Interstellar in IMAX reminds us what it means to be human

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A scene opening the second act of Interstellar finds the Matthew McConaughey-led team of deep space explorers awaken from cryo-sleep just outside of orbit of Saturn.

At this point of Nolan’s epic, it has been years since the humans have left earth. Their destination–a wormhole to another galaxy–waits for them somewhere in the forward abyss.

With a knock on the spacecraft’s hull, one of the expedition scientists Romilly (played by David Gyasi) laments to Cooper (McConaughey) of the thin coating of aluminium that separates them from infinite space.

It is a moment of abject vulnerability for Romilly, a realisation of how distance can undermine the significance of human endeavour.

This is the landscape of director Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster epic.

Taken as a filmic text, Interstellar has issues. The plot requires a number of leaps of faith (and perhaps logic) to stay the course. Nolan and brother and co-writer Jonathan, often seem in a hurry to get particular plot elements out of the way, perhaps aware of the scope of their own ambition and the limited time to realise it.

But seen at 70mm, on the world’s 3rd biggest screen in Melbourne, such concerns seem entirely insignificant.

On … Read more

The road to Premiere

This week I have been re-acquainting myself with Adobe Premiere.

For a long while I’ve edited video on Final Cut Pro and then more recently, Final Cut Pro X (FCPX). And whilst Premiere did appear (fleetingly) at some point in my past, it’s been a while since we clinked glasses.

The reason for the change is that over the past few months I have grown increasingly frustrated with the intermittent interface lag that seems to creep into every install of FCPX I have used.

I cut video faster in FCPX than in any other editing program I’ve used to date, and I’ve grown to love its new take on NLE. But after a few projects, a general malaise creeps into pretty much every aspect of the FCPX interface.  Everything from browsing media to opening up the investigator yields spinning beach balls. At its worst, moving clips on the timeline can result in a 1-2 second delay with every shift.

That may not sound like much, but editing relies on having the flexibility to quickly experiment with different media placements. Even small delays add up over an editing session, making trying new things a chore.

This may not happen for … Read more

An inspired list

My five most frequent stops for daily inspiration and perspective.

Next Draft

Simply put, it’s the days most fascinating news delivered to your inbox. Curated with wit and intelligence by Dave Pell. A consistent source for inspiration for stories, and just a great way to understand more about the world we don’t read about.

Cinephilia and Beyond

The source for Directors commentaries, behind the scenes photography and video essays. A must for any enthusiast of the dark arts. It keeps the ideas flowing and doubles as your daily filmschool attendance.

BOOOOOOOM!

You can find just about everything at BOOOOOOOM! — art, film, music, design, misc. Provides a peak into what’s trending online, before it’s trended.

The Verge

If you want to know anything about what’s happening in tech right now, and what’s coming round the corner, tune into The Verge. Together with their sister sites Vox and Polygon, these guys are reinventing the news model one category at a time.

Kill Screen Daily

Kill Screen isn’t your ordinary gamestop. Only occasionally will you spot a AAA title reviewed on site. Instead the focus is on what is pushing the industry forward, and what is dragging it down. The commentary is frequently intelligent, subversive, and will change the … Read more

Zero inbox

Of all the productivity hacks I’ve picked up in the past year, committing to a zero inbox has had the single biggest positive impact on my day-to-day output.

This zen-like state is thanks to an app called Mailbox.

Mailbox is an iOS and Android app that accepts Gmail, Google apps and iCloud accounts. It uses a gesture based interface to allow you to quickly process incoming emails as read, flag them for deletion, add to a list, or schedule for reading at a later date.

Think of it as a cross between a task list and email. In this day and age, when emails are pretty much just longwinded task reminders anyway, Mailbox is ahead of the game.

And now that the Mailbox OSX desktop companion has entered beta, I feel like the open email loop of my life is finally drawing to a close.

When you first install Mailbox (on iOS, Android or OSX), the app will ask permission to move all of your existing inbox mail to an archive folder. The mail is still available, but its no longer in your face. It’s a small gesture with a big payoff — everyone starts from zero.

Of course, this is no leap of impossibility. You could do this today in Gmail by creating a new folder and dumping everything into it. But Mailbox is the only … Read more

Passages of note

A couple of years ago I switched from hard copy to an e-reader, and I have never looked back.

At home I have bookshelves filled with books I never enjoyed and regret buying. And every couple of years when I move house I’m reminded of my various failures in accurate selection when I pack each book into a box, lug it across town, and unpack them, one by one.

I read more and regret less with an e-reader.

With my short attention span I’m not what you call a voracious reader. I go through a few books a month and besides the delightful weight of the device, the ability to sample chapters, the recommendations and low price of admission, what I love most about e-reading is the ability to highlight and save passages.

Once I might have dog-eared pages, every so often underlined or scribbled notes in the margins, but more often than not, I left it up to a sketchy memory to preserve what I read.

Electronic highlighting improves the way I read and the quality of what I recall. Every so often I go back to check them out and see where I’ve been, what I’ve loved and learnt. So here, in no particular order, are a selection of highlights from the past six months:

Morad smiled,

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The Colosseum

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Spectating football is a refreshingly honest experience.

