Film Review: Earth to Echo

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Film Title: Earth To EchoDirectors Dave Green’s first feature film Earth to Echo is a Sci-Fi potpourri of 80s classics: A little bit of E.T., some Stand by Me, and a dash of Short Circuit all scrambled up together.

Three best friends Alex (Teo Halm), Astro (Tuck, as Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley) and Munch (Reese Hartwig) are faced with family moves. The town they grew up in is facing destruction to make way for a new road.

But while the parents are packing up the bits and bobs of their lives something strange starts to happen, mobile phones are acting up and only the boys seem to figure out that there is a message hidden in the scramble.

Determined to find out what is happing they grab their bikes and following the signal head out into the Nevada desert. Hear they find a broken alien robot Echo, a cross between EVE (from the 2008 WALL-E) and a mechanical, blue glowing owl.

It soon becomes clear that Echo needs help to be able to self-repair and go home, so the three boys pop him in a bag and cycle wherever he leads, scary men in black vans always in pursuit. Along the way the pick up scrap metal, cogs, appliances and their pretty classmate Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) and the true adventure begins.

The story is an old faithful, a touching tale about true friendship, first love and helping each other. But sadly it isn’t really new. And while Earth to Echo does aim to be tech savvy and very of the now it can’t sake the 80s vibe it is recreating. But the all of that could be overlooked if the video-style filming wasn’t so distracting. The images bounce and wobble across the screen, often making it hard to follow or just focus.

But overall Earth to Echo is a family friendly film with a quirky alien hero, a bunch of fun-loving outsiders and a moral.

getting to know your muse

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I have been rereading Stephen King’s  “On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft” , a wonderful book filled with lots of tips and tricks of the writing trade. But in essence the main point he makes, is that writing is work, you have to sit down and put the hours in, hone your skills, learn and read  as much as you can and then let your muse dust it with a little bit of magic.

Traditionally muses are seen as women dancing around in Greek garbs, floating figments, light beings, the personification of knowledge and the arts. There are nine of them, each one a daughter of Zeus (father of the Gods and men) and Mnemosyne (memory personified), and every single one of them has a specific area of expertise (see list below). As a writer you can expect a visit from the sweetly speaking Calliope, or as a poet maybe from the lovely Erato.

In our modern day muses seem to have changed, adapted, multiplied. King says his is a dude, a basement guy who smokes, grunts and ignores him while he does all the heavy lifting, but delivers the needed inspiration. This made me think about who my muse is, is she even a she? As I sit and type I try to catch a glimpse of her (yes, I think she is a she), try to get to know her a little bit. After all if I know who I am dealing with, maybe I can lure her into action a little more often.

So today my mission is to try and get to know my muse, figure out what makes her leap up from her swing (I believe she has a playful nature) and dance into action. And hopefully somewhere along the way a little bit of her muse-magic will spill onto my fingers and into my story.

Don’t wait for the muse. As I’ve said, he’s a hardheaded guy who’s not susceptible to  a lot of creative fluttering. This isn’t the Ouija board or the spirit-world we are talking about here, but just another job like laying a pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be from nine ’til noon, or from seven ’till three. If he does, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.

Stephen King

A statue of Calliope in the Vatican

A statue of Calliope in the Vatican

Calliope: the muse of epic poetry, depicted holding a writing tablet, roll of paper or even a book.

Clio: the muse of history, mostly holds a scroll

Erato: the muse of lyrical poetry, mostly plays a lye like instrument

Euterpe was the muse of music, plays a flute like instrument

Melpomene: the muse of tragedy holds the mask of tragedy

Polyhymnia: the muse of hymns and sacred poetry, has a veil

Terpsichore: the muse of dance, also holds a lyre but also is depicted in a dance like stance

Thalia: the muse of comedy, holds the mask of comedy

Urania:he muse of astronomy, holds a globe and compass.

hearing things – the psychology of sound

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Yesterday a sound made me jump. It wasn’t loud, nor was it scary, just a sound that vibrated through my home when I was all alone, making me react, whether I wanted to or not.

I was watching a film, sipping my tea, when a noise surprised me and made me leave my seat and explore. It had been a sort of rustling dong, or a scrapping plonk, a definite downward drop. At first I thought it had come from the kitchen, but I couldn’t find anything out of place, so I wandered upstairs and the only thing I could see was my dressing-grown lying on the ground. Somehow it had jumped of it’s hook and decided to take a nap on the floor.

