A film night causes worry for the future of the written word.

IMG_20140727_104524I watched a film tonight. I wanted my mind off my dissertation so I can read it again with a fresh mind (we’ll see…) but I’m not too sure my choice of billing for the night were the best. Considering, I initially spent the day reading Keith Richard‘s Life while listening to the Rolling Stones, I was already in a “mood”, if you catch my drift. You mix that with some red wine and months of isolation and selective insulation in order to get the dissertation done, watching Kill Your Darlings was just the kind of “it” that was bound to work its way right in my head.

What initially caught my attention was how Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan in the film) asked Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe who, no matter what, is for me still odd to see be someone else than Harry who I grew up with, sort of, although I personally thought he did a brilliant performance in this particular film – in The Woman In Black on the other hand… not so much) how many people started the Renaissance (p.21), and after receiving an answer asks how many started the Romanticism (p.22)?

Two and five, respectively, apparently – according to the script and film-version-Allen Ginsberg, if you were wondering.

But see here, this is where I stumbled. 2 and 5? Who? How? What about the others? Maybe I’m still in my research mood – and unused to sleeping what else do I have to do at 10:45 at night on a Sunday, I began researching…

The Renaissance, at least in Italy, can be considered to have begun around the years 1350 to 1400  But to the questions of WHOM started it. Well, there are options. Which are more than two, as Ginsberg in the film suggests. How about IMG_20140727_120552The Medici family? Or then the bundle of individuals such as Dante Alighieri (“the greatest literary work ever written in the Italian language”, ref. 1), Francesco Petrarch (“Father of Humanism”, ref. 1) and Leonardo da Vinci (“THE quintessential Renaissance man, not only in his artwork, but in his outlook on life. Driven by imagination and curiosity, Leonardo was not just an artist, but a scientist, a mathematician, a musician, an engineer and a writer to name but five”, ref. 1). But this again depends on which city you would consider as the “birth place”; Florence? Rome? (ref. 1-2)

And what about the Romantics? Where “no other intellectual/artistic movement has had comparable variety, reach, and staying power since the end of the Middle Ages”. How about attributing the origins to Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm who began to collect the popular fairy tales, till then passed through generations as oral tradition. What about Shakespeare who almost single-handedly reformed English language? Or maybe Wordsworth? Or Shelley? Or later on Blake or Keats? (ref. 3-5)

Then what Kill Your Darlings shows, the Beat Nation. The New America – The Jazz era had everyone in fever.

And in the end… What do we have now? What has become of us?

What is literature that is permanent? Regardless of time or generation, belief or politics? It is something that we would label now as ‘classic literature’, or in other words it is a work of literature that “has stood the test of time; and it stands the test of time when the artistic quality it expresses – be it an expression of life, truth, beauty, or anything about the universal human condition – continues to be relevant, and continues to inspire emotional responses, no matter the period in which the work was written.” (ref. 9)

I have been brought up to love the written word, to respect the books, the stories, the ideas of others, the imagination. My mother is a collector who instilled in me a love of reading so much so that I was an avid reader and “storyteller” before I went to school. My godmother was more cautious – book spines are not to be bent! I like my book to look worn out, exhausted – read through thoroughly. My father, recently, as well as joined with the latter part of my studies, gave me the spark to start examining and reading (or when not reading, at least watching) Nordic Noir and Scandinavian Crime. My recent chat with Hannu, a Finnish-weird author, got me reading My Struggle from Karl Ove Knausgaard (ummpf is all I can say). And the more I read, and the more I read and more I learn and more I hear – I wonder – what is “it” for this generation? The now? What is to become of us?

Who do we have now that we will remember in example of literary prowess, with such passion, with ever-continuing impact on the way we think or even speak, with such torn opinions as we do remember Shakespeare, Faulkner, Kafka, Marguez, Douglass, Dickinson, Ginsberg, Dylan, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Emerson, Stein, Whitman, Pound, Baldwin, Baraka, Zola, Night with Bookshelves_Article PortfolioAngelou… Too many to mention. Or the books, the books nearly every student will have to read or will one way or another come across that changed history – 1984, The Art of War, Anne Frank, Incidents in a Life of a Slave Girl, The Second Sex, The Prince, Moby Dick, Walden, A Room of One’s Own, or (if you want to go there) how about The Bible?

What is 21st century equivalent of Dadaism,  Naturalism? Realism? Modernism? The Post modernism? Existentialism? The Beat Generation? Is it, dare I say, “YOLO”? And what have that produced in terms of cultural revolution that will taunt and inspire us for generations to come?

Is reading different in the 21st century? If you read the comments under the article, you see most people seem to think that literature hasn’t changed, but people have. The way we read. We prefer (and I use the term “we” very loosely here) shorter, more condensed form of information, whether high literature or a news feed on our social media. We read in fragments, on the go, on our tablets or smart phones, while commuting or sitting in a cafe… Who reads sprawled, long, demanding texts anymore? Is this the reason for the surge of short stories?

