Tag Archives: introduction

Thou shalt not doubt thyself. Also; blog.

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WeChat Image_20170706095042My last update on this blog was posted about three years ago. I stopped writing because I suffered a blow to my self-confidence.

Without going into too many details; a job loss, a broken heart and other not-so-little things hit me and my resolve faulted. The problem is that when such things occur I have a bad habit of trying to undo myself, something I will write more about at a later date. So, through teary-eyes and a hammering heart I deleted my personal acting and writing website, gave away my book and film collection and basically sought to remove myself from a life that had brought me pain. A little dramatic, I know. But I am an actor after all!

Throughout the past few years I thought about starting up my blog again but was always haunted by the thought that perhaps I didn’t actually have anything very interesting to say. Is my life even worth talking about? The problem has always been that although something cool might be happening I’ve had the lingering thought that it might all fall away the next week and I’ll again be stuck with nothing to say.

That was three years ago and since then I moved to Barcelona to spend two years performing in different towns and cities throughout Spain and Portugal, pretty much every day. I performed with a brass quintet. I did a tour in Moldova and Romania. I finished writing my first book and then followed it up with a second, and a third, and a forth. I rediscovered my heart and gave it to someone else and, as of writing, it remains whole and happily pumping along. Then I moved to China where I’ve been living in Beijing for a year teaching drama and directing my own shows. Soon I’m going to leave China to set off on another set of mini-adventures before trying to settle again in another country, I don’t know where yet.

So, I figured I might at least have some slightly interesting things to share and thought now is as good a time as any to get started again.

I don’t know why I’ve always worried about being uninteresting but I do realise that it has always stood in the way of owning my own achievements and experiences. In the past few years I’ve learnt that no one is uninteresting and every journey is unique. The only thing that ever says otherwise is our own self-doubt, which can be hard to overcome. But overcome it we must. And in an increasingly scary, divided world which sometimes seems geared towards discrediting the ‘average’ person, I think it’s important to share our thoughts and opinions; our stories and experiences of a life that can, and should, be celebrated.

So, I’ll start blogging again. Read if you fancy it.

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Lost. Found. Remembered

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picture197Last week, I decided it was about time to put some pictures up on my walls. After all, I have been living in this room for about 7 or 8 months already and I haven’t made any attempt to make it my own.

Not having the money or attention span to go out and buy pictures or posters I instead decided to open an ancient chest of old bits and bobs that I have had hidden away in the darkest depths of my room (actually, I use it as a bedside table).

As the old chest creaked open, months old dust rising from it, I found myself wondering; what on Earth was in there? I had no recollection of any specific thing I had exiled into the chest and no idea what may have appeared from within. Waving my hand in front of me to clear the air, I peered into the dark, neglected chest and saw nothing exciting whatsoever… Just creased and dirty paper, half used pencils and a spider that would make Peter Parker himself recoil in fear.

Once a small, yet epic battle had occurred and it became apparent I would in fact have to work around this eight legged menace, I set to work pulling out all the old pieces of paper, trying to cause as little discomfort to the Spider as possible.

Rifling through them, I was delighted to find sketches and scratches from an age long past, a boy almost unrecognisable. Here, were line drawings of superheroes, anime girls and Star Wars characters. There was a portrait of my very first girlfriend right behind a kick ass picture of Samurai Jack.picture190

All these, were drawing and sketches that I had done not so very long ago, and yet they had been almost forgotten until this moment. In me flashed a deep nostalgia, as I began to remember the boy I used to be, and I couldn’t help but feel gleefully childlike again.

Rooting a little bit deeper I found some super short stories I had written in Barcelona two years ago. These flash fictions were surreal and vividly colourful; a real tribute to the time I spent in Barcelona. They captured perfectly the half crazed and (quite honestly) alcohol induced haze that has settled over those months of my life. I started to pine for those steep, winding streets, for that almost nonsensical architecture and those insane inhabitants.

Among these stories was a poster for the show we had created and performed there, once again, displaying well the mindset of that timepicture195

And then, after this, I came to what I like to call; The Seemingly Endless Age of Despair and Belated Teenage Angst.

