Friday, December 4, 2009

oh hai

So, since my last update quite a bit has happened - despite the fact that I continued to procrastinate, I managed to get my work all done and presented my portfolio, which went swimmingly. I also (surprisingly) passed my dissertation which was all written the night before. I probably shouldn't be bragging about that. Anyway, unless something drastic has happened I'm scheduled to graduate in March next year. I'll be getting a BA in Visual Communication. Hmph. Time has flown, really.

It's time for me to enter the working world (thinking about this sends my soul spiraling into crisis-mode) and I'll be moving to Cape Town to get that kicked off. My brother and I are going to be sharing a flat, which should be... interesting.

Besides that, I've been planning on putting together another zine. I haven't done one in years, and feel that I'm much more equipped at this point in life to put something together that's actually worth reading/looking at. I just actually need to get started with.

On the music front, I had a bit of a dry spell because of moving etc but I'm back to listening to a lot of The Rolling Stones, and as of last night and this morning I'm back to Talking Heads, Serge Gainsbourg, Pere Ubu, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Black Keys and Talk Talk.

Another musical genre I've been delving further into is soul, and I've gotten really into Otis Redding, Sam Cooke etc. Those two are stand-outs for me, but others that I quite like are Al Green, Solomon Burke, Wilson Picket, Dusty Springfield, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder etc etc.

One of the things that really excites me about moving to Cape Town is that I'm going to be staying really close to a few record stores and music markets where I'll hopefully be able to stay stocked up on all of the soul and dad-rock I could possibly want.

I went to the SPCA yesterday to see if I couldn't find anything in the charity shop and managed to get Goldfrapp's "Felt Mountain", Zwan's "Mary Star Of The Sea" and a Gang Of Four album, each for only R10. I also picked up a Jacques Brel LP for R1 but got home only to find out that it's horribly warped.

Anyway, enough of this nonsensical rambling. I think I may just get started on that zine.

Monday, October 19, 2009

the height of procrastination

It's probably painfully obvious that when I'm updating my blog, it means that I'm avoiding the inevitable - college work. I've only got about 3 weeks left and I can't get myself to work. I'm working quite hard though on getting my Rolling Stones and Bonnie "Prince" Billy playcounts over 1000 each on last.fm. Very productive indeed! In the spirit of the latter, here are some lyrics from a Mickey Newbury cover he plays on his Ask Forgiveness album (take note that Mickey Newbury is also exceptional, and his album "Frisco Mabel Joy" is definitely worth checking out).

"I came to hear the music
I came to hear the sound
The music, God knows it brings me down
A long, long road
From now to then
I know your song
Sing it again

Cause there's so many things I don't believe I understand
How the days turn into weeks, turn into months
The year's become a moment in the ever changing sand
Did God make time to keep it all from happening at once?
All at once

I came to love the music
Before I came to be
To know the music
Before it came to me

A long, long time ago
I dont know when
We sang a song
Along with the wind"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Illustration and Travels

Once again, it's been a while since I've updated my blog. I figured that now is about the right time to. I've been working incredibly hard, and am busier than I've ever been - but it feels really good. I thought I might have problems studying full time, as well as with an extra subject but I feel as though I'm doing the best I've done at The Open Window.

I recently went on a marketing trip to Nelspruit, to promote my college - and it turned into a really fun road trip for myself and two other friends. We stopped over in Dullstroom, walked around, drank whiskey, took photos and had a generally very relaxing and fun time. I'm headed off to Rosendal in the Freestate next week to do some research, as I'm going to be designing a poster for a theater there for my illustration class. I think I'll use my getaway there to also get some of my photography work done.

Alain

Friday, March 6, 2009

brief update

I just realized that I haven't updated this blog in almost three months now - quite pathetic actually. I'm a sad excuse for a "blogger".
Anyway, I figured I'd get a quick update in and just mention that I had a great holiday and am already nearing the end of my first module back at college (which is going swimmingly). Other than that, not much else is news - just been listening to a lot of music, and have also been trying to become less of a film philistine. So I figured I'd mention some music and movies that I would recommend everyone checks out.

