Lindsey Stirling. Night Vision

Lindsey Stirling has released a new music video! Oh joy! Repeated viewing and sharing of opinions required. What’s different in this video is that she integrates a promo for her upcoming 2016 summer tour (in the U.S. and Canada, plus one stop in Berlin at Lollapalooza this September, according to her official website). Go, Lindsey!

Considering how busy she is and how much mind-blowing output she regularly generates, the additional promise of a new album leaves me tingling with anticipation and admiration as well. Both of her previous albums still feel fresh and energetic, and listening to them on repeat is something my week cannot do without.

But back to Night Vision. This is one of my favourite tracks, because the way the music sounds and the way the various violin tones come together, especially the lower ones, make images of nighttime landscapes pop up in my mind, and fluorescent lights were in there as well. So it’s exciting to see Lindsey incorporate just that in to her music video. Not to mention the nods to superwoman themes, the action genre, and clearly Mission Impossible. Lindsey becomes her own super-violinist, dancing and playing her way through a laser maze in a black leather suit to let fans know about her news.

Strong, graceful, spunky, sharp of step and quick of bow – in short, Lindsey Stirling.

The Shallows

“Help me!”

Maybe this is just the kind of female-powered shark movie I might tentatively check out. Filmed in Australia, The Shallows should certainly boast some impressive beach scenes, though judging by the trailer, maybe most of the action will play out in and on the water – also promisingly spectacular. The main heroine,  played by Blake Lively, is grieving after a loss and finds herself confronted against nature. Or rather, one of its creations giving her a hard time.

“What was once in the deep is now in the shallows.” Not bad, not bad. Not that it’s entirely atypical that sharks suddenly appear in shallow waters, unfortunately, but hey, sell it like a menacing, one-of-a-kind situation. What exactly was once in the deep? How did it get to the shallows? How big is it? Make the viewer ask questions! This could be a standard one-night entertainer that will make me close my eyes in the process or even jump once or twice, but in the end I will probably shake it off as quickly as Taylor Swift in the song with that very name. Only one way to find out, though. THIS SUMMER.

 

When Blocked Creatively

When I think about this, I always remember a radio interview with J.K. Rowling from quite a few years back now. She describes staring at a blank piece of paper and not being able to write after the tabloid press had riffled through her past and published the results. She said she had a very strong compulsion to write, it was something over which she had very little control and which she wanted to do a lot. The words were simple, but the pain behind them was palpable. This was the real thing.

Of course, whatever is causing blockage or a drained feeling doesn’t have to be big in scope or a harrowing experience, nor does it deserve any less attention, regardless of what puts you on pause when you don’t want to be. But it does help to step back and examine, if it’s because of this and that, is it really as bad as I think, and is it worth not doing what I want to do because of it?

We all have different ways of dealing with this – here’s what helps me.

legally blonde

Sleep

This applies especially if you are trying to start or finish something in the evening and it just won’t come together. There may be a very simple explanation – you are tired! So go to bed. Chances are you will wake up early and refreshed the next morning, and as a result what you wanted to do will turn out faster and better than if you tried to force yourself the night before. Particularly if you are getting something done before you go to your day job. Of course, sometimes we have to grit our teeth and work a longer evening or even night on a creative endevour, because we don’t have a choice, for whatever reasons. But if you do, give yourself that break. And if you are inspired and on a roll, well, great!

Distance

This can be executed in many ways. Sometimes all you need is to get away from the laptop, sit down, close your eyes and breathe through your nose. Things become clearer and it’s easier to pinpoint what was causing the wobbliness. Getting some chores out of the way might also be helpful, even if you tend to procrastinate on those in the name of art (no, that’s never happened to me, pah!). It’s so much pleasanter to sit down to whatever you’re dying to do when the laundry is finished. Nobody cancelled the fact that you do not want to live in a hovel. And one of the easiest ways to get some distance is to go for a walk. A two-week trip to the Canary Islands might be pushing it a bit far, but hey, if it helps and you can swing it financially, why not. Anyway, do go outside.