As I hung the blue offender back up I started to wonder about sounds and how they influence and alert us. We all do that sudden head upwards jerk when we hear an unexpected sound. We all let ourselves get distracted when a song filled with memories makes it’s way out of the radio. We’ve all experienced how the score in a film makes our heart beat faster or brings tears to our eyes.And some of us have sounds that remind them of certain events.

For me, for some odd reason, the sound of the washing machine hon a high spin-cycle always reminds me of summer and makes me happy and I really don’t know why. The first time I hear “Last Christmas” on the radio I know Christmas is near and my heart skips an excited beat. The sound of a train rattling by makes me think of holidays and adventures and the flip-flop on my sandals on the grown makes me feel like skipping down to the beach.

Scientist have known for a long time that sound is closely linked to our emotions. And studies in neuroscience have shown that no only is the Hippocampus (helps form memories), the Amygdala (processes memories and emotional reactions) and the Insular cortex (regulates the heartbeat and is connected to empathy, pain and social awareness) closely linked to sounds, but so are the Cerebellum (motor function and learning) the Thalamus (regulates data and sleep)  the Prefontal cortex (linked to personality and decision making) and the Broca area (affects language comprehension).

When you look at this list it no longer seems surprising that sounds effects us in so many ways, why people react to sounds and particularly music. Our brains are hardwired to listen and often let our ears decide what we think and feel.

With that in mind and the sun shining outside I will now put on some music, let my feet find the beat and dance in the hope that happy thoughts and shook up body will help me find my muse for the day.

 

 

 

 

 

path tomatoes update

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The beautiful weather has been holding my attention these last few days and even the mugginess, the heaviness, can’t persuade me to not love the feeling of summer. Loose, light clothing, open shoes and cold smoothies perfect my holiday attitude, even when sitting at my desk.

But since I have been in Dublin, no real holiday in sight, I have been taking delight in watching my tomatoes grow. There are about 10-15 small green fruits hanging on my plant and I believe that my kind may actually be cherry tomatoes as the have gone from darker green to a paler shade, which means they should start to redden up soon.

I can’t wait and have to admit seeing my path tomatoes grow is making me more excited than I thought possible.

tomatoes2 tomatoes1

dials, knobs, switches and habits

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While I was loading my washing machine early this morning I couldn’t help but notice that I never really move the dial. I nearly always use the same setting, never really thinking about I am doing and as I stared at all the different settings from eco over super, wool and dedicates, rinse and spin I couldn’t help but wonder about choices and habits.

A little later I deciding to have a rare treat, because my bread  was a little hard, I made myself french toast for breakfast, and I used the front left hob. There are four perfectly fine working hobs, two front, two back , but I never even consider changing it up, with a flick of switch a turn of a knob I used the same hob I always do.

As my toast turned golden I wondered why it was that we all have our ways of doing things and tend to stick to them no matter what. We tend to drive the same routes, buy the same brands, have the same routines without thinking, just running on autopilot. But why is that?

Most of us don’t realize that it more than 40% of what we do every day isn’t done through conscious thought at all but are actually habits. Every habit is formed through three elements: the cue, (the thing that triggers it), the routine or behavior (the habit itself) and the reward. This is the case in both everyday habits, like brushing your teeth,and bad habits, like those late night snacks.

When we make decisions the thoughts occur in our pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that sits right behind our forehead,. But when we form habits, we no longer need to think, we just act automatically,  so it moves into the basal ganglia, which is right in the middle of our skull and the oldest part of our brains.

This means that we no longer need to go to long though processes and our brain is freed up to do think about other things. In essence this is a great as otherwise we would be overwhelmed with choices every second of the day. And if I just let myself do what I do without having to think about turning knobs and flicking switches I am rewarded with clean washing, yummy food and my mind is free to wander.

Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits.

American dancer and choreographer: Twyla Tharp

 

 

summer schedule

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As someone who has a very irregular schedule I am use to variety in my day to day life.  And I like it that way, I enjoy being flexible and allowing some days to take me where they wants to go. However since the summer has started and my regular blocks of teaching have dropped out of my calender for a while, I am finding too many days running away with my time and it is a little bit difficult to get some sort of schedule going.

My days are filled with bits and bobs but with very few deadlines to mark time passing I seem to have let whim lead the way. Now I love being whimsical and enjoy spontaneity and  chaos, but with the days dropping through the hourglass of summer too fast for me to catch, I need to ‘fess-up’ and get myself a little bit more organized.