Four abstract paintings rendered skillessly in watercolour. I remember this point in my life quite well because I didn’t enjoy it much. This was a time in which I would assemble my painting materials, sit and prepare to colour some comic-like masterpiece. And then, no sooner as the paintbrush had touched the page I would toss it aside in anger and frustration that nothing creative was occurring. Covering my hands in paint, I’d scratch and punch the paper not realising quite how melodramatic and ridiculous the whole thing was.

Still, I was quite proud of this one. I call it…Rage. <_<picture192

Well, this wasn’t a particularly dark time in my life, just a time I was being particularly foolish. Even so, it’s good to be reminded of it now that I can look at these and laugh. Truthfully, I’m just glad I didn’t attempt any poetry during that time. No doubt it would have been awful, the kind which would make poor William Pratt cringe.

There sure was a lot of crap I dug out of that chest, but it’s all on my wall now, displayed proudly. Not because I think any of it is artistically strong, but because each and every piece reminded me of myself at a different stage of my life. Some were sweet, some were cringe worthy, all were wonderful.

Coincidentally, today I received a message from WordPress reminding me that I’d been here for a year. That’s a year of blogging. A year since I left drama school.

It’s a funny and rare thing when one has a chance like this to reflect on who they once were, and by degrees, who they are now, and it should be cherished. Through these old discoveries I was sent on a sort of journey through my life. I didn’t really have any great epiphany on the way, and I didn’t learn any valuable lessons, it just made me smile. Simply and plainly.

If any of you have a secret chest of old crap hiding away, I highly recommend you fight off what ever monsters are safeguarding it and delve in. Go through all your old drawings or stories or diary entries or whatever it is you did back then. See if you remember being the kid that first put them there, and be happy to be the adult who took them out again.

See if you can go on a similar journey to me. It’s fun, you’ll enjoy it. It only takes 5 minutes and you can take a cup of tea with you.

I hope it makes you smile too.

Another meaningless coincidence…

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I have read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy many times, and I am sure I will read it many times more.

Recently, at work I have been getting rather annoyed at the amount of time I’m wasting listening to Smooth Radio and the repetitive noise that is Karrang (which is still playing the same songs I used to listen to when I was 15). And so, instead of sneaking books around in my pockets and swearing under my breath every time I have to put it aside to actually do some work, I have decided to try listening to a few audio books.

Today,  I decided to start listening to the Hitchhikers Guide, read by Douglas Adams himself. I was instantly reminded just how perfect this book is and how the introduction pretty much sums up my entire world view in roughly 600 words.

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Tonight, I arrived home, plugged myself into the matrix and the first thing I saw was the Google main screen, which today features an animated image of a computer desk, along with moving dials, a window looking out into space, an automatic door which opens to reveal a certain paranoid android, a travel bag, a towel and of course the great guide itself.

Completely unbeknownst to me, today marks the 61st birthday of Douglas Adams, and I couldn’t help but laugh thinking to myself ‘How like Adams to present me with such a marvelously pointless coincidence’.

So, to celebrate his birthday and to honour the book, I thought I would post the aforementioned introductionwhich I think is a small masterpiece of literature in itself.

If you have not read the book then I sincerely urge you to do so, if you have, then let’s read it again to mark the day…or simply just to re-read it once again.

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Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy, lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.

Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realised what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.

This is not her story.

But it is the story of that terrible, stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.

It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – not an Earth book, never published on Earth, and until the terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or even heard of by any Earthman.

Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book. In fact, it was probably the most remarkable book ever to come out of the great cooperation of Ursa Minor – of which no Earthman had ever heard either.

Not only is it a wholly remarkable book, it is also a highly successful one – more popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling than Fifty-Three More Things to do in Zero Gravity, and more controversial than Oolon Colluphid’s trilogy of philosophical blockbusters Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person, Anyway?

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words ‘Don’t Panic’ inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

But the story of this terrible, stupid Thursday, the story of its extraordinary consequences, and the story of how these consequences are inextricably intertwined with this remarkable book begins very simply.

It begins with a house.

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, copyright © 1979 by Douglas Adams

Whole Hog Theatre presents Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke!

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103390Hello all,

I have some super exciting news to tell and a favour to ask!