There is aplenty of literature worth to read in the 21st century. There is a lot of new wonderful writers and styles to pay attention to. But what have we come across since the 80s that is “norms shattering”, groundbreaking and bending the existence, mind-blowing like we had so much until the earlier part of 21st century. (ref. 8-10)

I have no answers. I’m trying to find some.

For a Salzburg University final exam I once interpreted Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost as to mean we have a long way ahead, life and work, before the solace of sleep that is death (my professor disagreed, though she said it was an interesting interpretation; she rather thought it was about the hardships of daily life). Can we also assume that if there’s a lifetime ahead, there’s hope? I do hope there is more to come that will cause worldwide shudder and raise again the ability to adore, have patience and improve concentration – and for this, we need also world literature, to break out of our comfort zones and be exposed to new and unfamiliar, even uncomfortable, there must be hope, as Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve, | And Hope without an object cannot live.

 

See more at
1. http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/so-how-did-renaissance-begin
2. http://www.ducksters.com/history/how_did_the_renaissance_start.php
3. http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/romanticism.html
4. http://classiclit.about.com/od/britishromantics/a/aa_britromantic.htm
5. http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/lecture16a.html
6. http://classiclit.about.com/od/forbeginners/a/aa_whatisclass.htm
7. http://www.gradesaver.com/writing-help/what-makes-classic-literature-classic/
8.http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2010/06/28/25-writers-who-changed-the-world/
9. http://www.nypl.org/blog/2014/01/28/top-25-books-changed-history
10. http://rodmarsden.hubpages.com/hub/Thirty-Books-That-Changed-the-World

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Crying Therapy – retraining your emotional rollercoaster

A cry baby, difficult child, always whining and making a fuss, running about with no aim, singing and making up stories, screaming when unhappy, laughing when happy. Every emotion conceivable out on the open, like a one-child-full-circus performance. That was me. To certain extent still is. But it’s different now – less outward, more inward. I like to act up, be a little crazy, hyper and hype others around me.

Pursuit - Empowering Post-natal Depression by Saila Turkka and Aija Oksman

Pursuit – Empowering Post-natal Depression by Saila Turkka and Aija Oksman

But sometimes I do feel the pressure and sadness in me, struggling to get up some days, having trouble sleeping during others. In my previous post, I mentioned how working on Saila’s story had me facing up my own inner feelings, the hidden depressive episodes or trying to come to terms I don’t have to carry the world on my shoulders – just myself.

It was easy, as an emotional, uncontrollable child to just burst all the emotions out, make everyone aware I was having a feeling right then and there. But that caused a lot of trouble for me when growing up. I learned that not everyone wants to be part of my kaleidoscope of inner experiences. But at some point, somewhere around the time I was, oh, fifteen or so, I lost it. I wouldn’t, couldn’t cry, not in front of others. I was scared of that side of me.

And I taught myself not to. I trained myself to hold back, keep control. Instead of crying, I might get really angry. I would still experience the rollercoaster of emotions, but I would rather keep the negative in and let the positive out in massive bursts. It was, and I was, exhausting. But see, crying is good for you. It lets out pain, stress, fear, anger… It makes sure you won’t consume yourself in all those emotions.

I was just recently reminded by some good old friends how I shouldn’t pretend all is good when it’s not, I should tell them, reach out and let go. That there’s nothing wrong feeling bad, just as there’s nothing wrong feeling good. No one is omnipotent all the time.What with master thesis hand in day looming ever closer, once and a while a good cry is needed.

Secretly, over the past couple years, I’ve discovered what I call “the crying therapy”. There is a time and a place for showing your emotions, but not showing any isn’t healthy either. My therapy is simple; I deliberately read or watch something that I know will get me emotional. And I’ll keep watching and reading till I actually cry. I try to unblock a flood of stress, anxiety and fear that builds up as part of a normal ever-day experiences of being a student, of living far from your nearest and dearest or just being so damn tired that you need a good cry to balance yourself. See, I’ve always been extremely emotional, but a lot of the times I’ve been too afraid to go with it.

I’m trying to learn that if it makes you cry, cry. There’s a reason for it.

And sometimes, we just don’t get how much pets, our family, means to us; “I died today”, by Duke Roberts (http://www.robynarouty.com/)

Books;

The way I read and the way I think about what I’ve read is something I’ve grown up with my mother, who is an avid reader and a gentle soul (but she lets her emotions out even less than me, so maybe there’s a family tendency to get emotionally constipated till eventual burst of the carefully built dams). I have always loved the world books and stories bring you in, and quite often, unexpected, catapult you into completely unknown. For example;

The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom) always got me thinking…

Twelve Years a Slave (Solomon Northup) – and other slave narratives, which were my primary focus in African American literary studies in Salzburg – real stories, real people… You know?

The poetry of William Blake has many that I know well, and always gets to me;

When the stars threw down their spears 
And water’d heaven with their tears: 
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
– The Tyger

And more recently, I shed a good few tears over The Guillotine Choice (Michael Malone and Bashir Saoudi).