I'll start off with movies - there are two film-makers who really stick out to me, and although they are very different, I appreciate them both greatly (which is quite a feat for me, seeing as, like I said - I'm a philistine). The first that I'll mention is Harmony Korine - the name might not ring a bell really for some people, but he wrote the screenplay for Kids and Ken Park, and wrote and directed Julien Donkey-Boy, Gummo, and most recently Mister Lonely. An interesting fact about Harmony Korine is that he wrote the screenplay for Kids when he was about 19 years old, which I think is quite incredible - some clips of him being interviewed on David Letterman, including one from when just after Kids came out are available on YouTube - definitely worth checking it out. What drew me most to Harmony Korine's approach to film-making was made most evident in movies like Gummo, where he discards the standard, formulaic plot lines, and instead takes a "semi-documentary" approach to filming a small American town that was wiped out by a hurricane years ago, and it follows the mundane lives of the white-trash, back-woods people who live there (note: it's not actually a documentary, but most of the characters are not actually actors - so I guess it's a bit half-half). Anyway, I could ramble on more and more, but you get the rough idea.

The next film maker I want to discuss is Ingmar Bergman, and two of his films that stuck out to me were The Seventh Seal, and Wild Strawberries. His career as a film-maker started in the 50's, and he created very intricate, detailed stories that rely heavily on dialogue. The Seventh Seal deals very much with death and the ideas of faith and belief in a God, and it is dealt with in a very philosophical, poetical way - and surprisingly, it doesn't seem as though any of that "poetry" was lost in the translation into English subtitles. Wild Strawberries is the story of an elderly man travelling across country to receive an honour/award, and along his travels he is reminded of his past and of specific events in his life, and he begins to re-evaluate the way that he treats people, and the way that people perceive him - a much more heartwarming and sentimental movie than The Seventh Seal - but both were great to me.

(If any of my plot lines on these movies are slightly off - I don't care. I'm lazy and don't feel like double-checking it).

I guess there's lots of new (old - haha) music I could talk about, but the musician who still has a major impact on me, and who has for around a year now is Townes van Zandt. Townes van Zandt is a folk/country/blues singer songwriter from Texas, who, despite immense critical acclaim never really made it big in the mainstream due in part to his drug and alcohol abuse, and his possible lack of desire to do anything more than just write a good song. His songs have been covered by numerous big-name artists such as Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Mudhoney, Norah Jones etc - yet, his name remains relatively unknown in the mainstream. Townes van Zandt is a typical case of troubled artist - as he suffered heroin addiction, as well as at points shooting up mixtures of Rum & Coke, as well as having been subject to electro-shock therapy - something that erased much of his long-term memory.

I managed to get hold of a documentary on him, called Be Here To Love Me : A Film About Townes Van Zandt and it is quite possibly the most moving film/documentary that I have ever seen. I highly recommend it. Basically, Townes van Zandt's music is heartfelt, hopeless, touching blues/folk/country songs - his lyrics are incredibly well written and often have strong undertones of his dry sense of humour. Anyway, I guess I can't say any more about him besides the fact that he ties with Leonard Cohen as my favorite song-writer of all time - which is definitely saying something when it comes to my music tastes. haha.

Anywho, I will finish this off as my once-every-three months blog update. I wonder if it was as underwhelming for you to read as it was for me to write out.

Till next update.

Alain

Monday, November 10, 2008

Poverty of the Heart - A Self-Involved Fallacy

This year I've become particularly aware of the immense poverty surrounding me. I've been living in Pretoria for almost two years now, and the entire first year I didn't get around much because of lack of transport - but now that I have constant access to transport, I'm not isolated to a simple bicycle route from my home in suburban Menlopark, through a high school area, to my college in suburban Lynnwood. I have instead been traveling around, visiting the city centre, etc. In all of those travels, I've become more awakened to the general poverty in my area - and specifically, the tedious work that people have to endure in order to earn enough money for a loaf of bread and something to drink - yet they return every single day to do it, in order to provide for those that they are responsible for. On numerous occasions, I've driven past people selling newspapers in the boiling heat - they spend their entire day doing work that is incredibly demotivating and often results in people being impatient and non-receptive to their efforts.

A specific example that stays in my mind is from a few weeks ago; I was working the merchandise table at a concert in Pretoria, and when I was about to leave at around 1 in the morning, I walked to my car and noticed the security guard still there - I quickly went to get some change and told him I'd be back, then asked him about a fight that took place outside earlier... This got us talking, and I realized that despite our basic language gap, this was an intelligent, good-hearted person. He began talking about how he'd been working this job as a security guard for a few years, yet still earns only R2700 a month. Now, I understand that not everyone can earn large amounts of money, but it seems very unfair to me that is loyalty to the company is not rewarded, despite his commitment of standing in the rain until 1 in the morning to properly do his job, while a CEO somewhere sleeps comfortable and rakes in millions. Now, this is bordering on a discussion on communism, but I don't really want to go there. What I'm getting at is that Patrick has been working for a company for a few years on on end, he has a wife and kids to support, he is an intelligent, good-hearted man - but he can not work his way up in a capitalist world, simply because of the cards that he has been dealt. The amount of frustration and hopelessness that he feels must be immeasurable. Yet he perseveres, and returns to his job every day, because he has to support his family.

