Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

In the A to Z of Becoming, Part 2, K is for kiss.

In some countries it is common cultural practice to greet friends with a kiss on each cheek. Whether the kiss starts on the left or the right cheek, and how many kisses are given seems to vary!

I don’t think anyone kisses the back of a woman’s hand and says “enchanté” any more (except in Period dramas), but other common light kisses are the affectionate placing of a kiss on someone’s forehead.

Light kisses, kisses on the cheeks, a kiss on the forehead, or deep, passionate full-mouthed kisses……they all have their place, and in their own special ways, they enhance our quality of life.

Why not take this opportunity to ask yourself about the place of kisses in your life……and whether or not you are giving enough of them?

One of my most favourite movies of all time is an Italian film called Cinema Paradiso. At the very end there is a scene where the main protagonist watches a special viewing of all the scenes the local priest cut out of the movies shown in the town as part of his regular practice of censorship. Here’s that scene…..both the music and the scene itself are uplifting, moving and, just, well, quite wonderful.

Even if these are the only kisses in your life this week, this week will be a GOOD one!

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jupiter over ben ledi


When I looked out of the window this morning I saw a bright star shining over Ben Ledi.

My Starwalk app tells me that what I was looking at was Jupiter, and it was sitting smack in the middle of the constellation Gemini. It was too light to see any of the constellation but you can see how easy it was to see Jupiter.

There’s a saying in French about taking a view from on high (vue d’en haut). The meaning is pretty clear. When you think what it is like to look out over a land or seascape from a cliff or hilltop, you get the idea. In other words, its about taking an overview, seeing the bigger picture, seeing things in their context.

Iain McGilchrist describes how the left and right hemispheres approach the world differently. The left tends to focus in on things. It’s like using a telescope or microscope. It’s great for seeing the details and analysing them. It’s a kind of digital approach. The right however gets first claim on all the information flowing into the brain. It takes the overview, the more holistic, analogue approach. In some ways, you could say our right hemisphere is well designed to allow the view from on high.

The French take a variation of the view from on high, and include the concept in the expanded one of a “view from Sirius”. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky (the planets might look brighter but they aren’t actually stars).In 1752, Voltaire wrote a story entitled “Micromegas” about a giant from Sirius traveling across the universe and coming to Earth to have a look around. Not only does the view from Sirius include the idea of an overview, but it also captures the idea of everything being seen or experienced for the first time. When you travel to a new land, the everyday reality can seem strange and new, and stimulates your curiosity.

So, when I look out and I see the bright shining Jupiter over Ben Ledi, it sets off my thoughts about taking the “view from Sirius” and takes me into the day with a sense of wonder, of open-ness, and of being able to see the bigger pictures.

Taking a look from higher than Ben Ledi, but not as high as Jupiter or Sirius shows us just how thin the biosphere is…..its a pretty thin layer in the scheme of things!



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The view from Sirius……I was exploring the origins of this idea today (it’s actually a French phrase “point de vue de sirius”), and found that someone had helpfully linked it to this clip from the great Dead Poets’ Society (haven’t seen that film in YEARS!)

I like it. In French, this idea relates to the idea of the “vue en haut” – the perspective from on high. Voltaire’s 1752 tale, Micromegas, is often cited as the origin of the Sirius reference. In this amazing, centuries ahead of itself tale, a person from Sirius, Micromegas, visits the Earth. The idea of “le point de vue de Sirius”, refers to both that ability to stand back and take an overview, something we all need to do from time to time (and which I’ve been doing on my week’s break from work these last 7 days), and, also, that ability to experience the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Years ago I chanced across a little paperback in a secondhand book shop – the poet Stephen Spender’s “Life and the Poet” where I read his idea of the poet getting into the mindset of a traveler from Earth visiting the Moon for the first time. The view from Sirius idea encompasses that idea.
However, it’s Pierre Hadot, the French philosopher, I have to thank for explaining it in his brilliant “N’oublie pas de vivre” (“Don’t forget to live”).

Whatever its origins, I think it’s a great concept – so why not try to adopt the “view from Sirius” today, and see how things look now?

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Is it just boys who are fascinated by numbers? Remember this scene from that great Scottish movie, Gregory’s Girl?

Well, you tell me….but here are some numbers I find completely fascinating.

In India, an aeon (a Day of Brahma), is 4,320,000,000 days, is followed by a Night of Brahma, which lasts another 4,320,000,000 days. That’s a total of 8,640,000,000 days.

In Iceland, there are 540 doors in Valhalla. At the end of the world 800 warriors will go through each door. 800 x 540 = 432,000.