So as some people will remember, I vaguely mentioned having been to a number of auditions last month for various projects. Well, as luck would have it, I’ve managed to become involved in one of these projects, and what’s more; it’s the most exciting project I could have hoped for!

Whole Hog theatre is a small, young theatre group based in Lemington Spa, near Coventry. The company specializes in adaptation and have previously made versions of Dangerous Liaisons and Five kinds of Silence (for which they won the Festgoer’s Choice Award for Best Production at the National Student Drama Festival in 2010).

This is what the company say about themselves; “Frustrated by the proliferation of ‘safe’ theatre, and the lack of opportunity for young artists to gain the experience in theatre necessary to enter the industry, they decided to go the whole hog and address these issues head on – hence their name.’ The company strive to achieve the highest standard in what they do, and thus far, it looks as though they are doing just that.

The companies next project, and the one I will be joining in with to help develop and perform in, is none other than the extremely ambitious theatrical adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke!images

Now, anyone who has seen this film will know what I mean when I say it’s an ambitious project and a huge undertaking! But I am very confident that these are the right people to take on this project and I’m honoured to be a part of it!

‘Yes, Jack,’ I hear you cry, ‘but how will this tremendous feat of theatrical entertainment be achieved?’ Fear not gentle reader; allow me explain.

First off, people should rest assured that our theatrical version will remain as true to the film as humanly possible. For me personally, Princess Mononoke holds a very special place in my heart, and I know the same is true for the others at Whole Hog Theatre. Therefore, great care will be taken with the characters, plot and message of the film, keeping the feeling and atmosphere of Miyazaki’s masterpiece , which as you know, is so, so important. What Alexandra Rutter (our director, and the artistic and executive director at Whole Hog) has said, is that ‘whilst audiences can expect to see much of the film’s narrative happen onstage, they should also expect the techniques we use to tell the story to be quite different’ and this should be expected seeing as how very different the language used in an animated film is to the language of theatre.

As for practical ideas, the play will implement the use of giant puppets to bring many of the creatures and gods of the world to life. These puppets, in-keeping with the ecological messages in Princess Mononoke, will be made from found and recycled materials.

There will also be many expressive elements to the show, using soundscapes and physical storytelling to invoke the feeling and atmosphere that the film achieves so well.

Another thing well worth mentioning is that an original musical score is being created for the show. Alexandra commented on this saying; ‘I know many fans will be surprised, even shocked at this, but it is actually because we love Joe Hisaishi’s beautiful original score so much that we decided not to attempt to re-create it. Our venue is very small and there is no space for the orchestra necessary to do justice to the score and it would seem a travesty to play it through speakers as opposed to live. So, our wonderful Musical Director, Freya Bryson, has been developing a new score crafted for fewer musicians. It will be very much inspired by the original and make use of innovative soundscaping’.

The script of the show will also be newly written for the show, taking heavy inspiration from both the English dub of the film, as well as the subtitle track. The reason for this is simply a matter of adaptation. It must be said that some of the language, although perfect for the film, does not translate well to the stage. Therefore, new dialogue will be developed to  make sure the entire performance, from form to script works together inside the world of theatre.

It goes without saying that Alexandra can put this all in much finer words than I am able to, so I urge you to read this interview with her; here.

-jigoAlso, to let you know, I have been cast in the role of Jiko, the Monk! How cool is that!? If you’d like to find out more about the casting please check out the Whole Hog website; here.

And one last thing (it’s the favour of course). Whole Hog has been running a kickstarter campaign, of which there is now only ONE AND A HALF HOURS LEFT! Please take a look at it, and if you’d like to donate we’d be very thankful. As it stands Princess Mononoke is running from the 2nd to the 6th of April at the New Diorama Theatre in London. The initial run is now sold out, but with the help of this kickstarter campaign there will be more shows to be announced.

Jack.

Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K.

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About a day ago, I arrived in Moscow to perform as part of the ‘Open Class: Stanislavski Continues’ festival with my show Pages from the Book of…

The festival is a congregation of international drama schools, in which we are the British contingency. It’s all very very exciting, and I’ll make sure to do a long post on it when I return to sunny England (I highly doubt I’m going to have time to do it here).