It is people like this that I feel a genuine sense compassion for. And I wish that there was somehow that I could've helped just that one person - but as I don't even work yet for myself I realize that there is absolutely nothing I could do; and I think he knew that as well. And in fact I still think about if there's any way that I could possibly have helped him out, and not simply in a "here's your taxi money to get back home" but in a long-term manner - and I realized there simply is no way. And for me to feel despair at his situation, I believe, can do no amount of justice to what he must feel every day - working an unrewarding, lack luster job because he made a commitment to his family that he is going to fulfill.

This situation in general is worrying as it is, but what further adds to it is the sense of selfishness and disregard that is exhibited by a large portion of people I meet today; especially those that fall into the adolescent category. I've realized that even if I did everything in my power to help that one person, and if each person in a position to help, decided to help someone else - we'd be getting somewhere. But the problem comes in where people in a position to help can't be bothered to - because they're too busy being self-involved, and stuck up on their own issues, that in a broader scheme of things are really irrelevant.

I've noticed a trend amongst adolescents that advocates the "troubled, deep, poetic, intellectual teen". This whole image is encouraged and people somehow think it makes one "arty" or introverted - but it doesn't. Your depression is one that is based on self-involvement. Nobody cares if you think that you "relate" to Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. And what makes this all worse is the idea that somehow loneliness is a worse poverty than that of hunger - how this thought can be remotely acceptable is beyond me.

I understand that depression is a very real thing, and I understand that it is a medical thing - but I also believe that a lot of people's depression is due to a lack of not wanting to make things better for themselves. I believe that it is absolutely inane to compare one's own inner turmoil to that of someone who is suffering through poverty, starvation and famine, as these people ARE truly hopeless. There are no jobs for them, there is no food or water for them, and there is no help for their children. I think that the pain and suffering that one must feel having to witness your family dying around you is far more severe than the pain one must feel if they think that they're "lonely" as a teenager with many friends, a house over their head etc. If your biggest problem is that you don't have a boyfriend and you feel "lonely", I hope that you say your prayers every night to be thankful for how you have been blessed.

What I'm essentially getting at is that a lot of "depression" experienced specifically by teens is one that involves the general teenage angst. And I look back on some of the stupid things I've said, and the stupid things I thought I felt, and I truly regret them and look down on that part of my life, but I made a conscious decision to better things for myself as a person - I focused on reading more, eating more healthily, thinking more about my beliefs etc; and in this manner I managed to work things out for myself. I just wish that this was more obvious before, as I wish it becomes obvious to other people - that the pain and "heartache" that you feel is one that can be fixed through a conscious decision. If depression is a biological thing, then there are things that you can take action with in order to make things better, if you so choose.

And I feel that this is something that is troubling about today - everyone thinks that no one else has gone through what they have, and that no one has experienced the pain that they have - if people focused less on this and truly put some effort into making themselves happy with who they are, outside of being validated by peers, that we could all focus our energies on something worthwhile. Maybe we could all focus our energies on being nicer to other people and helping out where we can. We're living in a very dangerous, troublesome time, and I believe that dwelling on one's own temporary, stock issues only further complicates things. Further, the selfishness involved in thinking that your issues as a rich, white kid that went to a private school and a good university, are somehow more severe than someone who has literally nothing, and who has to watch his family dying around him, is absolutely astounding, and I think that instead of people rewarding this "poetic" suffering and loneliness that people tend to air all over the internet, we should maybe give these people reality checks, and hopefully more people will realize that happiness is reliant on yourself - not some dream person who will fix all your personal issues and make you feel "whole"...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Andre van der Walt Music Video Shoot

So, I spent Friday night and Saturday afternoon/evening at the new Andre van der Walt music video shoot. It's for a song called Pneuma off an upcoming album of the same name. Here are some of the photos that I took of the shoot.
Otherwise, I've just been really busy with class stuff. Full(er) update coming soon.

Alain













Tuesday, October 14, 2008

War photography, 90s indie and other fun stuff.

Time for another blog update... On the personal front, I've been a bit more anxious lately around our house, and I've been having quite a few nightmares that involve me being robbed, shot etc - but I'm working on being positive and I want to try and get my stuff sorted, because I really don't want to get into a slump. Other than that, I've just been busy with college work - I have just over a month left and this year will be over and done with. I'm really looking forward to my holidays and I plan on getting some reading, relaxing and possibly some traveling in.