I recently read this wonderful quote by American  author and Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard, that made me stop and rethink how I have been scheduling my summer:

A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

I have never considered a schedule as a safety net, a scaffolding to balance along, a defender against procrastination. So now I am staring at my desk calendar and have started scheduling next week with more structure. I am making sure that I calculate enough time for each activity to give me some flexibility, but not too much to let me while away my summer.

Dirty Dancing in the park

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Twenty-seven years a go I was a teenager and like so many others I fell in love with a film: Dirty Dancing. It wasn’t the leading man that did it for me, nothing against the late Patrick Swayze, nor was it the cute leading lady with the interesting nose, sorry Jennifer Grey, for me it was the music, the dancing and the fashion.

I loved all the oldies drifting through the cinema making my toes tap and and knees jiggle. Some reminded me of dancing in the living room as a child others were completely unknown, but felt like old friends. And the dancing, the scenes of beautiful young people in pretty frocks, tight pants and shiny shoes celebrating their freedom made me what to Salsa and Jive, shimmy and shake. And I remember putting my hair up into a high ponytail, wearing soft cotton runners and three-quarter length trousers. In my mind I looked and moved like I was in living in the 60s.

Not that I ever became too obsessed with the film nor have I watched it hundreds of times, but something about Dirty Dancing does seem to speak to my love of nostalgia, my inner hippie still enjoys the music and the idea that things can change, even if only on the silver screen, makes me happy. So tonight I will pack a basket of goodies, grab a rug and meet my friend in the park to watch ‘no one putting Baby in a corner’, Lisa look for her ‘beige iridescent lipstick’ and Baby carry watermelons under a nightly Dublin sky.

Film Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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caesar-and-guyThis latest film in the Planets of the Apes franchise picks up about a decade after the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The world’s population has been decimated by the “simian flu”, a virus that spread from a laboratory all over the world. Now only a few survivors, conveniently genetically immune to the virus, are trying to beat extinction by banding together in once thriving metropolis.

In one of these hubs, former San Francisco, Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) is trying to keep the moral up by planning to get electricity back. An old nearby dam is just what they need, so a scouting team, led by good guy Malcolm (Jason Clark) is sent out into the nearby woodlands to check it out.

As they hike up an old trail they stumble upon an ape colony, not unlike what you’d expect from early human settlers, led by Caesar (Andy Serkis). Caesar, whose IQ was chemically increased in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is now a husband, father and the leader of his fellow enhanced primates.

However the simple dream that humans and apes can live peacefully side-by-side is soon destroyed when the trigger-happy Carver (Kirk Acevedo) messes up and Caesers right-hand ape Koba (Toby Kebbell) comes up with his own plan in a bid for power.

Soon a fight for survival ensues, with good and bad battling it out. And since we all know about the Charlton Heston movies ape-topia isn’t that far away.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t have much story to tell but does depict an interesting inside view into what a fictional, intelligent ape community might look like. In particularly the opening group hunting scene is very well done.

However the need for 3D is questionable, as director Matt Reeves never really makes use of it and the film is perfectly fine without. This isn’t really surprising considering Cloverfield is the only action movie he has directed so far.

What does strike as a little odd is that this summer blockbuster doesn’t really have many big name actors to support the marketing. Clark is know for his supporting roles, and is more often than not forgettable. His love interest Elli is played by Keri Russell, also more of a B-list celebrity. Only Oldman and Serkis are big names but with all the CGI you can’t help but think it’s more the computer acting than Serkis and Oldman only has limited screen time.

Over all Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a big spectacle with very little substance. But it is a prequel to a well-known story and that does limit how far and in what direction the story can go. However if you enjoy ape on man combat an, some clever visuals and lots of apes screaming buy some popcorn and enjoy watching the end of humanity as we know it.

 

 

remembering Rome

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Today is one of those beautiful sunny days that makes everyone smile. Maybe it was the happy mood that is floating around Dublin, but for what ever reason, I decided to treat myself to a lovely lunch at my local Italian, the best in all of Dublin. And maybe it was the food but with each forkful of pasta my mind wandered to my my trip to Rome last year. It was in November, so  the weather was mixed, but it didn’t matter the city was enough to enchant me.

And because I can’t share the images and memories sin my head here are a few of my favourite photos:

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