About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

18 February 2017

Movie: La La Land

I am not sure why there is such a buzz around this movie - in fact, one of the scathing reviews on IMDB manages to capture the movie in one word - insipid. The opening scene was annoying, with wooden dancing performance, and adding no value to the plot or other redeeming features. It doesn't really get better - and although Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone provide strong acting performances, their singing and dancing hardly light up the screen.
In fact, the movie is somewhat Bollywoodish as opposed to a musical - given than songs and dancing are a relatively small part of the movie - and perhaps they should have taken a leaf out of Bollywood and dubbed the singing! It's a movie about Hollywood, so, perhaps like Argo, that is the reason for all the rage. I found it uninspiring and mostly boring - I would recommend avoiding.

Movie: Lion

Some times the truth is stranger than fiction - Lion traces the remarkable story of a poor young boy in rural India who gets separated from his older brother, and ends up in Kolkata (then Calcutta). For a while he lives on the streets, but is later placed in an orphanage and thereafter adopted by an Australian couple. Years later, he starts looking for his home - now enabled by technology (Google Earth and Google in general), and is memories. 

It is a beautiful film with some really strong performances - not only by the adult lead in Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire fame) but also the performance of Sunny Pawar as the 5 year old Saroo. The story is itself moving but it more than just the story - it is the performance of the ensemble cast, the locations and finally capturing both the joys and hardships. It's somewhat strange that this move doesn't have a stronger billing ...

06 February 2017

Buskaid at the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival

For their fourth consecutive appearance at the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival, there were some substantial diversion from a traditional Buskaid recital - no Rameau for instance; and all the composers were pretty mainstream. That is not a criticism of the program; although I did think the sequencing could be enhanced.

The first piece, appropriately given the name of the festival, was Mozart's Divertimento in D Major. As in recent concerts, Buskaid are now playing more complete works, and the piece was an excellent choice in highlighting the prowess of the orchestra in general.

The next two pieces, in my mind, were the highlights of the performance - and should have been used to bring the concert to a close as the highlight performances. Mzwandile Twala, who I first saw perform with the orchestra while he was barely taller than his violin, delivered an amazing performance of Fritz Kreisler's Preludium and Allegro. I have only heard one other performance - Itzhak Perlman's on YouTube, and the experience of hearing the performance at Buskaid was better! It was followed up by Kabelo Monnathebe's performance of Ralph Vaughn William's The Lark Ascending - yet another amazing solo performance.

The first half closed with Shostakovich's "Five Pieces", a selection of joyful pieces from his vast collection of compositions, which were re-arranged for string performances with dual soloists from the ensemble. 

The second half started off with yet another full work - Grieg's Holberg Suite, before moving to some vocal and kwela pieces. As part of the kwela, was a lovely orchestral hymn dedicated to the recently deceased driver for the Buskaid - which I think should have been featured as part of the main program itself. 

The kwela section often introduces new members to the ensemble, and this occasion was no different.  It does raise the question though - should Buskaid members not consider building their own professional orchestra? It is the 20th anniversary of the Buskaid, and perhaps the right legacy is building an orchestra that not only teaches music but also performs music for the masses on a regular basis - and one that can not only bring western classical music to Africa; but that can take African music to the world.

01 February 2017

Movie: Manchester by the Sea

While there are movies that explore heartache and grief, Manchester by the Sea manages to explore it in such an intense set of layers, that it is good that the story is fictional - one man surely does not deserve that much bad luck. But more than grief, it also explores the intractability of a community that is just not able to forgive - even when it is a mistake - something that comes up again and again with released prisoners who have served their time. It is slow and sad - but somewhat surprisingly a great cinematic experience.

22 January 2017

Viennese New Year's Concert

It's a few weeks into the new year, but the Viennese New Year's Concert is slowly becoming a tradition in Joburg's classical music calendar as part of the Johannesburg International Mozart Festival. It was a rather empty Linder Auditorium, but the concert had a great line up of mostly Strauss featuring a few waltzes, a few dances by Joburg Ballet and two amazing (vocal) soloists. It was a good selection of classical music to kick off the year.

17 January 2017

Rate of Global Warming

This is a few months old, but it remains so relevant. Direct link to xkcd - manages to deliver the succinct history of mankind, and change in temperature in one amazingly long graphic!

16 January 2017

Tree Communities and Collaboration

Trees collaborate actively for resources (carbon, nitrogen, etc.) and even communicate on dangers ... it's quite mind blowing. 

14 January 2017

Dark City

The shuttle from the Gautrain Park Station to work every (week)day goes past a number of "bad buildings" in Johannesburg. Some have been abandoned, some have been hijacked - and many have slowly turned into squatter camps.

Dark City is a graduate architecture project by Hariwe, and probably the most impressive thesis document I have come across - together with an art exhibition by a number of collaborators on one particular bad building, known as "Dark City". I found out about the exhibition almost by accident - reading an old news article, and it just finished its run of 2 months today.

The photos and presentation is depressing - stories of police brutality, people living without water, electricity or sewerage services, crime, xenophobia, dangerous environments and an overwhelming amount of garbage. Through all of this, Hariwe documents the building using architecture blueprints familiar to anyone who has considered investing into a new development - except the size is far more depressing. 

The thesis itself holds out for hope - that instead of demolishing the buildings, it is possible to convert them to more usable, humane, low cost housing; and that they can provide sustainability (for example through roof top gardens) and bring back hope. In a country with a shortage of housing; with massive housing back logs, this is not a bad proposition. It has after all been done before - and in Johannesburg too - but are there investors willing to do this; and are the owners who have abandoned buildings willing to participate?