And films, my god the chimera of films! So many to mention… The Kid, The Elephant Man, Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, Sophie’s Choice, The Snowman, CInema Paradiso, The Boy in Striped Pajamas… I think the this clip is a good example; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtnrBEyVIwg

Music… This is harder to pick examples from. It gets you unexpectedly, anytime, anywhere and it can be a silly pop song you have memories with, or something that brings back bad memories, or other kinds of memories, confused thoughts, or brings you back to childhood fandom.

Random videos I’ve stumbled upon;




http://faithtap.com/410/you-are-my-sunshine-sang-by-elderly-couple/?a=1
http://faithtap.com/1326/birthday-video-for-rachel/?a=1
http://faithtap.com/1120/homeless-lottery-winner/?a=1
faithtap.com/962/a-homeless-dog-living-in-trash-pile-rescue/?a=1

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Take yourself into consideration – the MLitt Publishing Project

It is said that one in four has some form of mental illness. Look around you; if it’s none of your friends, it’s probably you. The easiest to ignore, when there is so much to do, to achieve, to learn, to perfect, is yourself. What you need and should have around you to be that perfect person you long to be.

MoodboardA while back I began a project for my MLitt studies together with Saila Turkka, for the lack of a better word – my “cousin” (my mother’s best friend’s middle daughter whom I more or less grew up with, so as good as a cousin, right?). The project is to show off the MLitt students’ abilities in all the things we’ve gathered in our knowledge and skill baskets over the length of our studies.

Mine became a sample for a book that is in planning (and in making as soon as a sponsor/financial backing/commissioning is secured) on Saila’s first hand experience as a mother with post-natal depression.

I was lucky to have such a fantastic project partner in Saila – the back and forth with us was continuous, ideas were flying and the project was changing weekly, if not even daily. From humble 16 page plan into the final 28 pages it was a journey of learning and exploration.Pursuit - Empowering Post-natal Depression

Saila is an inspirational woman. She is a woman, a mother, a wife and a survivor. The way she openly discusses her journey from succumbing into post-natal depression, with links to her past depressive phases, through her struggle to find proper care into her current life as an artists and a chairperson of HELMI,  non-profit mental health organisation that “wants to attack prejudices held against psychiatric patients and those who are not in the mainstream of society”.

The project was my chance to explore and use CS6 that I had no previous experience with (and I have to say, it is a wonderful creative program, a must-have!) and to be creative again. I missed that. I don’t think I have delved so deep into something creative in years. What made it an exploration was how all the discussions, all the research and how close I was with the project, how it made me look back inside the pits of my own mind.

I have always been a loud, non-stop speaking, hyper personality (overwhelming in my excitement) – at least out on the open. But in my own mind there are recesses and pathways that I prefer not to wander about too closely. Remembering how some years ago it had a very adverse reaction when I did. I like to be in control and I like to fill any silence with noise, either with my actions or incessant blathering. I have had many a teacher, professor, friend and family sigh and roll their eyes at my out-of-controllness. Perhaps it is all combined or symptomised with my ADHD, but surely part of it is just me. Just me not really being comfortable in my own skin at times. And this causes marked times when I cannot function.

On top of that, the past couple years a lot happened that had my head spinning, made me work nearly non-stop and despite people I love telling me to slow down, cut back and take some time for myself I couldn’t and wouldn’t. I was afraid to stop moving. I believed that I would crash if I stopped. But what actually happened was that because I didn’t stop, I crashed. I cried randomly, and not that sweet few tears that you just can’t hold back – but that big ugly mess of a wallowing in my own inabilities kind of blubbering. But naturally only when no one could see or hear me. I would also collapse on a few occassion on my way home, literally down to my knees, as I couldn’t breath, couldn’t comprehend the street in front of me and my body literally came to a halt. Panic attacks settled in.

Ultimately I got yelled at by my mother to actually take some fricking time off or else… And what I did – as a 28 year-old in charge of my own life who doesn’t need her mother to tell her what to do, right? – was go see my doctor and she immedialtey signed me leave for stress, anxiety and symptomatic insomnia.

The first week I would still wake up very early, as I was used to it, but all I had enegry for was move from my bed to the couch. And watch TV all day. Second week I still woke up early, moved to the couch but would even read books now (good books, great books, interesting books). Third week I started seeing and talking with people again, and realised all I needed was time off for my body to function again. What comes to the functions of my mind, well, that is a whole other matter that is yet to be determined.

The project had a profound impact on me. It got me thinking. It got me wondering. It got me to admit perhaps, just perhaps, my emotional turmoils do need more attention than I allow them for, before they are to swallow me up as a whole. It is never, ever easy to admit there might be something wrong, there might be something that needs looking after, that you are not perfect and invincible – especially when that something is not palpable.

What Saila has taught me is resilience, to learn from what we go through to become who we are meant to be. Pursuit was and is for me much more than an university project. I am now stronger and happier, I am ready for my future and I am my own person.

