Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Date with Destiny

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There's something you should know about me, if you didn't already: I analyse everything. That's why I can't fall asleep at night, think about cave paintings when I'm walking in the rain and think about the back stories of strangers on the bus. Everything and anything. But a recurring inner discussion that I have is that of destiny, fate and parallel timelines.

First of all, perhaps on semantics alone, destiny and fate are not the same thing, though they are often used interchangeably. (Much like jealousy and envy. Look it up if you're as pedantic as me!) Destiny dictates a event that is predetermined or the power behind this predetermination. Fate, rather more pessimistically, is a course of events that must happen or the agency that dictates this, often with negative connotations of death and ill fortune. Yup, pretty much semantics with an upbeat/downbeat twist. On my understanding, destiny means that we will hit certain events in the future but the present up until those points is still in flux. Fate means that everything is laid out in advance and we are just along for the ride. Think car ride vs train journey.

But the key and shared element, that of predetermination, is what fascinates me. Is this a valid concept, or just the bread and butter of New Age-ists,  lovesick people, films of varying quality and Lost? Some people like to believe in this to cheer them up when life has kicked them in the nether regions. It can be reassuring to know that something better is coming along in the future or that there is no way a certain chain of events could have been avoided. There's a certain easing of stress in the laissez-faire, che sera sera way of living that can be a positive thing, avoiding overthinking the future and focusing on the present that can lead to a double-edged lifestyle of hedonism/being ill-prepared.

For my part, I don't overly like these concepts. I'm not going to poo-pooh these theories out of hand, I have no proof either way and have done no rationalising beyond my recurring by idle thoughts on the matter. But I'm somewhat hesitant to believe in Fate as it completely belittles the significance of our free will, something which separates our souls from our primal instincts. I only wish I could cite some Jungian principles at you at this point, but suffice it to say, I value this aspect of our psyches very highly. There is a slight degree of leeway when it comes to Destiny that I could get on board with: the idea that the while the ending is written, the journey that takes us there is still up to us. As it said in the closing line of La Haine, "L'important c'est pas la chute, c'est l'atterissage".

And if the future isn't written in the stars, if Fate does not dictate all of our paths in minute detail, what about the little decisions that make all the difference in how our lives map out? What if I had never left the house early that day and missed my bus to the airport? What if I had chosen a different university and met a completely different set of people? What if I have taken a different route to the station and bumped into a different person? (Think the Butterfly Effect. The concept rooted in Chaos Theory not the terrible Ashton Kutcher vehicle.) Fate answers all these questions with a simple and somewhat belligerent "You wouldn't have. You were always going to do what you did." Tell me that isn't a little grim. Destiny on the other hand, is a lot more glass-half-full. The feather in the cap of romantics everywhere (pleeeurgh at Serendipity, hurrah at Love in the Time of Cholera) it is endlessly more positive. But then we go onto parallel timelines and/or the inherent paradoxes behind time travel and the effects of our decisions. And then, unless you're an expert in quantum mechanics, this is the point where you stop or just go insane.


Even LOST gets confused about this: doesn't this just blow your mindhole? 

A film that handles this well is Sliding Doors. Very British (yay!), very cheesy and romantic, but it makes pretty good use of the concept and contains elements of my random musings above.

What do you think about Fate and Destiny? Do you believe in it?



And now to completely destroy any iota of respectability behind my reasoning, here's some cheesy 80's-esque pop music, the only good thing in this entire movie (is Drew Barrymore just a massive film jinx post-ET?) I thought of it purely for the line "A twist of fate makes life worthwhile..."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Guest Blogging!

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For today and the remaining Sundays of Lent, I'll be contributing to the exquisitely crafted "Katrina & The King". Check out today's 'Simple Sunday'.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Maybe

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Maybe it's the sun disappearing over the horizon long before the time of day at which I used to enjoy sitting in the park to just immerse myself and feel a part of nature.

Maybe it's the biting winter air, so charming when you have a pleasant destination to reach but an all but literal slap in the face when you have nowhere.

Maybe it's the inability to catch a break of late.

Maybe it's the slow but sure loss of my smile, apparently one of my defining features.

Maybe it's the draining quality of putting on a brave face constantly.

Maybe it's the dull constant weight on my chest that won't go away no matter how many beautiful films I see or magnificent pieces of literature in which I attempt to hide myself.

Maybe it's the sensation of bitter solitude despite the smiling faces and sympathetic words of wonderful friends.

Maybe it's the fact that though I know in the back of my mind that this cloud will pass and drop its silver lining at my feet any time now, I wish it would hurry the fuck up.