In the meantime, here is a post I wrote about a week ago, after I finished reading Franz Kafka’s The Trial and never got round to posting.

It’s interesting that the final chapter of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, is the shortest and most abrupt. Before now, the book had carried on in long-winded and excruciatingly eventless chapters. That’s not to say it’s boring or without meaning! No, no, no! Each chapter is carefully constructed to emulate the slow, or in fact motionless nature of the court which has accused Joseph K. At the same time, they supply just enough information and present enough intrigue to explain K.’s insistence to take his case into his own hands, and to keep the reader, at all times, on tender hooks.

The Trial is the most famous, and often regarded as the greatest of Kafka’s works. It’s a masterpiece of literature, and as such, I don’t need to tell you how beautiful the writing is, how profound the philosophy or engaging the story is. I also don’t have to recommend that you read it, instead I need only inform you that it should be read without need of recommendation.

So, instead of all these things, I’m just going to share some of my thoughts on the book, and specifically, on the final chapter. It goes without saying that there are SPOILERS AHEAD, so you have been warned. It should also be obvious that there will have been hundreds and hundreds of people, most of whom are smarter, or at least better educated than me, who have interpreted the book, so these are just my ideas.

The Trial, like much of Kafka’s work, remains unfinished. But this is merely a detail, and it doesn’t change the fact that the story does end. In an afterwards by Max Brod, a friend of Kafka, he explains that Joseph K.’s case would never have made it to the high-court spoken of in the book, and though Kafka planned to explore the later stages of the trial and the workings of the mysterious court, the case, in many ways, would go no further, and so the book could in fact ‘stretch on to infinity’. But, it doesn’t. The book ends, and the trial of Joseph K. is abruptly and violently closed, and this, is a very important thing. I think an interesting question, is why the book came to an end the way it did.

At an early stage in the book, I guessed thatJoseph K.’s case would come to a bad end, although, the dismal and somewhat cold conditions in which he was dispatched, did come as a surprise. The reasoning for this end, is highlighted in the final chapter. In fact, I think that the final chapter stands as a summery and parable for the entire book. It calls to mind another moment earlier in the story. In the chapter called ‘The Cathedral’ a priest, who is also the Prison Chaplin for the court tells K. a parable from the Court Scriptures. This parable is then deconstructed by both characters in so many ways that the meaning of it becomes completely lost and they take from it what they will. The final chapter acts as a similar parable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the unfortunate downfall of Joseph K. finds its way into the Court Scriptures.

After fighting his case for over a year, two men arrive at K.’s house to execute him. The arrival of these two men obviously mirrors the first chapter, in which two warders arrive to inform K. of his arrest. The difference, is in tone. Here, K. is not caught unawares, but he half expected the men to arrive and he resigns himself to his fate. The men do not try to appease him, hardly engaging him in conversation at all. Instead, they remain solemnly quiet. It is very important, that at no point do they explain the reason for their appearance to K. He asks them if they were appointed for him, and they merely bow. From here, K. collects his hat and coat and leaves with the men. When they try to hold him, he insists that he remain free until they are outside. So, when they do restrain K. outside, it means that he has not only presumed their mission, but he has begun the journey towards his death on his own free will, and he has also given himself over to their hold. I can’t help but wonder what would have been if he had refused to go with the men, or at least if he had insisted to remain unrestrained. But even when held by the two men, it is still K. who leads the way. The two men represent the court both literally, and abstractly. From the very beginning of the trial, K. has been in the courts grasp, but it has not physically moved him. Instead, he has remained under its shadow, but has been independent in his choice of where to go and what to do.

As they walk, the following passage follows; “Under the street lamps, K. tried time and time again to see his companions more clearly than he had in the dusk of his room.” But, trying as he might, he can only catch brief glimpses of them. Again, this passage exists as a metaphor for the entire situation with the court. K. is always attempting as hard as he can, to learn more about the workings of the court, but with every step he takes, the whole thing becomes more mysterious and unknown.