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Martins the Printers

April 24th, 2014 | Posted in Blog by Aija Oksman
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How are books made? If you ask a publishing student, you are in for an earful on the wading through a pile of slush in the hopes of discovering the next Hunger Games-trilogy or the next Booker Prize winner – something that stirs either financially or inspirationally. After that you will get an in-depth description of the editing and the decision-making processes all the way from typesetting, cover design to the final version. You might hear about the printing but the emphasis definitely is in the processes pre- and post-printing. That is what we know. That is what we can do. A publisher would not explain the whole printing process not as much for the lack of knowledge than for the fact of it being very mechanical and very distant form the publisher’s actual job. Therefore, the class of 2014 was in for a treat when we got to visit Martins the Printers at Berwick-upon-Tweed and get that rare glimpse to the inner workings of the printers.

David Martin, the sales director at Martins the Printers, kindly welcomed our group and gave us some history to the printers (printing since 1892 with newspapers and since 1950s they have focused on books) before unleashing us in two smaller groups to the belly of printers. Our guide Paul Waugh took us through each of the specific processes required in making a book, showing us the function of each machine and explaining in detail the time frames, the order in which each step is made and the differences between litho and digital publishing. As David and Paul both emphasised that is good for us young publishing hopefuls to know: the biggest differences that have come up through developments in printing is the effective cuts in costs; no more warehousing and the whole process is becoming faster and cheaper, enabling publishers to keep up with times and move their stock much easier – and this is definitely where the future of publishing is steadily moving towards.

The best way to show the process of printing is to visualise it through the snapshots taken through our tour.

Paul showing a printing plate

Printingplate2

 

First of all we went to see the creation of the printing plates, and how the printing plate is then entered into the machine that in the offset printing (economic way of producing large quanitites in one go) prints on the large sheets of paper before those sheets are taken to the next step.

Folding1

Printingplate3

 

The next step is the folding. The machine actually folds the large print sheets into correct combinations of pages and spreads. The man standing there then stags the fold onto a gurney, ready to be wheeled to the next step.

 

SownAfter the folding the pages are then sown together, the binding and glueing ready to be made. After sewing the covers get glued on and a version of the paperback is done.

 

The boys at the glueing machine were over-zealous in their testing, ripping Gluedcovers2covers and pages apart, destroying perfectly well-made ready books for the sake of testing. Heartwrenching. As seen in the above picture of tossed pages and covers of Tim Burton’s book. Never thought I could make such girly shrieks.

 

 

FinalisingThere is one more machine to be mentioned, besides the amazing hand-made Warmbookwork that follows each procedure to ensure perfection – and that is the “finaliser”. It is a machine that rounds the corners and compacts a hardback, to give it that book-look. There is nothing better than having that fresh-from-the-oven book in your hand, warm like a roll on  Sunday morning.

 

Definitely a tour every publisher needs to make regularly to keep up with the changes happening in the developemnts, and to understand the actual process of printing. It is a process to be appreciated and respected. It takes knowledge and skill and is an integral part of book making. Insightful.

 

IMG_20140213_144719

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From Footlights to Limelight

The last two days there has been a news piece after news piece on Footlights, the only work of fiction Charlie Chaplin ever wrote, is being published – despite Chaplin never having intended it to be. In essence, the novella became one of the simplistically wonderful films Chaplin ever created – Limelight (1952).

Now, I’m not much of a film critic, but I thought Limelight deserved a few kind words, in the wake of the recent news. And despite the numerous bad reviews the film has garnered over the years, for me, an old film buff and a film student, this film was always “The One”. The One that combined the talent of Chaplin in each and every way – his original music, his comedic skills, his sense of reality and his strong conviction on how the talkies, in his opinion, was the end of cinema. Chaplin has admitted himself how “all” in the film is autobiographical – but also requested that fact not to be read into too much. Perhaps Chaplin felt his popularity was waning, his career coming to an end – America was turning against him due to his unpopular vocal opinions, talkies were taking over and the man himself was growing older by the minute, the times of the Tramp were over.

The expressiveness and contrast of Calvero’s day-persona to his clown on stage is remarkable. The sentimentality of it is heart-wrenching at time, uplifting at others. Maudlin yet grand. In a nutshell, in Limelight Chaplin plays a caricatured version himself – a washed out clown, down with the luck due to his alcoholism, not considered funny anymore, as explained in the compelling scene with Calvero and Terry, portrayed by the beautiful Claire Bloom, (and do listen to the dialogue with the beautiful main theme):

00:36:08,560 –> 00:36:11,640
To hear you talk, no one would
ever think you were a comedian.

00:36:11,920 –> 00:36:16,160
I’m beginning to realize that.
It’s the reason I can’t get a job.

00:36:18,200 –> 00:36:19,320
Why?

00:36:21,160 –> 00:36:23,080
Because they have no imagination.

00:36:23,560 –> 00:36:26,440
Or think because I’m getting
on in years I’m old, all washed up.

00:36:28,040 –> 00:36:31,520
Never! After hearing you talk.

00:36:32,640 –> 00:36:34,520
Perhaps I drank too much.

00:36:35,000 –> 00:36:36,640
There’s usually a reason
for drinking.

00:36:38,720 –> 00:36:40,480
Unhappiness, I suppose.