Maybe it's a culmination of the above and me being a whiny bitch today that makes me feel like this:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Send me to Costa Rica!

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This is an entry for a trip to Costa Rica, supplied for gratis by Nomadic Matt and Gap Adventures, details here. Yes, I found and wrote about it in literally the eleventh hour, but use the link to write an entry yourself if your timeline allows!

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“Why do you want this trip, and what do you hope to get out of it?”


I would venture that on this Earth there are few more breathtaking sights than the sun rising over Ayers Rock in central Australia. Even the backdrop, an all but obscured horizon seems almost designed to perfectly foil the world-famous rock formation with its beautiful blended colours. When the rising or setting sun hits Ayers Rock, it causes a change in colour over time so that the Rock hits a thousand shades of colours including a dark chocolate brown, a desert sand yellow and an almost throbbing deep orange.

The sun has a magical power over every place in every country: despite being a constant, an equaliser in the most worldwide sense of the word, the images and sensations it brings people will vary dramatically depending on the season and scenery. It is this variety, this ineffable sense of being on a completely different world just from the shimmering, optimistic touch of the sun over the jungle, mountains or even an urban skyline that makes life so extraordinarily versatile for those willing to seek it. I have seen the sun illuminate Ayers Rock, the green valleys of Iceland, the peaks of China's Tiger Leaping Gorge, and the glittering Lake Geneva. I have been awestruck time and time again by the beauty of natural wonders all around the world and am a better and more open person for it.

But for all this I have never been to Central America, nor ever seen a sunrise over the tropical rainforests or beaches in that part of the world. After the (literally) half of 2008 I spent out of my beloved UK, I have not left Europe and finding my life somewhat stale now for far too long a time, a breathtaking and idyllic change of scenery might be just what I need. I hunger for the change of people, the reminder that the world is much larger than just London (as much as I love it), the re-awakening of my travel bug and for living life to the fullest as an inhabitant of a wonderful and varied planet rather than a drone in the corporate life I seem destined to join.

I need and want this experience to shake up my life while I am still young, not tied down and uncynical, to take a thousand more colourful photos and see just what Costa Rica has to offer. I would relish the exotic array of flora and fauna, drown myself in the luscious Arabica coffee and bask in the wonderful culture so different to my own. I hope to immerse myself in a world thousands of miles from England, write and share wonderful blog posts about how the experience moves me in a way I have not previously known and rediscover the majesty of a waking up to an entirely new sunrise.

Dear iPod

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Dear iPod,


 For some five years now you have been my faithful companion. Though many a coloured, more intricate and more capable replacement has made a play for my attention and your spot in my inside left pocket, I have not succumbed. Rain or shine, smoothly or skipping, charged or not, you are my iPod.

You were by my side in different countries, during a thousand different sunsets and sunrises and amplifying the greatest moments and my widest smiles. But you were also a comforter in my most painful pangs of solitude, spells of heartache and tumultuous of times.

You are the creator of memories, the transcender of time and location, the background to parties. You have been a conversation starter, an ice breaker, a teaching aid. Breaker of writer's block, never-ending source of inspiration, morale boosters during long runs and losing hockey games.

Oh, holder of playlists, master of songs, vessel of emotions - you provided me with music all these years, so now I write this ode to you, my electronic friend. I pay no need to the fact that you are scratched here, there and everywhere. I don't care that your 18gigs have long since been woefully inadequate. And yes, you seem to have a wonderful knack of witnessing the destruction of more set of earphones that I can even recall. But this is my meagre understated 'thank you' for sticking by my side.

You're in my Top-Rated. (Sorry I couldn't resist!)


Yours in years of gratitude,
Stephen




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Things that have caught my eye of late:
- Brilliant post on book nerds by Lauren Leto
- Stephen Fry being a genius mac-daddy on QI here
- A decent guitar tab to "Here Comes The Sun"
- A short and simplistic game with a brilliant and overly saccharine concept?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Story Time

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Going to throw out an abstract idea that I came upon while walking in the rain the other day:


Every person has a great story to tell/is living a wonderful story/is hoping or working towards an ideal story in their head.

Think about it. There are many things that make homo sapiens unique from other creatures. Opposable thumbs, use of advanced tools, but I think the most wonderful (if intangible) difference is the soul and intelligence to tell stories and pass them along. Now let's not get into arguments about animals, primates etc. I think they have souls and varying levels of intelligence, and for all we know, they tell each other stories. But not nearly to the same extent.