Put out by the sort of people the court has sent to collect him, and in this, the whole way in which the court conducts its workings, K. comes to a stop, and so do the two wardens. It is in this moment of defiance that K. sees Fraulein Buchner, or someone who reminds him of her. The two warders are said to “try to repel K. from the spot; but he resisted them.” In this chapter, there is at all times, both the literal reading and the metaphoric meaning. So taking it literally, I must conclude that the two warders were simply prompting K. forward, because I can’t see how the two large men could be resisted so easily.  In the abstract then, it could speak about the way that the court often prompted K. into action with small tidbits of information and glimmers of hope.

When Fraulein Buchner appears, we are reminded of K,’s tendency to become distracted from his case by women. In this moment, he realises that resistance is futile and so, carries on his way, again of his own accord and again condemned by no other than himself. He resolves to go to the end of his case dignified, and at peace with himself.

“In complete harmony all three made their way across a bridge in the moonlight…”

So we come to the third section of their journey. If the first step of the journey is K. leading the court, as he did in the first few chapters of the book, and the second step is K.’s forced stop of the warders. The third step, is when K. and the warders all move in unison, and work together to reach the final verdict. The next break, comes when the trio stop in unison, and K. actually prompts the warders to move on himself by stating “I did not mean to stop completely.” So we come full circle and when K. and the court come to a standstill, it is K. himself who restarts the solemn death march.

Police line the way and soon the group is approached by a policeman on account of looking suspicious. The two wardens stop, but as the Policeman is about to speak K. drags the wardens onward and forces them to flee the Policeman. I have a few ideas about this bit. My first, and most immediate thought is that this scene represents K.’s tendency to refuse help from others. The Policeman, depending on how you look at it, could be seen as a representation of the court (as the court is of the law, as is the Policeman) in which case he could represent characters like the Prison Chaplin, or the Advocate who K. dismissed, against all advice. Or he could be seen as representing those outside the court (because the court certainly doesn’t hold up the traditional law of the policeman) and he could represent figures like K.’s Uncle or the artist Titorreli who could have helped K. had he not run away. K.’s act of running from the Policeman could also be because simply at any time someone has interfered with K.’s case it has somehow become more convoluted and unachievable.

So it is K. who leads the court, running out of the town and to the place of his execution. Here, the roles change a bit and the court finally takes the lead. The warders undress K. and find a suitable place to carry out the sentence. They lay him awkwardly over a rock and present a manner of execution which is as unconventional as I would expect from this bizarre and cruel trial. They produce a large, double-edged butchers knife and begin passing it over K. to one another, unable to decide who should carry out the sentence. It is written; “K. now perceived that he was supposed to seize the knife and plunge it into his own breast. But he did not do so…”

The act of taking the knife and killing himself would affirm the idea, here, that all the events leading up to and including the execution were entirely in his own hands. What’s important, is that he doesn’t do it. It wouldn’t be unreasonable now, to imagine that his death be postponed indefinitely and that the wardens might pass the knife back and forth over K.’s head for the rest of eternity.

But this is not to be. Looking around he sees a figure, or figures, in a window. A sudden burst of hope ignites inside K. as he wonders who, or what it might be. “Who was it? A friend? A good man? Or were they all there? Were there some arguments in his favour that had been overlooked? Of course there must be.” And just as quickly as this hope sets in, it is forcibly extinguished as he is struck through the heart (and it’s too late).

And so the trial of Joseph K. comes to its melancholic end.

As I said, the last chapter basically sums up the whole book, through its various implied elements. But it does one other thing; it ends the story, and in doing so, changes the whole book. From the start, it is clear that Joseph K. will be the architect of his own demise. The only action of the court, is to inform K. of his arrest. After this a first hearing is held, which K. dominates and leads the discussion. From here, K. is advised not to take action and wait for developments. After this, almost nothing is heard from the court, and K. is not really worried about his case. But in time, and specifically after the visit of his uncle, he becomes increasingly frustrated and begins to make inquiries, etc, of his own accord. We are given every reason to believe that this is the incorrect course of action, and that through ignoring advise to allow the case move along on its own accord, K. is actually moving it forward, and it is through this, that the case becomes less likely to succeed. We can see this in characters like Block who, after taking things into his own hands by hiring a number of ‘hedge-advocates’ found that his case is going badly. Obviously, the best course of action would have been to take no action at all after the first hearing. However, as K. stands still with his two wardens, it is he, not they, that moves the case forward.