Attention

For me this is simply listening to yourself and doing some tougher self-exploration if necessary. Something is bugging you or you feel frustration that is distracting you from the project at hand. What is it? What do you keep coming back to in your mind? Is it a bigger problem, or a smaller incident that happened earlier? Can you do anything about it? If yes, do you need or want to do that right now? If not, let go, at least for the time you wanted to allot to your project.

Exercise

Yup.

Communication

Write it out in a journal, meet up with a friend who understands, talk to your Grandma if she loves hearing about your progress, watch interviews on YouTube with writers, artists, performers you admire about how they work and deal with the hardships. You might hear something helpful.

Pep

Some positivity goes a long way. Take a break and do something that stimulates you and where you feel your best, whether it’s a favourite activity, a building you like to look at, listening to cheesy mood-boosting songs from your youth or reading a book in the park. These favourite things might also be the key to some inspirational ideas already.

Discipline

All of the above is good, but it all comes down to the fact that we have to buckle down and just do it if we want to accomplish something. That’s all there is to it. I read an article recently about showing as much commitment to your creative projects as to your day job, for those of us who are in that situation, and I completely agree. This doesn’t mean getting up as early during the weekend or spending an 8-hour day on things in addition to the five you already do, but if you want it, you have to make your own personal job of it. Nitty-gritty life wisdom I sincerely hope I can follow myself.

nikeOf course, we are all only human, after all. I like to remember this here saying from the great and powerful Internet: “If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. Stay cool!”

Alice, Newt, Sing Street, Romeo and Juliet

Not only did I really enjoy watching The Jungle Book, but the trip to the movie theater rewarded me with several interesting film trailers that provoked feelings of either curiousity or excitement.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

As with The Jungle Book, more memories surface of literary classics from childhood not read again for a very long time. This one looks to be a glorious, bright, basically psychedelic Tim Burton/ Disney extravaganza, hopefully promising, especially with the acting talents of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, not to mention Alan Rickman’s familiar baritone. I’m ready for another parallel universe with creatures who are either fantastic or crazy or both. Most everyone’s mad there, anyway.

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

To be honest, I had almost forgotten about this one. I know, how could I, as a self-proclaimed devoted fan of all things Harry Potter? But my own Potterverse was very much contained within the seven books and seven movies, and it took a lot of emotional processing to sort out my feelings once both installments were finished. So maybe for reasons relating to fan self-protection I have adapted this cautious stance, instead of jumping and screaming. However, everyone in the audience, myself included, sat up straighter as soon as whispers of “Lumos, Maxima!” floated towards us. Who am I to refuse an invitation to return to the wizarding world?

 

Sing Street

This was completely unfamiliar to me, but it looks like it might be pleasantly nostalgic, funny and the accents are of course irrisistable to someone who leans towards the American accent herself. Plus, it’s spring, a movie about (what looks to be) teenage outcasts forming a band and ultimately arriving at all sorts of profound discoveries might be just the thing. And while I’m not a Game of Thrones fan, that’s Littlefinger sitting calm as you please at some kitchen table in 1980s Dublin! I’ll have to watch this just to make sure everyone is OK in the end.

 

Romeo and Juliet

And finally, this delectable, hauntingly beautiful tidbit. True, it’s a theater production, but if I’m lucky I will catch a live broadcast at my local cinema, thanks to a fantastic project they have going on with some of England’s most prestigious theaters. By coincidence I had been nostalgically checking out clips from the gorgeous 1968 adaptation directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and now this! Lilly James and Richard Madden are certainly a wonderful pairing, and I love how the pace changes from slow to charged in a heartbeat when he twirls her around. How much one wants to believe they are not doomed, even if one knows they are…

‘Tis going to be a good season!

 

 

The Jungle Book

Mowgli is running through a spectacular, breath-taking jungle at clearly the fastest speed he can muster, but we get the sense that he can’t quite match whatever it is that is making him run in the first place. Goosebumps start to prickle along my arms as I wonder whether he is trying to catch up with one of his animal friends… or already being pursued by Shere Khan? Will he make it?