Ponder if you will, the Lascaux Cave Paintings. These bad boys are apparently some 17,000 years old. Yes, most people are more interested in the controversy over the dots and dashes (star patterns or hunting tally) but for my purposes, I want you to take a peek at the hunting pictures.

Firstly, note how awesome they are considering the age! Much better artistically than I could probably ever do even though I have millenia of wonderful art I have been exposed to since then.

But also, do you think the cavemen thought "You know what, Bam Bam, I'm going to draw a deer today. Just because our cave walls look a bit boring and drab. I'm going to give it a makeover"? I expect not. Either they wanted to chronicle their exploits for later cavepeople to read or express themselves artistically. In any event: sharing their story for later generations.


I suppose we then moved to vocal story-telling traditions to spread news and important stories, no thanks to the more empirical thinkers such as Plato trying to kill these traditions! Then the handwritten manuscripts, then the printing press and so forth. This is secondary school history, I don't have to tell you this. But the net effect remains the same. Man throughout the course of civilisation has sought to record stories (history) for posterity and future generations.

Most key to this ramble is that this exists now, in oh-so-many forms. People telling stories over coffee, parents reading bedtime stories to their children, and the millions of books that now may or may not be evolving into e-books and the soft-copy children of the Amazon Kindle and the iPad. The desire for most individuals to be in long term relationships could be interpreted as the need to have someone with whom to share one's life story. The desire to make something of one's life: a craving to leave behind a legacy that will last beyond the point where the individual deceases. A story that will endure and be worth telling in the future. Most demonstrably, personal bloggers as a phenomenon are the most directly indicative of people who desire to tell stories to a wider audience.

What do you think?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Oscar Nominations and other such trifles

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So the Oscar nominations are up HERE and how did I find out? From Twitter of all places. Disappointed in the news for not breaking this news to me sooner.
No great surprises really, all the characteristic tell-tale signs are there, for that, read:

- The box office smash nominated in every possibly relevant category (Avatar)
- The worthy, more critically lauded film that will end up undeservedly and bitterly disappointed (The Hurt Locker)
- The underdog that might surprise everyone and steal the show with its unassuming grace (Up in the Air! Go Best Film, Reitman, Clooney, Kendrick/Farmiga! Run with it!)
- The film that will be rewarded because of its renown (Avatar)
- The breakout acting nom's that will get everyone to stand up and cheer (Sidibe/Precious, Meryl Streep*/Julie&Julia, Mulligan/AnEducation, Waltz/InglouriousBasterds, Bridges/CrazyHeart**, Freeman/Invictus)
- The recognised film that I don't agree with (controversially, I didn't love Inglorious Basterds as much as everyone else!)
- The animated film that will only win 'Best Animated Film' and a technical award despite being (deservedly?) nom'd in a bunch of bona fide categories (Up - firmly taking up Wall-E's mantle)
- Films cruelly omitted by Oscar (Moon?! 500 Days of Summer?!)***
- Films reminding me that I haven't seen nearly enough good films this past year (Precious, A Serious Man, An Education, ANY of the foreign film nom's)
- The clear front runner as it currently stands (Avatar)

NBs
1) I did actually enjoy Avatar, but not as much as Oscar would have me believe. (See Slumdog Millionaire last year)
2) I may again be showing some "Up in the Air" bias but you will not get me to retract it!
3) I am pleased that there is a lot of variety in the nominations this year though to give the AMPAS credit where it is due.
4) *Because it feels weird not giving Meryl Streep her full name. If nothing else she's earned THAT!
5) **Oscar LOVES giving a long overdue award. See Scorsese, 2007.
6) *** For more emotional responses (can you believe it?) check HERE

p.s. I've FINALLY started my Shakesp-year project! (Ahem proper title still in the pipeline.) Tumblr account HERE and will be started up soon. First step: The Tempest.
p.p.s. Because I've been terribly remiss and not blogged for ages there have been a few occurrences that I've not written about! In brief: Nation, the Pratchett-adapted play; South Bank second hand book stalls for the first visit in ages; being booked in for three interviews (count it!); working on another A-Z; figuring out Google Wave and actually making use of it!
p.p.p.s. Oh Nation counts as one of my twelve plays, right? I also plan to see another one in the next two weeks. Yes it's all grossly delayed but it feels to weird not completely abandoning my New Year's Resolutions.
p.p.p.p.s. Last FM is rocking my socks this week.
p.p.p.p.p.s. So is BBC Radio on the iPlayer
p.p.p.p.p.p.s So is the 'pirate' language function on Facebook.
p.p.p.p.p.p.p.s. Too. Many. Bullet points. I may actually have ADD.


Okay, enough about me. What did you make of the Oscar nominations?