00:36:42,240 –> 00:36:44,120
No, I’m used to that.

00:36:46,160 –> 00:36:48,720
It was more complicated.

00:36:49,800 –> 00:36:53,080
As a man gets on in years
he wants to live deeply.

00:36:54,160 –> 00:36:58,680
A feeling of sad dignity comes upon
him, and that’s fatal for a comic.

00:36:59,160 –> 00:37:00,520
It affected my work.

00:37:00,720 –> 00:37:03,520
I lost contact with the audience,
couldn’t warm up to them.

00:37:04,720 –> 00:37:06,960
And that’s what started me drinking.

00:37:07,160 –> 00:37:08,960
I had to have it before I went on.

00:37:09,160 –> 00:37:12,320
It got so I couldn’t be funny
without it. The more I drank…

00:37:13,160 –> 00:37:15,040
It became a vicious circle.

00:37:15,320 –> 00:37:16,280
What happened?

00:37:16,480 –> 00:37:18,600
A heart attack. I almost died.

00:37:19,320 –> 00:37:21,080
And you’re still drinking?

00:37:21,280 –> 00:37:23,440
Occasionally, if I think of things.

00:37:23,960 –> 00:37:26,760
The wrong things I suppose,
as you do.

00:37:27,640 –> 00:37:29,760
What would you like
for your breakfast?

00:37:30,320 –> 00:37:32,800
What a sad business, being funny.

00:37:33,680 –> 00:37:36,080
Very sad if they won’t laugh.

00:37:36,600 –> 00:37:38,120
But it’s a thrill when they do.

00:37:38,320 –> 00:37:40,920
To look out there
and see them all laughing,

00:37:41,920 –> 00:37:45,200
to hear that roar go up,
waves of laughter coming at you.

00:37:45,520 –> 00:37:47,680
Let’s talk of something
more cheerful.

00:37:48,000 –> 00:37:50,240
Besides I want to forget the public.

00:37:51,200 –> 00:37:52,960
Never. You love them too much.

00:37:53,160 –> 00:37:55,560
Maybe I love them,
but I don’t admire them.

00:37:55,760 –> 00:37:56,880
I think you do.

00:37:57,360 –> 00:38:00,040
As individuals, yes.
There’s greatness in everyone.

00:38:00,720 –> 00:38:03,720
But as a crowd, they’re like
a monster without a head

00:38:03,920 –> 00:38:06,520
that never knows which way
it’s going to turn.

00:38:07,160 –> 00:38:09,240
It can be prodded in any direction.

00:38:10,000 –> 00:38:14,240
I keep forgetting about breakfast.
How about some poached eggs?

Chaplin, ever the perfectionist, entrenched himself in every aspect of the production – the music, the acting, the writing, the choreographing… Every bit has Chaplin all over it. I’m gushing, I admit, but this film is the quintessential Chaplin. The embodiment of his massive body of work, and Calvero is Chaplin. One man’s extraordinary talent shown in every aspect from humour, body art to music and dialogue. Everything in it rightful place, a piece of perfection.

Despite the sadness, the resurrection, the cathartic atmosphere of the film where Chaplin tackles the inevitable irrelevance of an aging performer, there is so much love and beauty in it as well – and nothing embodies the palpable love Chaplin creates in his films like music, in this case the Spring Song:

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Artificial can be real

Sick days have their benefits; such as catching up with design work for the upcoming project for Uni, doing further research for dissertation and generally doing things in my own pace, not stressing out, relaxing as much as possible – with copious amounts of tea and excellent literature and a film or two tossed into the mix, for the heck of it. I went through all of the Harry Potter films (first time ever!) when my fever was too high to think anything more intellectual and all I want to do is scream episkey or whichever spell that would clear my sinuses. Then I saw the Wolf of Wall Street and honestly felt nearly sick to my stomach just from over-the-fricking-top carousal.

Multitasking

Multitasking

Then today I wanted something more stimulating. Interesting, if you will. And first I saw Frances Ha, although I have to admit it failed to grip me in any interesting way, despite how I usually love Noah Baumbach‘s style (The Squid and the Whale is one of my favorites, which I saw years ago at Dublin Film Festival whilst studying film at DBS). I ended up spending much of the film time with fidgeting about with InDesign and my project (and browsing Reddit once in a while…), not paying much attention to the film. Shame, I’m sure it’s really good. Just wasn’t for me, not today.

But then – I just finished watching Her. Spike Jonze’s (creator of greats such as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) visualisation of a future where people and computers work side by side, comfortable with one another. Where the world hasn’t (yet) been overtaken by the master mind machinery and technology but rather, the computers are colleagues, friends and partners; like another human being, sitting in the next cubicle. Luckily, Jonze doesn’t go overboard with the futurism, and sticks to simple hints of advanced technology and bigger, edgier buildings counter-balanced by the rather 50’s styled costumes. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), heart-broken and cocooned in sadness, but loved and lovable protagonist, ghostwrites letters; beautiful, personalised, heart-felt letters that a layman would not be skilled to write. That’s his job – dictating beautiful words to a computer that prints the letters in the individuals own handwriting. So far seems rather dull. I start fidgeting again. InDesign, now that I have learned how to use it (thank you, Laura), and want to make the best possible job.

