Friday, February 26, 2010

Intermission #1

I already mentioned those crazy 'make a film in 48 hours' competitions; here's one of the best results I have seen. First the rules: everything had to be done within 48 hours, and to ensure that the story wasn't prepared in advance there were three key elements to feature in it (Character: Marty or Mary Quinzani - second in command; Line: "Yes! I mean, I hope so."; Prop: Magnet)

The result is, well:

I would never have guessed. Pink Lemonade...
Make sure to check the outtakes too!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Le geste naturel

Yep, another of those Hébert quotes:
"The development of the organism and the technical improvement of movements alike cannot be attained by bits and pieces broken down by convention or using procedures that simply activate mechanically an organ or some muscles without envisioning the essential part, that is the true target of the organ or the practical use of the movements.

Everything holds together in the organism. Localized action are only local in appearance. The slightest voluntary movement requires sometimes, besides the intervention of the nervous system, a complex muscular action very pronounced in a given area (the most apparent) and secondary or even minimal, but necessary, in other parts.

Both the technical improvement of movements and the generalized development of the body must be done synthetically and not analytically. The human body is not comparable to a factory where division of labor reigns to obtain the best yield."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gotta catch'em live!

One of my favorite concerts recently was an opening act for Blind Pilot by The Low Anthem, which I hadn't come to listen to and didn't know of. The band is composed of two stocky-looking guys sporting long hair and a serious moustache sharing a bunch of varied and unamplified instruments and a young lady with a clarinet and a bizarre set of bells she played with a bow.

They started with mellow and beautiful songs, fragile and all, then leveled up like overexcited Pokemons, mixed in some blues-rock-folk and became very, very loud. Probably the loudest concert I have seen since running away from Modest Mouse (and those guys had amplification all over the place)!! The band kept jumping all over the place, singing at the top of their lungs, pulling more and more sound out their instruments. Their albums did capture some of that amazing energy, but catch them live if you can next time they come to town. I for one will be there!

If you want a preview, check out their weird video about Charlie Darwin and a pretty cool tiny desk concert they just did at NPR, where they pulled that awesome trick with the cellphones. Once again, that's only their mellow side.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I recently came across a Facebook group "I bet I can find a million people who believe in Evolution", no doubt in response to a similar initiative from flat Earth creationists or Intelligent Designers. I almost joined the cause, but then I was bothered: I don't believe in Evolution. And frankly, the whole debate is a bit hard for me to wrap my head around coming from Europe, where it's not an issue at all.

The thing is, no matter what I believe, no matter how many people believe in it or not, it is a fundamental law of the natural world and you have no choice. The same goes for Electricity: if I can find a million people who don't believe in Electricity, do the lights go out? Personally, I do find Electricity a bit hard to believe, what with all the tiny thingies called Electrons that are supposedly everywhere but we can't see them and then they move in coordinated fashion and voilà: the light switches on.

Isn't it a bit far-fetched? well, it is, but tons of hard scientific evidence have given us more and more clues about how Electricity works, and we more or less have a pretty good working model by now. Sure, Evolution has the drawback to be slow, you can't observe new species pop into existence like you flip a switch. Think more like plate tectonics. Do you feel the continents shifting around under your feet? so maybe it's time to make a "I bet I can find a few people who understand that Evolution / Plate Tectonics / Electricity is a fundamental law of the natural world whether or not they believe in it" group...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sports vs. Physical Education

Just in time for the Superbowl, here's some of Georges Hébert's contrary views on sports:
"In terms of physical education, any exercise, even performed in a stadium or a gymnasium in artificial settings, must maintain as much as possible of an utilitary character. In the contrary, when considering sports, following the current trends, complete abstraction is made of the conditions of application in practical life situations; everything is conventionally regulated or subject to exceptional execution conditions.

Thus are formed brilliant specialists, remarkably skilled at an exercise that has no utility, superior experts in a technique with no practical value. Such is one of the reasons why these specialists barely stand out from the average when circumstances place them, among others who do not practice sports, in front of common situations."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Heart of Darkness cookies

If the snow is going to bury us in cold whiteness, let's fight back with warm yummy Darkness. These are easy to make: in a big bowl, mix 1 stick (~125g) softened butter with a fork (15s in the microwave will do the softening for you). Add 1/4C sugar, 1/2 Dark brown sugar, 1/2t baking soda. Mix well with said fork. On the side, slowly melt in a saucepan 1/4C Dark chocolate with a dollop of butter (you can use some of your chocolate chips, or some Darker stuff if you have some). Let it cool down a bit while you add 1 egg and 1/2t vanilla extract or rum in the bowl. Mix in the cooled chocolate, then "clean" the saucepan. Yum. Back to the recipe, beat in ~1/6C powdered cocoa and 1C flour, making it smooth. Add 3/4C chocolate chips, preheat the oven at 375F, drop rounds of cookie dough unto a baking sheet, cook for 8-10 min. Done!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Age of the Electron

I was watching TV, about to go online to post something here, buy some new shoes and all that when the entire block blacked out. No power, no light, as far as I can see... After fumbling for the flashlight and some old candles, I went instead for a book by the candlelight, how romantic and all.

After a few moments sitting quietly in the near darkness, I got struck by how much our modern life is slave to the power of the electron; how different must have been the life of our great-grandparents having no choice but to gather around the fire, light a few candle or just head to bed with the sun. So I will remember this, turn off all the lights and electronics once in a while, and let the darkness sink in.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Natural method: revenge of the massive stack of books

One of my hobbies recently has been to translate into English the early works of Georges Hébert, who developed the "Natural Method", a very thorough and practical approach to physical education, starting in the 1910s. Guess what I found under my Xmas tree?

That's right, almost all the tomes of the full Natural Method at its most detailed development in the 1940s (thanks, A!). Where the previous book was a mere 600 pages, this (even incomplete) collection towers around 1500+, with many illustrations that, in themselves, convey huge amounts of extra information, and the low quality WWII paper used in the printing would certainly not enjoy scanning, so I will preserve my sanity and won't try to translate it. Which is too bad, because this is so much richer and more elaborate than the earlier version. But as I plow through this, I will try to quote a few paragraphs that particularly caught my attention. Stay tuned for some of Hébert's accurate and sometimes unconventional views in good old-fashioned French style!