Archive for December, 2011

31 December, 2011

Hugo, based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a fantastic film in both senses of the word.

Directed by Martin Scorcese, Hugo follows the titular character as he struggles to recover from the loss of his father. Asa Butterfield delivers an award-worthy performance as Hugo. In an odd yet successful casting, Borat plays the station inspector, adding a perfectly light dusting of humor. The costumes and set design deserve special note for their subtle touch. The clockworks of all sizes through the film impressed.

I recommend Hugo to those who enjoy imaginative, visually impressive films.


A Little Pitchy, Dog
18 December, 2011

Last week John August wrote about his opinion that only piano or guitar should be taught to children. Obviously, that generated quite a bit of discussion, which prompted him to rebut. I followed a link in that rebuttal to Dave Nuttycombe’s comments  at which I left the following:

As both a long-time reader of August and one-time (horrible) juvenile clarinetist, I feel like I am qualified to comment…

I think August is sincere in what he wrote. I disagree with much of what he writes but I agree with what I think is one of his motivations: maximizing what musical instruction children get. There is certainly something to be said for starting children on an “easy” instrument where they’ll feel successful quickly. I assume that’s why my kids learned the recorder first and not something else. I’m happy to trust that the music teachers of the world know more about how to teach my kids music than I do.

I learned the piano first but switched to clarinet because I no longer found the piano interesting. I can’t accept that I would have been better off being forced to stick with the piano or not play an instrument at all. From what I’ve seen, schools already have more than enough of an emphasis on producing good little workers and could use more of an emphasis on producing well-rounded people.

Like most children, I had a fair amount of experience singing with others and the odd castanet or tambourine playing. But piano lessons were my first foray into actual instruction. After a couple of years, when I was about twelve years old, I switched from piano to clarinet, which I played for four years, including two years of marching band in high school. I did a stint with handbells and, like my father, sang in many a choir over those years. After university, when I could afford a Jackson and an amp, I took guitar lessons.

It would be unfair to give the impression that I gave up on playing musical instruments. Rather, I discovered empirically that I have no musical talent. The trauma of public performance taught me that I have no talent in the performing arts, but I also have no compositional talent when it comes to music. I attribute this in large part to my being a visual thinker, but tinnitus is something of hindrance, too.

I love music; I always have. I fervently wished I could be a musician and spent a lot of time trying to be one. But I eventually had to acknowledge that I am a music lover, not a music maker. As much as I wanted to be able to play music, I did not enjoy the actual playing thereof enough to overcome my inherent ineptitude to get to the tens of thousands of hours of practice needed.

I have no regrets about my musical journey. I had the opportunity to learn a little about music and a lot about myself. That I would rather read a book than play an instrument is no shame to me. (I can always listen to music whilst reading a book.) Focusing education solely on maximizing skills in adulthood feels like powergaming with our children. Sometimes it really is the process, not the product.

The Muppets
11 December, 2011

The Muppets is exactly what you would expect from a Muppet movie.

Jason Segel, who cowrote the script, serves mostly as the straight man for his Muppet brother and the others in the film. Amy Adams brings her scene-stealing appeal in an understated way. Because the stars of the film are obviously the Muppets. With a knowing wink to the audience, the plot borrows from previous Muppets features. But the charm of the film lies in the charm of the Muppets themselves.

If you love the Muppets, you’ll enjoy The Muppets. I, a bloke who discovered he is more of a Muppets fan than he thought, highly recommend it.