  And then we need to, once again, render then tangible so we can see them, massage them, reflect on them and see what arises, then follow those paths, massaging and reflecting and following again, until we get to multitudinous cycles of refinement.

All to reach that ‘final’ product… which in actuality is really just the point where we stopped because if we kept going we (and others*) could see new things and we could elevate the work even more.

Fortunately, the works of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation provide excellent windows into this truth about process.  They have been remarkably generous in sharing the stories and histories of creation on a movie, from the earliest notions and sketches to the final product often five years later.  That there alone might be enough to have us grasp how much of a process it is, for five years is quite a long time to labour on something.  But it becomes even more palpable when we see just how different the early concepts and visions are to what ends up on the screen.  (Sometimes it feels like there’s no connection between the two at all!)  There’s tonnes of directions and ideas and themes that didn’t work, or didn’t work as well as another, or had their own pitfalls, or didn’t fit.  Along the way, whole scenes are discarded, whole elements excised.  At the most extreme, the entire last third of the movie, or even the whole movie, was tossed in order to rework and rewrite them towards awesomeness.  They’re not shy about this (clearly not, since they’re telling us about it).  I doubt its easy, but it’s part of the artistic process.

So why do we think this isn’t the case?  Why do we often hold a notion that true art somehow should come in a flash, perfectly formed, and if there’s even a bit of struggle there must be something wrong?  I’d postulate this: because, in the end, if the work has been refined and elevated enough then the final result feels inevitable.  Everything fits and sings and it seems like it couldn’t be any other way.

Here’s the takeaways that I wanted to create…

For one, an invitation to not be harsh or dismissive when we hear a work is taking a long time or is going through a lot of rewrites or editing or reshoots or whatever, depending on the medium.  That’s a part of the process.  The thing is not necessarily in trouble.  It’s doing what it needs to do. **

For two, a reminder to not be harsh or despondent towards ourselves and our creative endeavours.  Especially when they’re HARD.  And when they need wrangling, changes, shifts, refinement, refinement, and refinement.  It’s part of the process.

And lastly, to gather this all up and apply it to our lives and the grand art we all practice, that of the art of living.  For it is no different; it too is a process.  And as such we can be kinder and gentler with ourselves, and with others, and dance in the truth that it ongoingly requires great amounts of reflection, wrangling, changes, shifts, refinement, refinement, and forevermore refinement.

It is a neverending path towards increasing beauty.

 

* Because through this all we needn’t be alone in this – quite the contrary it’s much better to bring along a posse.  As noted before, “ya gotta pin your work up on the wall.

** I’d get more worried if there were no changes being made.  Maybe it’s the perfect conception!  But odds are not…

Wonder Wednesday

Now this is a great photo of Falling Water:

Aaaaaa, I just love it.  The snow-covered trees forming a neutral backdrop makes the diagonal slash of the river, punctuated by the house itself, all that much more prominent and dramatic.  And the leftover red foliage in the lower right corner helps balance it out and make everything pop.

A sweet photo of some sweet architecture!

 

Philosophy Tuesday

I’ve shared before my love of the film Ratatouille, especially the bits of it that are wonderfully philosophical.  (See this post, this post, and this post.)

But there’s one bit in Ratatouille, right near the end, that I’ve come to realize that I’d been kinda ignoring to some degree, but even more so I have been willingly misinterpreting it.  Because to take it straight pretty much undermines the main theme of the whole film.

It’s this bit from Ego, during his review:

“In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

It’s that last sentence.  For one, it seems to be at odds with the simplest readings of the motto to instead say: “Anyone can cook / but not really.  (Though hey, maybe that person can, and they don’t know it, so let them try).”  For two, it could be trying to create some strange distinction between cooking and capital-A art: “Sure, anyone can cook, but there’s cooking and then there’s Art Cooking (and most certainly not everyone can do the latter).”  Which leads to three, which is that this really seems to be trying hard to make a case that some people got it, and some (most) just don’t.  A few are blessed, while the rest are ordained to be ordinary.

This whole thing reads as though Ego is fully endorsing the Tyranny of Talent.

Which is a big NOPE! for me.  We are not squeezed out into this world being a genius or being a dunce; being a cook or being a GREAT CHEF ARTIST (or, equally, being totally food incompetent).  I do not subscribe to this kind of genetic essentialism.  We have so many influences, so many avenues, and, most of all, we can shape ourselves, grow, learn, and develop.  With enough time and patience and practice and clarity, we can elevate our skills to ridiculous levels.

Which, it turns out, is how I have been (again, willfully and intentionally) misinterpreting that line from Ego for all of these years.  I’d twisted it to be expressing this: “Not everyone _will_ become a great artist (because not everyone will have the time or choose the time or have the opportunities or the support systems or the luck or the desire or any of those), but we all have the capacity to do so, and thus anyone, from anywhere, could become a great artist, no matter where they came from or where they are right now.”

Which is much more in line with the theme and with Gusteau’s own motto.  We can all develop our craft.  We can all express ourselves and create something delicious.  And even if we never reach the idealized world of Great Art, who cares – it can still be damn good.  Let’s eat.

Wonder Wednesday

Ahhh, anyone else remember MOD files?  For the uninitiated, this was a musical file format (with some later derivatives) that were big in the late 90s and early to mid-90s.  They weren’t a sound file, instead they were, much like a bank of samples coupled to a piano roll.  When you played them, the software would essentially act like a multi-track synthesizer, playing the samples using the instructions on the piano roll.  Because it was procedurally generated, these files could be small, holding minutes worth of music for several hundred kB (not even a single MB!).

And what grand music and creations did people make with them!  Some were amazing takes and remixes of existing songs, such as this one of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence (including audio from HAL 9000), or this extended version of Harold Faltermeyer’s Axel F (you likely know it better as the song from Beverly Hills Cop) that takes the base version and then plays with the different musical layers to stretch it out to 10+ minutes.  Good stuff.  (Note: you can play these tunes off the linked website directly in your browser.)

Then there’s the fun ones;  there were remixed pop culture references, like this megamix of cartoon/TV themes, while others took things decidedly non-musical and turned them into something unique, such as this piece using AT&T phone operators.    (Obligatory aside:  remember phone operators?)

Of course, there was also tonnes and tonnes of great, original, straight-up music as well.  Just as today people were sharing their creativity with the world.  Some of the most classic include Nemesis, 12th Warrior, and Ice Frontier.

Have a listen!  I’m off to seek out more… the format never died completely, and there’s great new stuff to discover.