Another installment in Disney’s live-action remakes of their well-known animated classics we grew up with (does this mean we will have to wait several more years for the Frozen version?), The Jungle Book is stunning, absorbing and thrilling from start to finish. It’s also occasionally jump-in-your-seat scary.

mowgli1The amount of work concerning the CGI alone in this film blows my mind. And what good work it is. The jungle is an endless expanse of enormous trees, massive amounts of foliage, green dappled with brown, vines, height, sudden roaring waterfalls and ravines. It seems to be the only world in existence, an ever-changing one, as nature does lay claim to it whenever it chooses. A stroll in a field of tall yellow grass with Bagheera may turn in to a hair-raising fight for survival in a second. You might discover the tree you chose to climb is dead when you are already halfway across its branches. And in the same day you might stretch out at the base of another tree, snacking on some dewy red fruit dangling right in front of your eyes. Hearing about the Man Village and catching a glimpse of it is almost a surprise after moving with Mowgli through this jungle universe.

From Bagheera’s fluid movements that always make you wonder just a bit whether he will pounce on Mowgli after all (even if you know he won’t), to Baloo’s heavy, lumbering walk, to King Louie’s frightening speed despite his enormous size, the animal characters in the film successfully blend the purely animalistic with the fictional elements that make them relatable to the human in us (with all their qualities). We understand and appreciate why they behave the way they do towards Mowgli, secretly relieved that some of them didn’t eat him when they first met the little mancub, but we also never quite forget they are jungle animals, some of them predators, and that’s the way it should be.

mowgli2The film’s thoughtful screenplay and characters successfully extend beyond the excitement of a boy living alone among animals. While Mowgli’s fate and interaction with the jungle and its inhabitants is also a factor that propels our interest, as when we read the book,  eternally appealing themes are explored, sometimes touched upon by a short, but well-written and well-acted scene. “You are mine to me, no matter where you go, no matter what they call you,” says Raksha, his adoptive wolf mother, to Mowgli. “I raised him,” Bagheera says to Baloo, acknowledging Mowgli’s special qualities, which the animals around him cannot always understand, but don’t extinguish completely and finally come to accept. Families coming together in different ways, not just through blood ties, friendship, self-discovery, fear and facing life – The Jungle Book has it all, simply well done.

The natural thing about films with animated or CG characters is that you become additionally aware of voices, and The Jungle Book boasts some very distinct ones among its cast. Christopher Walken brings a menace to King Louie that only he can bring, along with the wackiness, especially since not only his voice animates the ape king, but Walken’s eyes look out of the ape’s face (cue Sleepy Hollow memories). Scarlett Johansson’s extra throaty delivery makes Kaa border between alluring and frightening – make sure you stay for the end credits for her rendition of Trust in Me.

mowgli3Idris Elba voicing Shere Khan is yet another beast (pun!). Shere Khan, the moment he appears, is immediately terrifying. His voice is not just deep, it’s always verging on the edge of a bone-chilling growl and it leaves you in no doubt that the tiger is ready to show his fangs and use them without hesitation. Shere Khan is less about the tiger, the tiger is merely the package in this case, containing a bullying, bloodthirsty, merciless brute who can kill at a moment’s notice and, while more than capable of provoking immediate fear, is ultimately driven by it himself, which feeds his insane desire to eliminate that one thing which constrains his overinflated ego.

mowgli4I left the main character for last, the one that all the animals, from mother, to enemy, to friends, had so much to say about. Mowgli has thus far fortunately been unscarred by the tragedy in his very early childhood which left him an orphan, and despite his occasional struggles with adapting to life in the wolf pack, he has remained open, curious, emphatic and brave. His resourcefulness and inventive streak make the self-discovery part of his journey through the jungle all the more interesting. He is also very resilient, making the audience breathe out in relief when he doesn’t break his back or loose a limb to Shere Khan.

I’ve left out comparisons to both the book and the animated Disney film on purpose, as this movie, while respectfully nodding to its inspiration and even elegantly incorporating the well-known songs without turning in to a musical, is more than capable of standing on its own. “Trust in me, oh, just in me…”

Writsomniac Worries etc.