But a contradiction occurs at the end when he refuses to snatch the knife and stab himself. The wardens (the court) are the ones who do it. Therefore, at the end, it is not K. who condemns himself, but the court after all. K. may have helped arrive at this point, but it is the court who do the final executing. In this moment, K. is absolved of his many mistakes and again becomes a victim of the court, not a self destructive fool. The fact that the end of the trial mirrors the beginning makes one think that the outcome of the case was always inevitable, and that K. never had any sway over it whatsoever.

It’s also important that K. dies just as new hope is kindled in him, and that in his dying breath, he sees the faces of the two wardens watching him die. This reaffirms the cruelty of the court and calls into question its operation. Does it operate by feeding K. false hope and then taking it away? Does it trick K. into moving the case forward just so that it can watch him slowly destroy himself, and ultimately watch the life drain from his eyes?

Like the Prison Chaplin’s parable, this last chapter (and of course the whole book) could have a number of possible interpretations, and probably after much discussion would render the whole thing meaningless – maybe that’s the point. But for me, I felt that the parable was violently and interestingly changed in this last chapter with the untimely death of Joseph K.

All the ideas above are sort my first impressions and if I let myself I could quite happily sit here thinking about it for several more hours.

I’ve really enjoyed this book, and I’ll make sure to read Kafka’s other works at some point soon.

Heroes in a Half-Shell

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The first topic I wrote for this blog was about the new animated show TRON: Uprising. Which, by the way, is shaping up very nicely and I’ll do an article about it at the end of Season One. To return to this theme, I thought I’d write about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show. It started on Monday on Nickelodeon, which, thanks to my house mate, I can watch for the first time in my life! So, I’ve been catching up on a lot of Kids’ TV and loving it.

I’ve known a little bit about the new turtles show before now, y’know, like that it was coming. But overall, I entered it without knowing what this take on the heroes four would be. Suffice it to say, I am very impressed!

The first two episodes are a double part story, dealing with the Turtle’s first trip to the surface. By the end of the episode, we have been introduced to April O’Neil (who is a teenager as well rather than a news reporter), the Krang, a new Snake-Weed monster, and The Shredder himself. The story is very basic and pretty standard, but it serves a purpose, and that purpose is the fantastic animation. The show is computer animated, but rather than going for the smooth, shiny look the 2006 film took, this series takes a very comic book-ey style. The characters are kind of made up of flat panels, and it makes them look a bit like they’re cut out of card. This really works, especially with some of the visual gags and expressions the animators use. In general, the animation is very funny, just the look of it. The character models, the way things move, everything is a bit humorous. It makes for some great visual comedy, and when this is combined with great writing and laugh out load gags, we’re onto a winner.

The four turtles themselves are very well realised, each with the personalities we already know and love without any big surprises. I like the way they’ve approached Leonardo, making him kind of goofy as well as the by-the-book leader of the team, but if any character is worth a specific mention, it’s Michelangelo, not because they do anything new with him, but simply because they write the classic Mikey so well. He’s very funny and easily the highlight of the episode. What’s really nice, is that they really do feel like teenagers, whereas at times in other shows there’s no real sense of this. Splinter the rat is also brilliant, and looks quite unlike some previous renditions of the character.

There is a moment when Splinter is telling us a bit about his past, and 2-dimensional pictures float across the screen – it is a credit to the show’s animation that this in no way conflicts or contradicts the rest of the style.

Another thing that’s great, and something I always look out for with Turtles properties (because I’m a massive geek) is the theme music! It is hilarious. Taking the theme song from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show, it gives it a rap twist. It’s very funny, and I found myself quite delighted by it. LINK!

And, that’s a good word to use – the show delighted me. I genuinely enjoyed watching it, and wished it went on for longer. I’m really looking forward to seeing some more. The only problem that I can foresee, is that the stories may be very basic. But we’ll see.

