Dec. 16, 2006

Watching the Landscape

I'm just back from seeing a documentary film called Manufactured Landscapes with my friend Adrian. The documentary followed Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky to China where he documented the grim scale of Chinese industry and it's impact on the... landscape, obviously! Burtynsky's fascinating photos of industrial activity and waste have been exhibited widely, I saw the local exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario two years ago and came home with both the exhibition book of the same name and one of his framed 'quarry' prints. Now I've seen Jennifer Baichwal's film on the same topic. I think they've covered the media bases. Perhaps a role-playing game for PS3?

So, thumbs up or down? Well, a thumb in each direction I think. The film gave visual context to Burtynsky's photos, which was helpful because sometimes you just can't believe that his images come from the real world. It also expanded them by capturing more of the human presence, which is often incidental in his photos. The film opened with a five minute tracking shot (shades of Robert Altman) along rows of bustling manual assembly lines. The scene showed both the monumental scale of China's industries and the massive and repetitive human activity that makes it possible. Watching a worker assemble a small electrical component at lightning speed and then later watching peasants tapping the metal off of computer chips for recycling reminded me that industry grinds down people as well as landscapes.

The down side? Well, it kind of dragged on and the sound track was excessively "industrial" and often grating. How many slow tracking shots can you sit through in a night? Still, Manufactured Landscapes is a mind-expanding film that illuminates and expands on Edward Burtynsky's vision and trusts the viewer to interpret it. I loved the clever juxtapositions that highlighted the economic divide in China. The remark "this is an open kitchen", for example, started while we watched a peasant's medieval outdoor stove in use but concluded while we watched the speaker, a Shanghai realtor, show off her open-concept luxury kitchen.

Sheryl got back from her cruise this evening too, I'll be dropping Barkley back to her tomorrow morning. She seems to have had a good time, although her daughter got a bit of food poisoning. What is it about cruise ships and food poisoning? Last week a different ship had back-to-back food poisoning outbreaks in spite of a "through cleaning" between cruises.

Chris had an interesting week at school. He'd decided that he didn't have to follow school rules and was encouraging other students to defy the teachers with him. Needless to say that didn't go over well, and he was given a one day "voluntary suspension" to think things over. Coming on the heels of a pretty mixed report card his mother and I have come down pretty hard on him. He seems to have a pretty poor grasp of the concept of consequences. Poor marks aren't the teacher's fault, they are the student's. Pay attention, do the work, prepare for tests, and guess what? You'll get better marks regardless of who the teacher is. Cooperate with classmates and teachers and guess what? You'll be welcomed into activities. So no computer time for a month and no TV on weekdays until the next report card. That's a consequence that is easy to understand, and with a clear solution...

I've been "re-manufacturing" my blog template lately. The new version of Blogger makes it a lot easier to add components to the pages, including the Google Ads (click! now.) that have so far earned me $0.00, so I've been able to get rid of a lot of the customising hacks I've been using. Let me know if it's not looking good on your end.

Listening to: Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap from Speak for Yourself.

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