When writing…only occasionally…every other day…now…just to fuel the creative fire.

“I can DO this! Right? RIGHT?”

yes

“This is OK, I’m in touch with my thoughts and my feelings, and I need that, I can identify them, I am my own psychoanalyst, I’m my own well of double-checking for that realistic human touch, I can DESCRIBE, for God’s sake, just the fact that I’m writing down this (hopefully not pointless) stream of consciousness makes me my very own James Joyce, so THERE.”

aha“Oh no. I’ve been sitting here for an hour now, and the text field is still empty. Shouldn’t something be happening by now?”

trampoline“This idea isn’t working. Why did I think it would work? Am I writing and making sense, or am I just typing whatever comes to mind? Does this even sound like me? Is it authentic? Is it true? Is it just a monologue about my idiosyncrasies and nothing more? Noooooo.”

cat“I don’t know if it works, or if it turned out the way I wanted it to, but at least I finished it! And now I can dance! Watch mah fingers!”

full house“Huh, I’m getting likes for this? Wow! Yes, of course this was a brilliant idea, dahling.”

no way

“I’m just going to go outside and breathe in the smell of flowers and look at butterflies. It might inspire me, I’m allowed! Everything will be alright!”

flowers

 

Oslo, Day 5. Rådhus and Popsenteret

I have stretched this last post quite a bit, or rather posting it, and therefore extended the Oslo experience… Oh, Oslo. You have won my heart.

With these feelings tugging on the sensitive strings of my soul, we got up to fill up our last full day in Oslo. The perks of having an evening flight is still having enough time to do things after checking out in the hotel. We left our bags and off we went. The Oslo City Hall had been popping up in front of us the previous days as we returned by different routes from our various escapades. I had read that it was free and it seemed fitting to visit this building (completed in 1950) which was important to Oslo before leaving the Norwegian capital.

A short ride in the tram and we hopped out at the familiar dock from where we had made the beautiful ferry trip on the Oslofjord. It was another gloriously sunny day and I couldn’t remember when I had last taken so many unfiltered Instagram photos. We confidently proceeded to the front part (as I thought) of the City Hall facing the water, to discover a polite note on the door that said the main entrance was at the opposite end. We could have actually walked straight there from the National Theater, but maybe the subsequent discovery would not have left such a strong impression otherwise.

The part of the City Hall which one usually sees when out and about is noticeable, but not necessarily immediately arresting. It deserves a closer look, a longer stop to see that this facade already includes some reserved, but artistic details among its marked rectangularness and red brick. But the main entrance took me completely by surprise.

I had read about it, or maybe I had not read enough. A beautiful clock adorned one side of the facade in front of us, while numerous carvings, engravings and sculptures stood out from the stone parts of the display. Everything you see is responding to events in Norway’s history and also depicting scenes from Norwegian mythology, like the colourful murals lining both walls stretching towards the entrance. My favourite? The three valkyries. And once inside, the quite dignity of the spacious, light-flooded main hall and its beautiful upper floors make for a joyful and respectful observation of wall-high murals depicting life and work in Norway, especially after World War II.

In short, don’t miss this, the City Hall is an absolute must among (free!) places to see in Oslo.

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After that we dashed to the Popsenteret for some afternoon fun, Oslo’s museum about the history of Norwegian pop music. Slightly hidden in a courtyard situated parallel to the street listed online, the Popsenteret is an interactive museum. Inevitably and quickly we walk past an exhibit about the band A-ha and I start singing along. “Taaalking away/ I don’t know what I’m to saaay/ I’ll say it anyway/ Today’s another day to find you/ Shyyying away/ I’ll be coming for your love, OK?/ Taaake ooon me (take on me)/ Taaake me ooon (take on me)/ I’ll be gooone/ In a day or twooo…” Ach, the memories! Such nostalgia. There’s also a booth for recording yourself and a drum set with some headphones where we let loose. The results did not sound bad at all!
IMG_20160319_100256

A very special city, indeed. A kaleidoscope of impressions, experiences and memories. Oslo!