Wednesday, 26 January 2011

'Cos love's such an old fashioned word

Originally published in January 2011; removed then republished (redacted) in Feb 2016

I am happy.

Today, the craziest week I think I have ever had at work took a turn for the better: for the first time in many days I feel like I am regaining control of my professional life. Projects and plans have had to take a backseat; eleven hour days and not much sleep came hand in hand; but today saw the first signs that I might be getting on top of my quadrupled workload. Sunday was my only day off in the last two weeks, and it proved to be a good Sunday. I played my guitar in the Pavilion in the morning and then Rachel and I, along with Rachel's friend Helen who was staying with us, went to the Ikon Gallery.

The entire gallery was exhibiting only the work of Len Lye, a pioneer of motion and kinetic art, including his films and moving sculptures. We began on the top floor, where Lye's kinetic sculptures were given the acres of space they deserved - bits of metal wibbled, wobbled and clashed in remarkably specific ways to make ripples of light in a darkened room, a calamitous cacophony not unlike the wind of a hurricane, and movements mesmerising, unnatural and alarming at the same time.

Downstairs a handful of paintings, showing off Lye's Māori, Aboriginal and Polynesian influences, played second fiddle to his animations and groundbreaking film work, of which my favourite was the video above. The film, called Colour Box, was made in 1935, the effects achieved by painting patterns directly on to the film itself. Note the subtle marketing techniques also...

There is no point to this post, other than to remark on a Sunday oasis amidst chaos at work. I'm half way out of the dark.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

I was hiding under your porch because I love you

TODAY I gave a lab meeting on my PhD progress to date, or at least since my last meeting. This in itself isn't remarkable, except that it also happened to be my 15 month formal meeting, attended by my internal assessor, to examine my progress and assess my achievements and enthusiasm. Needless to say I've been extremely stressed, prone to error and subjecting myself to perhaps more than I can handle since returning from the holidays. Last Friday, for example, I was juggling two separate experiments, each a day's work in themselves, all while trying to prepare for new experiments this week, using techniques entirely new to us all.

The meeting went well, and in fact I was the most relaxed in any lab meeting I have ever given, perhaps because I think - though I stress that it is only that I think - that I finally know a little about what I'm talking about.

This meant that the rest of the day whooshed by in a daze, as I swanned around humming to myself and feeling content. I haven't achieved all that I had wanted to by this stage in my project, but my supervisor and internal assessor seem to be happy with my progress. When I left for home my spirits were high, not dampened by the drizzle falling from the heavens. A gentleman passed me on the way to the train station, clearly also having had a good day. He was walking faster than me and, just after overtaking me, he began to skip, heading straight - sploosh - into a puddle. At this he let out a "weee-heee-HEEE!" and then returned to his walking pace, undoubtedly rather pleased with himself.

This evening, in celebration, I watched a DVD I have been coveting for a while that, following a documentary on the BBC recently, I purchased in a fit of temptation. It was Pixar's Up.

If you haven't seen it, it's not possible to explain the plot with justice: it just sounds silly and odd. It is about a man who ties balloons to his house and flies to South America. But it is the reasons why he does this, the interplay between him and an eight-year old accidentally caught on his doorstep as the house takes off, and the ever present touch of sadness throughout the film that make it something absolutely special. This is not your standard silly animation, although for sure, its plot is preposterous and never tries to be anything besides. But when I saw Up at the cinema I am quite happy to admit that it made me cry - in sadness and delight in equal measure. The first ten minutes particularly are heartwrenching. Yet I think I probably cried even more tonight on viewing it once more. This is a film about adventure, love, appreciation and memories, tangled up with the cords of those balloons. I know such a review sounds clichéd and ridiculous, and sure, I'm a sucker for an ounce of celluloid silliness lovingly sprinkled in Pixar dust, but I honestly think Up is one of the greatest films of the last decade. It never ceases to affect me in a deeply personal way.

As I reviewed it upon leaving the cinema when it was first released, I consider Up to be pure joy in film form.

And now I retire after a triumphant day, ready for the adventures tomorrow will bring. Furthermore, they will be adventures with my wife by my side. Adventures are what makes life fun, and without them, I would be lost.