I just got back from the Isochronous album launch at Tings and Times in Pretoria. They were really good and musically impressive, but I actually went to watch my friend Werner's new project, called Wrestlerish; and I was truly blown away. It's so good to hear something that isn't pretentious or overblown, but just well-crafted, catchy, beautiful songs. Completely honest and entirely believable. If you'd like to hear some of his stuff, there's an EP as well as a Kings of Leon cover on his myspace page at www.myspace.com/wrestlerish - I recommend it to everyone.

On a different note, we watched a documentary today in my photography class on James Nachtwey, a very famous war photographer; and all of us left the class thoroughly depressed. I think that the topic of morality in relation to war photography is a very complex one and it depends entirely on the nature of the photographer. At the beginning of the documentary, I felt somewhat shocked at the way in which he could stand there taking light readings while some lady grieved the death of her son, and how he could get right up in her face, taking pictures of her and her family in such a vulnerable, fragile state. However, as the documentary progressed I realized that he actually came across as a truly compassionate and selfless person, and was truly documenting these people's lives in order to illustrate to the world the wrongdoings that some people have to endure - the mindless acts of violence and hatred; he is providing a voice for these people. And I believe it is a difficult topic because it is true that some people simply want to exploit the pain of others in order to get a good shot; however, I think that James Nachtwey is exceptional in that he approaches his subjects with incredible compassion, and treats them with absolute dignity, believing truly that their stories are more important than him. If you are able to get hold of this documentary on him, I would highly suggest it, although it is quite unsettling to watch.
For more info on James Nachtwey, visit www.jamesnachtwey.com 
This image is of a prisoner on the chain gang, taken in Alabama in 1994.



I would also hope that it could serve as a wake-up call to anyone who's ungrateful for what they have in their lives - parents that love them, an education, friends, being financially comfortable - and not having to worry about where your food is coming from (financially); but that it does. There're issues that people are faced with that are so much bigger than whether some boy likes you or not, and I wish that some people would just realize this. And I understand that everyone has downpoints in their life, but if you're unhappy - change your lifestyle. Stop wallowing, and make things better for yourself because whining about it until someone else fixes it for you isn't going to work. And I don't mean this in a condescending way, but it's not "cool" to be depressed, and if you actually are, it's entirely in your power to make things better for yourself.

On the musical front, I've been listening to a lot of the Neutral Milk Hotel, specifically "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea". It's truly a milestone in indie rock music, and serves as one of the seminal indie rock albums of the 90's. Jeff Mangum, the principal songwriter has a way of saying things that come across really beautiful, while still maintaining a raw edge. Musically, the album is beautifull textured with organs, banjo's, saxophones, accordions etc, and it is vocally raw and incredibly emotional. The album is spiritually motivated, apparently prompted by recurring dreams that Jeff Mangum had of a Jewish family during World War II. This is an album that is entirely human and personal, one that you can connect with through it's rawness and realness. I highly recommend it, as it is also acclaimed and acknowledged as influencing other bands such as The Arcade Fire, mewithoutYou etc.

Here are some lyrics to tie you over until my next post, I'm no poet, and am not going to try to be one, so I'll let someone who knows what they're doing just go ahead and say it best:

"Last night I dreamed that I was a child out where the pines grow wild and tall
I was trying to make it home through the forest before the darkness falls

I heard the wind rustling through the trees and ghostly voices rose from the fields
I ran with my heart pounding down that broken path
With the devil snappin at my heels

I broke through the trees and there in he night
My fathers house stood shining hard and bright the branches and brambles tore my clothes and scratched my arms
But I ran till I fell shaking in his arms

I awoke and I imagined the hard things that pulled us apart
Will never again sir tear us from each others hearts
I got dressed and to that house I did ride from out on the road I could see its windows shining in light

I walked up the steps and stood on the porch a woman I didnt recognize came and spoke to me through a chained door
I told her my story and who Id come for
She said "I'm sorry son but no one by that name lives here anymore"

My fathers house shines hard and bright it stands like a beacon calling me in the night
Calling and calling so cold and alone
Shining cross this dark highway where our sins lie unatoned"

- Bruce Springsteen : My Father's House (from the album "Nebraska")

I think these are truly beautiful lyrics, and I think that Bruce Springsteen is an incredible story-teller.

Til the next update, hope all is well with everyone.
Alain