Elevating the Mundane by Design

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Walking meditation is one of the techniques to center one’s attention and consciously deepen awareness of the self. The idea is to walk with complete awareness of all the bodily sensations that are enjoined during the act of walking. Its quite popular with those who owe allegiance to the dharma of the Buddha.

Amongst practitioners of this technique, the location does not typically matter. As long as there are no disturbances during the initial stages.

With that as context I could not help but smile at the level of ingenuity in designing as space for performing this simple act. I came across this via FactCoDesign blog. Have quoted a portion the post below.

For instance, from 4 a.m. to noon, an east wall offers shade during morning chants and the daily meal. From noon until 8 p.m., a roof protects the monk from harsh midday sun. And during the final period, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., evening chants take place in an exposed area of the circle with a hanging mosquito net to sleep under.

Even the mundane can be elevated by design. All it needs is for us to pay attention to the forces that envelope and shape the mundane.

Creativity and Collaboration – Kanye West Style

Found this coverage of a Kanye West recording session of his latest album, via Kottke. Not sure if it’s the take of a fan-boy but definitely seems intriguing. A small quote from one of the participants..

My favorite thing about Kanye is he just doesn’t quit. He does not quit on a song. Sometimes in pop music, there’s so much clutter and so many people trying to do something that’s gonna get on the radio or whatever, but he’s truly about approaching the song and finishing it and doing the coolest possible thing that he wants to express. He’s not just a rapper. He’s not just a producer. He’s a musician. He’s a true artist in every sense. Every part of his expression, from his clothes to everything, is a part of how he lives his life, and I think that’s why he’s so successful. I would show him what I did and he would come back and be like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome.’ Or, ‘Oh, that’s not cool.’ And we would just work on it—there was no ego involved, it was just what’s best for the song.

What comes out is the collaborative nature of the creative process, the feedback loop that feeds the next iteration, the perseverance, the openness to critical appraisal, the trust that seems to exist between the team..all of this built upon a foundation of honesty.

As I said at the start, it could be a fan-boy’s view but at that level of public scrutiny every chink in the armor would be a gaping wound attracting unwanted attention.

Also, our blinkered view sets up stereotypes that are hard to look beyond. Perhaps the rapper and his bling bling are more virtuous than the suave banker siphoning off what is not his.

Update: Fixed typo in Kanye West’s name.

Napoleon – Kubrick’s Unfinished Masterpiece

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Since coming across the Kubrick interview that I blogged here about earlier, I did some digging around. The result was this screenplay(warning, it’s a PDF file) for Napoleon by Kubrick.

I cannot comment as to its authenticity, but there is sufficient brilliance in there to suggest it could be the work of the master himself.

The whole screenplay makes for excellent weekend reading, which is what I did last weekend by the way.

Some sections that bring out the personality of Napoleon

  • 1789 Revolution on Page 9. Napoleon’s ability to take charge of volatile situations.
  • Toulon Road – Day on Page 13. Ability to think strategically.
  • Paris Street – Day on Page 24. Willingness to use force, morality be damned.
  • Notre Dame – Day on Page 69. Self-coronation..enough said!
  • Bedroom – Day on Page 147. Last moments of the hero and his descent into clouded states of memory.
  • Production Notes on Page 149. Notes of Kubrick on the planning work done until then.

It is amazing to learn about the rigor and planning that supports a creative endeavor like movie making. Coupled with the interview I linked to in my previous blog post on Kubrick, we get a little insight into the mechanics of creativity.

Stanley Kubrick – The Mindscape of an Artist

2001 has to be the first movie I had seen that shocked me to the possibilities of narrative grammar and the means of visually articulating imaginary worlds. Until then Stanley Kubrick to me was a master director because critiques said so and not by my own direct experience.

I came across this excerpt of an interview with Kubrick, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the mindscape of this brilliant director. Below are some highlights that should be required reading for anyone with even a passing interest in creativity.

On depicting the battle scenes of Napolean

(the movie that was to be directed by Kubrick but never got done, earning it the sobriquet  “masterpiece that was never made”):

”There’s an aesthetic involved; it’s almost like a great piece of music, or the purity of a mathematical formula. It’s this quality I want to bring across, as well as the sordid reality of battle. You know, there’s a weird disparity between the sheer visual and organizational beauty of the historical battles sufficiently far in the past, and their human consequences. It’s rather like watching two golden eagles soaring through the sky from a distance; they may be tearing a dove to pieces, but if you are far enough away the scene is still beautiful.”

On the ‘purpose’ of a film

“the basic purpose of a film, which I believe is one of illumination, of showing the viewer something he can’t see any other way”

On depicting futuristic or historic themes

“it enables you to make a statement with which you’re not personally blinded; it removes the environmental blinkers, in a sense, and gives you a deeper and more objective perspective”

On whether the ambiguity in 2001 was deliberate

“..it was inevitable. And I think in a film like 2001, where each viewer brings his own emotions and perceptions to bear on the subject matter, a certain degree of ambiguity is valuable, because it allows the audience to "fill in" the visual experience themselves. In any case, once you’re dealing on a nonverbal level, ambiguity is unavoidable. But it’s the ambiguity of all art, of a fine piece of music or a painting..”

Read the whole interview. I gained a lot from it.