Then Theodore installs a new program. A hyperintelligent operating system that is designed to make his life easier, to provide him assistance and to anticipate his needs. And now the smouldering voice of Scarlett Johansson fills the screen, in the role of Samantha. The emotionally void Theodore, surviving through the pieces of his failed marriage, Theodore and Samantha quickly build a rapport. A rapport than rather surprisingly develops one night into love-making, and the love-making turns into a relationship.

Now, loving a physical object is not that surprising – I definitely have a strong connection with mixed emotions with each my bookshelf, my film collection, my MacBook and my easel – but what is surprising, is how no one (par from the ex-wife, who accuses Theodore of always having wanted a relationship with a machine in order not to have to deal with the reality of physical woman) bats an eye on the relationship. Having an OS as one’s girlfriend seems to be a socially acceptable and even a normal thing, and Theodore is not alone in having such a relationship. Especially, with an OS like Samantha who has a personality with spunk and tenderness, keen eye and quick wit; and someone, who by her own words, is constantly developing learning. Ideal woman, right? Especially as Samantha is painfully aware of her lack of a physical body, and finds a woman who is willing to be the body for them. To be the physical representation of Samantha, so Theodore would have someone to touch, hold and make love to. Ultimately, though, that proved to be too strange for Theodore – the girl wasn’t Samantha.

A love story like no other. But in no means is it strange. That’s the strange part. Their relationship is like any other. With the first highs of being infatuated to the point of nauseating, spending all free time together, falling in love. Then the first cracks appear, and bit by bit the relationship slides towards the growing apart bit that is the end of many relationships.

This soulful, captivating retro-futuristic film had me from Samantha’s first introduction till the end glued to the screen. Admiring the beautiful cinematic storytelling of Jonze, a brave take on how technology is becoming more and more part of our daily life, and how ultimately we learn to accept that and not be afraid of it. Even accepting it as our partners in life. Artificial intelligence seems that much more real and palpable; and when (or if?) it becomes part of our reality, will we believe the OS/AI’s are just mimicking us, or are they actually learning and developing despite us? It is the constant balancing out and flipping over of what is expected, the general assumptions versus what is illusion and made up. An unconventional reality. The beauty of transition from technology to person, from friend to relationship and back to being alone shows Jonze’s command on the material, the inner investigation – a romantic film like any other, just one of the participants hasn’t got a body, but does that make it any less real?

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Uuganaa Ramsay: Mongol Memoir Book Launch

Mongol Book Launch
On January 16, 2014, Uuganaa Ramsay’s memoir Mongol  held a successful launch at the Waterstones on Argyle Street, Glasgow. The occasion is grand in all meanings of the word; turn out is great, the memoir is a powerful expression of a woman’s journey from a happy care-free childhood into a mother who lost her child, and for Uuganaa it is a physical sign that her son, Billy, will always be remembered.

Uuganaa Ramsay and Sara Hunt

Uuganaa Ramsay and Sara Hunt

Uuganaa begins her short speech with thanking those important in her life, holding back emotions is palpable both from

the audience and Uuganaa herself, especially as her father is sitting there – on the first row, unashamedly tearing up

both for bride of his child and the memories Uuganaa’s words evoke. Her words ring true to her descriptions of a childhood where she was loved, supported and (in her own words) even spoiled – for Uuganaa her family and friends, her experiences and the support she received is gold in many layers.

Why did Uuganaa decide to write a book so personal, so touching? She tells the listeners how she began to write her blog after Billy died, to have Billy live on people’s minds, and have something tangible that will always be there – especially as a copy of Mongol will always be in the British Library.

That being said, for Uuganaa the memoir is not just about Billy – Billy is big part of her story, but she also wants to emphasize how she wanted to write about Mongolia, Mongolian culture and the word Mongol, to show that people from Mongolia can be normal, like Uuganaa, as Uuganaa has had to explain during her student times. In essence, it is a memoir of Uuganaa’s family values, culture and language as much as a memoir of the memory of her son who happened to be Mongolian, and have Down’s Syndrome.

A powerful paragraph in the memoir is when the doctor has related news of Billy’s Down Syndrome to Uuganaa and her husband, with the note that is might not be as obvious due to her ethnicity (Mongol, p.12). This was the first step towards countering the use of the word “mongol” in a derogatory way and to start advocating the correct use of the term to mean the nation full of history, the ethnicity and the language only. Uuganaa’s wish is one day to have people see the term through Mongolian eyes; just one nation among all the others.