In Babylonian mythology, there were 432,000 years between the crowning of the first Sumerian king and the Deluge.

In the Bible, between Adam and Noah’s Flood were 1656 years. The number of 7 day weeks in 1656 years is 86,400. (according to Julius Oppert, the Assyriologist)

Look at your watch. Each hour has 60 minutes, and each minute has 60 seconds. In 24 hours there are 86,400 seconds – 43,200 seconds of day, and 43,200 seconds of night (ok, not exactly, I know, it depends on season and latitude, but you can see what I mean!)

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I saw this angel overlooking George Square in Glasgow…….got me thinking about angels and one of my favourite films of all time – Wim Wender’s “Wings of Desire”. If you haven’t seen it, you might have seen the US re-make which was called “City of Angels”.
What I love about this movie is how it is a celebration of the wonder of being human. It tells the story of angels watching over people in Berlin (the original movie does, anyway). One of the angels longs for the opportunity to experience what human beings can experience, and he gets his wish, falls to earth and becomes human. His wonder at the range of physical sensations, his connection to others and his longing for love are portrayed wonderfully. It’s that “emerveillement” I’ve posted about recently.
If you’ve never seen it, you’ve missed something. The original is in German but is readily available with English subtitles.

When preparing this post, I stumbled across this fanvid on youtube, where someone has set some scenes from Wings of Desire to Nick Cave’s “Into my arms”. It works.

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The TV News each evening doesn’t carry many uplifting stories but tonight on channel 4 news they had a piece that grabbed me and fed my optimistic nature. It was about Filmclub. This is a project started by Director, Beeban Kidron, which introduces movies into schools throughout England. She’s had a trial running and it’s been hugely successful so it’s now being rolled out around the rest of the country.

“I think that stories and the telling of stories are the foundations of human communication and understanding. If children all over the country are watching films, asking questions and telling their stories, then the world will eventually be a better place. That’s how important I think FILMCLUB is.”

Oh, I agree, Beeban. Stories and the telling of stories really are the foundation of what it is to be human. Filmclub’s co-founder, Lindsay Mackie said –

“ Films have the power to raise your gaze and raise your game and give you a ticket to pleasure and enlightenment forever more….”

YES! Well, that’s aiming high, isn’t it? How wonderful!

I use movies a LOT in my teaching (I teach mainly doctors, but also nurses, dentists, vets and other health care workers). I know that some of you (yes, mrschili, I’m talking to you!) also use movies a lot in your own teaching work. This Filmclub idea has sparked a thought for me – what if I started a Filmclub for patients in the hospital where I worked? If I was going to do that, which movies would I show? Patients are often suffering and in distress. Which movies might be catalysts to discussions which encourage healing? Any suggestions?

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I love movies. I’m an addict. I think it’s my insatiable thirst for stories which hooks me. I’m not a fan of the blockbuster kind of movie that’s all special effects though. I like a movie which draws me in and absorbs me in the characters and the story. Of course, that fits with my other great addiction – books. I’m really never without a book and I’m often reading more than one book at a time.

I think movies are called movies, not just because they are “moving pictures” but because they can be so “moving” – they can stir our emotions so strongly. How do they do that? Well, here’s a slightly disturbing piece of research. Using the fMRI technique (the brain scan that shows which areas of the brain are active at any given moment) researchers observed which parts of the brain became active at particular moments in different movies and they used an interesting tool called “ISC” (Inter-subject Correlation) to see if different people had the same parts of the brain lighting up at the same moments. They picked a Hitchcock movie, “Bang! You’re Dead!”, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, an episode of “Curb your Enthusiasm”, and an unedited video clip of a concert. The results were very different –

  • The Hitchcock episode evoked similar responses across all viewers in over 65 percent of the neocortex, indicating a high level of control on viewers’ minds;
  • High ISC was also extensive (45 percent) for “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”;
  • Lower ISC was recorded for “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (18 percent) and for the Washington Square Park, or unstructured reality, clip (less than 5 percent)

In other words, Hitchcock really was the master. His movie evoked the most similar responses in peoples’ brains.

“Our data suggest that achieving a tight control over viewers’ brains during a movie requires, in most cases, intentional construction of the film’s sequence through aesthetic means,” the researchers wrote. “The fact that Hitchcock was able to orchestrate the responses of so many different brain regions, turning them on and off at the same time across all viewers, may provide neuroscientific evidence for his notoriously famous ability to master and manipulate viewers’ minds. Hitchcock often liked to tell interviewers that for him ‘creation is based on an exact science of audience reactions.’ “

The researchers claim that these techniques pave the way for the development of “neurocinematic studies” – oh my!

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