Just generally, I’ve been really impressed with kids’ TV recently. With shows like TRON: Uprising and the excellent Legend of Korra (the squeal to Avatar: The Legend of Aang) kids’ shows have for me, been just as enjoyable as any live action shows I’ve been watching. Also, they’ve been smart. Korra especially, is a very smart show which approaches some issues that might be considered adult, such as discrimination, alienation and war. Taking a darker tone than the previous Legend of Aang (which was also excellent by the way, and absolutely one of the best kids’ shows ever made) Korra never shied away from anything, and never underestimated the kids it was aimed at. TRON is a bit simpler but still mature, looking at themes of oppression, freedom of speech and victimisation. Although it’s not quite as smart as Korra, TRON also doesn’t shy away from much, and also manages to show the dangers that normal people face in times of conflict, rather than just showing the fight between the lead characters. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is much lighter than these shows, aimed at a younger demographic I think, and it probably wont hit on quite the same issues, but it still feels smart. It’s comedy, and the comedy is well written, again not underestimating the young audience.

Merzbilder – A brief account of Kurt Schwitters’ life and work

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A quick update on myself – I’ve been quite busy lately. I graduated last Friday, and I’m now trying to sort out moving home, which if all goes to plan should be done by Monday…Let’s rephrase, this has to be done by Monday. Other than this, I have actually been working on my book (which was the original point of this blog). I am fast approaching the completion of the first draft of what I’m considering to be Part One (even though I wont be making these divides in the text). It means I’m about a third the way through, I’ll soon start seeing what people think of it. The second part needs a lot of research though, so that’ll be slow going for a while. It’s beginning to look like the book will be far shorter than I first envisioned. This is because, firstly, I’ve learnt more about what is appropriate length for a children’s novel, and secondly, because I don’t want to drag the story out at all. In October, I will be travelling to Moscow to perform our show Pages from the Book of… in the Moscow Arts Theatre, which I’m super excited about. I’m also trying to arrange a couple of other bits for the show. On top of this I’ve been writing the odd article on WhatCulture. So, if this post seems a bit rushed. It is! I really want to keep this blog up to date, and I’m trying to split up my time efficiently.

Well, without further ado – Kurt Schwitters and Merz.

A modern day Merz image and tribute to Schwitters – 2006

Kurt Schwitters (1887 – 1948) gave the name Merz to his particular style and genre of art. Schwitters is generally considered to be the master of collage, and his works, at the time of creation, would not fit into any pre-existing brackets such as expressionism, futurism, etc.

The term MERZbilder (later just Merz), came from a specific work of Schwitters in which he cut out the syllable ‘merz’ from a magazine called Kommerz- und Privatbank. Merz became the label under which he presented his works. He even started to go by the title himself after 1922.

So, what is Merz? As I said, Schwitters concentrated on, and excelled in collage. He was especially keen on found objects and would often simply collect things on his journeys, to include in his art. There were two reasons why he chose recycled materials for his work. One, was that he sought to create something from the wastes of a war ravished state – or as he says far more skilfully than I could:

 “…when this racket to which men give the name of war, ended…I felt free, and I felt the need to proclaim my joy throughout the world. For economic reasons I took what I found, because we were a people that had fallen into misery. One can also yell using garbage, and that is what I did gluing and nailing. That was called Merz. It was my prayer at having survived the war, once peace had triumphed. In any case, everything was ruined, and it was a matter of building new things from debris.”

The Holy Night by Antoni Allegri, known as Correggio… – 1947

Another reason, was purely aesthetic. Schwitters, in taking found objects (or Merz objects, we can call them), wanted to remove any previous use or connotations they may have had. He made a point that whatever a material meant before he found and incorporated it into his art, was not important. Obviously, this is easy to say, and perhaps, not difficult to do when you’re the author of a work. But, it’s not easy to convince a spectator of this. It’s very difficult for us not to make assumptions on a piece, if a political logo or an image with religious connotations makes its way into a work. To combat this, Schwitters put into effect a process of ‘dematerialization’. Firstly, we ‘distribute’ the materials onto the canvas, then, we ‘deform’ them by covering, transforming or otherwise changing the material. In this way, the materials become, simply that; materials. Colours, lines and other bits. I guess you have to judge for yourself if it works.

I don’t think it would be necessarily wrong to look at the works in this way though, as all the objects were collected from specific places, at a specific time. So, of course the works carry with them a sort of wider context. I think, it’s almost impossible to escape this when using found objects, and I’m sure Schwitters would have known, and accepted that.