After introducing us her book, Uuganaa read three short pieces from the memoir; all very different and all very

Uuganaa Ramsay

Uuganaa Ramsay

emotional, and all very important. I mostly remember them already from when having had the chance to talk with Uuganaa for the Saraband book trailer, the difficulty deciding what to read that would show the nuances of the memoir. Uuganaa started with the beginning of chapter three (Mongol, p.18), reliving the memories of her happy childhood in the ger, a portable, felt-covered, wooden-framed and circular traditional Mongolian home. Next Uuganaa reads the part of when she had to explain Down’s syndrome to her mother, and how it was as much an emotional as a cultural shock, trying to explain something that was unfamiliar, and have that mother’s initial reaction of “no, no, no. Not my girl. You have gone through enough in life. You can’t suffer like this.” (Mongol, p. 10). Last but not least, Uuganaa finished with a bit of humour after all that upheaval – cultural differences between couples (Mongol, p. 15) where Richard, the husband-to-be, was giving Uuganaa a compliment which actually for her was an insult: “Not too long after we were together, he commented that I looked tanned. I was offended. I was so offended that I didn’t talk to him for a day.” Naturally, it was all a misunderstanding but does put life into a perspective, thinking what the Western culture yearns for versus what is considered attainable in the East.

Uuganaa’s reading and speech had the listeners emotionally opened and drained that in the Q&A there were not so Mongol Book Launchmuch Q’s as there were thank you’s and praise for Uuganaa’s bravery for writing her memoir, voicing out the culture and the importance of Billy as a human boy despite his ethnicity or extra chromosome. A father speaks how having his daughter taught him to be more in touch with his feelings and how, like Uuganaa, he has benefitted from the enormous support of other parents (also, absolute must would be the Ups and Downs Theatre Group). Another one of Uuganaa’s friends thanks her for writing such an important work, and implores her to translate it into Mongolian so the memoir can be shared back home as well.

Uuganaa finishes (before signing a massive pile of books for her audience) with thanking Scotland and her family for giving her a voice, for being open-minded and supportive. And maybe what with all the support she has received, there could be another book about to be written?

Find out more about Uuganaa and her views at the wonderful interview by Trish Nicholson.

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Christmas in the Oksman House

DSCN4612It is Christmas. This is one of those gushing, love of the written word and love the print book writings that I could not help but to write, after having been stuffed with food and warm drinks, after having opened the sweet presents, and as the tradition follows, having come home to myDSCN4644 mother’s house, where books are everywhere – by the last count 1750 counted for books cover the walls of mother’s Belgian home’s and Finland‘s summerhouse walls, books that I have admired and some that I have read, books that have been read to me and books I hope to one day add to my own slowly growing collection. Books everywhere.

Christmas is all about books for us as well; traditionally Santa brings us both bundles of books – this year I got to add Charlotte Brontë’s Villette in my collection, together with Shakespeare Unbound and a book on coffee and pasta! My mother found from her stocking a Booker price shortlister, another one for her Anne Donovan collection, the first of Simon’s Cat series as well a trip to memory lane with the orginal of an old favourite, one she had only ever read in translation before.

On top of adding to my collection I have a new “hobby” – I’m lucky to get to read slush for a publishing house, which keeps me busy on quiet moments (I do not fare well with nothing to do – keeping busy keeps happy). Having just finished one manuscript that I DSCN4592was happily surprised with, I have moved on to read a proof of another publishing house‘s upcoming book, and find myself immersed to the rich language and story. Reading for work at a holiday – mad some say. But I don’t find my work that worky, to be honest. I enjoy every bit of the reading, planning, imagining and then the tasks that will follow afterwards. My internships are a treat for me, a proof for me that I am in the right field. I love to read, I love the feel of a book in my hand, I love having grown up with the smell of books and having been read to aloud since I was a few weeks old. A tradition that still follows in our family, with my brother reading to his gorgeous girls.

Although, each of Stirling University‘s guests this semester and previously, as well as the professors, have all emphasised how love of books is not enough but publishing is a business, and should be treated as such. Sure. After Christmas. Now where’s my book…

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Books, Beer and Biscuits – Marion Sinclair Talks Books and Publishing

Another riveting guest speaker at the university of Stirling’s publishing course – Marion Sinclair the chief executive of Publishing Scotland, and herself a 1987 alumna of the Publishing course.DSCN4609

Marion informed the class of how the combined turn over in Scottish publishing is roughly 350 million, with around 17.000 professionals directly employed within publishing, with also much of publishing related work being outsourced out of house. This means the Scottish publishing industry s roughly the same size as the cashmere and salmon industries – the two biggest export goods from Scotland. Banks, biscuits, books and beers is what the Edinburgh city as founded upon, and this is why Publishing Scotland is actively encouraging growth within publishing business – and here Marion’s message to the publishing wannabe’s coincide; it is a great time to be entering the industry. The industry is in constant move, and even if a main street publisher disappears from Edinburgh, another will start in Glasgow and eventually vice versa.