Over the past two years I’ve had the chance to attend an AFL match every second week (or thereabouts) between April and August.

During that time I’ve managed to play witness to pretty much every human emotion on the books: anger, joy, frustration, elation, sadness, doubt, and a host more.

Many of these emotions I don’t get to see much anymore, particuarly in such proximity to one another. After childhood the emotional range required of most white, middleclass males is depressingly narrow.

Our workplaces have become shrines to a hindu-like mild mannered-ness, a polite wreck of diplomacy, political correctness and passivity. Out of work (which for many of us also equates to online) networks like Facebook and Twitter reduce our social relationships to a set of socially acceptable preset responses; like, favourite, heart, insert pithy comment here.

We have become increasingly good at acting in our own skin, eskewing agency for broader societal acceptance. But at the footy, things are different. In the colosseum, expressing emotions (the entire spectrum) is not only accepted, but celebrated.

Psychologists suggest that identification with a sporting team can be important to a person’s sense of self, with the impact of exploits undertaken … Read more

Using lessons from charcoal drawing to burn through to your best work

Charcoal Drawing

For me, a writer and small-fry filmmaker, cultivating the ability to surprise myself is key to a fulfilling creative career.

Sticking to what you’re good at or comfortable with might yield short term success, but it can also lead to frustration and a lack of personal growth. So part of my approach to creativity these days is to try out new forms and mediums, and see what each could add to my perspective.

Whilst writing has always come naturally to me, I have never had much natural aptitude for drawing.

I can copy a flat 2D picture with passable accuracy, but up until the beginning of the year I had never drawn more than a few minutes at a time, rarely for enjoyment, and certainly never considered the mathematical relationships between objects in a 3D space.

So to embrace the uncomfortable, I took up drawing.

At the moment I’m doing a weekly class which involves drawing with charcoal, a medium I have never really understood or used before. And when I started a few weeks ago, I was quickly unimpressed.

Previously I had been drawing with pencil, and in comparison, my first attempts with charcoal seemed unpredictable and imprecise.

My first lines were wobbly and uneven, and I found it difficult to account for the way a charcoal stick constantly … Read more

Ursula Le Guin on war as metaphor in fantasy fiction

How refreshing it is to read a fantasy novel that isn't filled with battlefield porn and white guys beating on other white guys.

It was more than twenty years ago that I first read Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, and in re-reading it this month I discovered anew why the world of Earthsea and the adventures of Ged the wizard enthralled me so long ago.

I have always had a soft spot for fantasy. As a child the genre fed and developed my imagination. But today, much of what I read feels stale and predictable, products of the genre, rather than of a great stories.

At a time when fantasy is enjoying renewed interest from mainstream readers and audiences, it feels important to shine the spotlight on authors who are more fixated on redefining the genre, than polishing its tropes and character staples.

I am always on the hunt to rekindle that romance I once had with the genre. And damn it, if I can’t get it in the present, I’ll visit the past. And that’s how I came to recently re-read A Wizard of Earthsea.

Despite being initially pitched at the Young Adult market, Earthsea is a rare breed of fantasy that I would describe as literature; having qualities that make it readable by all, at any stage of … Read more

10 Ways to Fill A Journal

This year I set myself a challenge to reflect more on the everyday through daily journal entries.

Social media tends to place much emphasis on the now, and yet, many of the most memorable lessons in life come from past experience. So a diary is my solution to that. A safe place to work through the events of the near past.

Today marks my 120th day of continuous daily journal entries.

I thought it was time for a bit of macro reflection on the process, a summation of the last few months into 10 ways to fill a daily journal entry.

1. The weather. The laziest icebreaker in the world, and the perfect start to a journal entry. Everyday I sit down to eat breakfast, open my diary, look up in deep thought and note the appearance of the street tree in front of our apartment. The observation provides an steady increment of time passing, and of progress. Each day I sit down, the tree has subtly changed – leaves fall, bark flakes free, winter exposes its skeletal form – and it has become a kind of metronome of my journaling process.

2. Frustrations. About one in three of my journal entries express frustrations with work, relationships and creative endeavours. Most are petty, many are repetitive, … Read more

Moleskine Roller Pen Review: A pen for people who don’t write much

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Ever since I can remember I have had a thing for pens.

I have delicate, womanly fingers. There I said it. And regular ball points give me finger strain. For a long time, a certain part of my life has been devoted to the hunt for a gentler, more nurturing pen.

For the last decade, my go to pen has been a black Uniball Eye Fine (0.7mm). At around AU$4.30 each, the Uniball Eye is relatively cheap, dries almost instantly and has minimal to no blotching on most paper. Best of all, they are almost completely frictionless, hence gentle on the fingers over the long term.

For my day to day writing I match the Uniball Eye with a soft cover Moleskine Large Notebook. This particular Moleskine offers a nice tradeoff between portability and writing space, and the creamy paper is generally dreamy to write on. I’m sure there are cheaper, and likely higher quality, notebooks out there, but I happily bought into the whole Moleskine cult a number of years ago, and with plenty of black notebooks already on the shelf, I now have a tradition to uphold.

Though I’ve always been fairly happy with the Moleskine-Uniball combination, lately I’ve developed a certain yearning for the kind of maturity that … Read more

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