Through his early life, Schwitters was a quiet, insecure person and suffered from Epilepsy. He was an only child, living with his parents Edward and Henriette. The family owned a small business selling ladies’ clothes, which they sold in 1898. With the money from this they bought five properties in Hanover which they rented out, allowing them to live comfortably.

Mountain Graveyard – 1919

Schwitters studied at the Royal Academy of Art in Dresden, between 1909 and 1914 and apparently, didn’t prove to be anything special. Moving back home he began his career as a painter, being increasingly influenced by the expressionism movement.

Schwitters married Helma Fischer, his cousin. Unfortuantly, their first son died after a week of being born. But their second son, Ernst, lived and he and Schwitters were very close. A year later, in 1917 he was drafted into the military, but was discharged later that year because his epilepsy rendered him unfit for duty. It was during this time, he became fascinated with machines and the image of the wheel. He says that he “recognized that machines are abstractions of the human spirit.”

Schwitters big break came in 1918, when he was invited to exhibit some of his work in the Sturm gallery in Berlin. The Sturm, was run by Herwarth Walden, who was a very famous German expressionist artist. Primarily a pianist, Waldon expressed his love for the arts through his writing and the galleries he owned. The Sturm gallery was considered ground-breaking, because it displayed work from some of the most cutting-edge European artists. It was in this time that Schwitters started on his collages, and of course the beginning of the Merz brand. Whilst exhibiting his art in Sturm, opinions were divided. Some, thought his work was great, others deemed him insane. Although, as we’ve said his work didn’t necessarily have any political references, he was often viewed as being a threat to ‘traditional German values’.

Revolving – 1919

In 1919, he approached Tristan Tzara, who was the spokeman for the Zurich Dadaists. The group was very interested in Schwitters’ work, even though it differed from their own. Schwitters rejected some of the ideas put forth by the Dadaists, choosing to continue referring to himself as a painter, albeit one who nailed his painting together. I’m not exactly sure why, but Schwitters and Richard Huelsenbeck, the leader of the Dadaists, fell out in 1920. Between 1919 and 1923 he created some of his most well known works. He was also working on much larger pieces called Merzbau. These were big constructions made from Merz materials, which were then incorporated into a sculptural interior. It was probably about 6 rooms large, but we’re not sure. Unfortunately the Merzbau was destroyed in a raid on Hanover in 1943, and all other attempts to build new Merbau were also unsuccessful.

In time, Schwitters found himself at the forefront of the avent-garde. He began holding his own Merz exhibitions, and allied himself with the Bauhaus group. From here on, Schwitters experimented with various mediums, including theatre, literature, music, photography and more. He tended to be pretty good at everything he attempted. He published his own arts journal, unsurprisingly called Merz, between 1923 and 1932 and at some point created Ursonate, his sound poem masterpiece.

The Star Picture – 1920

Unfortunately, with the rise of National Socialism in Germany, things became rather difficult. The avant-garde community fell apart and the Nazis strongly opposed his work, publicly ridiculing it. In 1937, Schwitters moved to Norway, after the Gestapo ‘requested his presence for a interview’…I’d probably run as far as I could too.

Following this, Schwitters’ life becomes a bit sporadic, and he doesn’t settle for a while. In 1940, he fled to Scotland with his son. He moved between internment camps in Scotland and England. He came to rest for a year and a half, in a internment camp on the Isle of Man where he staged a fair number of Merz recitals. In 1941, he was released and stayed in London until 1945 before moving to the Lake District, where he began work on his final Merzbau, the Merzbarn. Apparently, you can still see the shell of the Merzbarn now, although it’s completely dilapidated.

His wife died in 1944 and Schwitters started seeing a woman called Edith Thomas. Together they moved to the Lake District in 1945, where Schwitters would walk for hours collecting objects from the beach, to use in his new art projects.

In 1948 Schwitters himself died, poor, but confident that has work would one day be acknowledged in the way he knew it deserved to be.

Some years after his death, a stone was put near his grave in England (though his remains were transported to Hanover) with the inscription ‘Kurt Schwitters – Creator of Merz’.