How does Publishing Scotland fit into the Scottish publishing scene and why does the publishing business need a support organisation? As a small nation with so much to offer, it makes sense to have a collective voice, a collaborative organisation that can voice concerns and operate as a liaison between organisational bodies.  Publishing Scotland is “the network body for the book publishing industry in Scotland, working to promote and protect the interests of its members, both nationally and internationally”; with over 60 members (or over 95 per cent of Scottish publishing industry). These members consist of suppliers, universities, booksellers, literary agents, publishers, and other relates to the industry either directly or indirectly. Publishing Scotland, as an non-governmental, charitable organisation, can collectively on behalf of book industry professional negotiate and find the most beneficial deals, assist in setting goals and all in all find the best solutions to all questions and issues raised for all parties involved. As Marion explains, the Publishing Scotland as an organisation offers specific, targeted advice, planned activities and events for publishing industries – including magazines, libraries and schools who are out to find the best opportunities. These activities and advice include training opportunities, marketing advice, infrastructure projects and tailored advice related directly to your organisation and the goals you have set out to achieve. And what is more, Publishing Scotland helps you find the right kind of funding. In collaboration with Creative Scotland, Publishing Scotland offers the Go-See Grants Fund; purpose of the fund is to enable Scottish-based publishers to attend national and international book trade fairs for the first time. (Deadline for this is next week – there is still time!) The other notable fund Publishing Scotland and Creative Scotland have teamed to administer, is the Go-Digital Fund which is aimed to help publishers in three areas:

(a)   in accessing training or consultancy on digital matters;
(b)  attending digital events in the UK and overseas; and
(c)   marketing their digital books and content

This fund is especially interesting, considering how the evolution of book industry is moving; it is necessary to embrace all things digital; we might not wish to consume digital but it does consumer us.

All the support that Publishing Scotland aims for is to aid the publishing professional and those just entering the business to be responsive to the sector needs, operating as the network body, offering advice, digital support and helping to get the message out there, enabling contact and assistance from government bodies where necessary. Much of the work is relating to consumers and the nature of the market. Simply put – Publishing Scotland is there to strengthen the business capacity of the members of the industry and to support them to be the best they can be, to build their sustainability in a precarious book industry; for publishers by publishers.

DSCN4610Considering that Scotland already has strong government objective for supporting creative industries (a category under which publishing fits), and how there is a strong national sense in how the knowledge economy needs to be supported Marion maintains there would not be reason for anything to change drastically whether Scotland achieves independence. There would be no sense to start creating trade barriers, alienating Scotland as a separate, peripheral entity. Marion sees the future as re-birthing of a nation, re-creation and refreshing and rather than hinder will help the creative industries stance within Scotland as a vehicle of celebrating nationality and uniqueness.

After a thorough insight into the inner operation and mission statement of Publishing Scotland, Marion reminds the students of how it is a great time to be entering the industry; book industry is not dead or dying, but it is changing. And this is why the skills gathered through the publishing course will allow each of us to set ourselves apart; the degree can show we have abilities and keen insight into the industry already as we enter it, instead of entering blindly. It is a complex industry, requiring perseverance and hard work – with the constant changes and other industry advances, there is no other way than to keep up to date. Marion especially emphasises the importance of networking – become known and know the key players, as within creative industries it is often who you know rather than what you know to be able to get ahead and to get that chance. And another rather different advice Marion gave, one we have not heard in class before, is to become numerate; know the key facts, statistics and figures and make sure you understand what they mean to your sector as well as in grand scheme of things. There is power in numbers, and ultimately – publishing is a business.

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Winter in Edinburgh – St. Andrew’s Day

Written by Aija for the Edinburgh Address Blog
Saturday, 23 November 2013 
Whereas in many countries, my own included, a national holiday is just another bad excuse for drinking more than usual – but in Edinburgh it seems to be another good excuse for celebrating the extraordinary creative power in the city and country’s ingenuity. It is not for nothing Edinburgh is considered to be the best city in the UK, and one of the leading travel destinations in the world with the ever-growing success and room for opportunities. So, next weekend it is the time for another one of those fantastic Scottish celebrations – St. Andrews Day.St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland – Andrew was first recognised as an official patron saint of Scotland in 1320 at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath an appeal to the Pope by Scottish noblemen asserting Scotland’s independence from England, and his patronage extends to fishmongers, gout, singers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers. What an eclectic mix – same as is the city of Edinburgh and the extravaganza of St. Andrew’s Day.

This year the city celebrates yet again in style and lavish – with a whole day of free events and celebratory atmosphere on Edinburgh’s Grassmarket from 2pm till 10pm – and sticking to Edinburgh’s tradition of catering to all, the whole day is free! All the shows and extravaganzas of the day showcase the very best of Scottish culture. This includes musical galore by Dougie MacLean, Blazin’ Fiddles and Breabach! And not to forget if you get hungry, the Grassmarket Market will be trading throughout the day from 10.00am to 6.00pm offering a range of quality foodstuffs from locally sourced vegetables, fish and meat to hot food with a distinctly international influence! And it is not all happening just in Edinburgh – Fife has its very own St. Andrews Food and Drink Festival l coinciding nicely with St. Andrew’s Day – on going already all the way until December 1st!

From traditional music and dance to storytelling, St. Andrew’s Day is sure to have something for everyone, and it is just another taste to what rich, vibrant and full of life city Edinburgh actually is!

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