Is it too late to learn to make music?

CoverYou may have been inspired to learn a musical instrument or to sing by a live act or by recordings, but there comes a time in life when you start to wonder: is it too late for me to learn? I say it’s never too late to learn, but I must acknowledge that it is too late for me to become David Russell (my classical guitar hero). Read Guitar zero by Gary Marcus for an idea of why: firstly, a lack of talent, and secondly, a lack of thousands of hours of practice.

On the other hand there is plenty of time for me to become the best classical guitar player I can be. Gary Marcus put in the time and learned to play as he recounts in his book. So don’t get put off by age or feelings of inadequacy.

But where do you start? Have a look at our website pages Have a go at learning an instrument, Music education and Music. These pages give excellent information on resources available in Christchurch. My advice: get a teacher if possible, join a society or club and be prepared for some sustained effort (Willpower is a great book to help with that!).

I’ve enjoyed my adventures in learning to play guitar. Celebrate each little step forward, don’t give up and one day it could be you up there on stage soaking up the applause!

Craft and magical thinking

book coverEvery month I read through the list of new books emailed to me and I usually find a crochet or knitting book that I need to reserve: something like AUSTENtatious crochet or Crochet master class .  It will be full of beautiful pictures of gorgeous clothes or accessories and I immediately imagine these items draped on me or the furniture. In fact, I can imagine it so well that in four weeks time, when I have to return the book, I am surprised to find that no craft item has magically appeared.

It all comes unstuck at the making stage.  Looking at the pictures and reading the pattern does not magically convey the ability to make whatever I’m looking at, no matter how hard I wish. Even buying more yarn won’t do it; that just adds to the stash. Only actually making it counts. That’s about time, motivation and work, not magic and wishful thinking.

So now I still borrow the books but I’m inclined to just look at the pictures a little wistfully then return the book. I’ll concentrate on finishing some of my many half-finished projects.

Unless, of course, a book comes along with a picture that I just can’t resist!

Tell me that I’m not the only one to suffer from crafty magical thinking! What craft books have moved you from fantasy to reality?

Books into Film and TV – Oh, joy!

Cover: Touching the voidDespite the tendency of film makers to mess books up in the transition to the screen there have been many successes. Here are two of my favourites, one old and one more recent.

Perhaps my favourite move of all times remains Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 a space odyssey. This perhaps might be considered a cheat: the idea for 2001 came from a short story The Sentinel by Arthur C Clarke. It is an excellent short story and well worth reading as are Clarke’s other shorts. The library has many collections of his short stories. Of course, the movie grew bigger and bigger and the story provides only the central segment. While Kubrick was filming the movie Clarke wrote the book 2001: a space odyssey.

It is just not as good at the movie although it may clear up a few points if you were confused by the movie’s more enigmatic moments. Of course, I first saw 2001 as you could never see it again: in full widescreen at the Cinerama, at age 10 and blown away by the music and the visuals. Most directors would be lucky to get one big WOW! visual moment in a movie; Kubrick has a whole movie full of them. Perhaps 2001 will seem slow if you are expecting to see a fast cut action sci-fi adventure but if you are willing to go with the flow it remains one of the greatest.

More recently I saw Touching the void and then I read the book. This is the story of Joe Simpson’s terrible accident on Siula Grande in South America and his survival against all odds. Both movie and book are excellent; the book takes you into Joe’s mind but the documentary vividly shows the pain and horror of his situation  I left the film festival screening with sore stomach muscles from the tension, despite seeing Joe Simpson himself talking about the events. Here is an example of a great story, told simply and accurately, allowing the drama of the situation to be the focus of the film. Book and movie offer complementary delights, the best of all worlds.

Tell us your favourite book-to-movie successes! Need inspiration? Check out the library’s page on Books into film & television. More film stuff on our Film webpage and Read the Book — then see the film.

Books into Film and TV – Oh, dear

Sometimes making a book into a movie works; sometimes it doesn’t. The range of opinion on this is huge – your love is my hate. So, at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, here is my hate: The Lord of the Rings movies.

First I want to acknowledge the good parts of the movies. The visuals were stunning, and I think captured the descriptions in the book well. In accordance with my licence to niggle I would say that the Elves were a little too Arts and Crafts and showed no signs of stunning artistic ability. But the buildings, the landscapes, the clothing, the armour – all were convincing and that was the part I enjoyed most. The acting ranged from competent to excellent. The standout was Andy Serkis as Gollum.

The movies fell down with the script. Some of the changes from the book were fair enough, such as the elimination of the conspiracy of Merry, Pippin, Sam and Fredegar Bolger when Frodo leaves Bag End. It would take far too much time to properly develop this plot point, although its elimination means that Merry and Pippin in particular lose out in character development. Then there were the additions such as the teeter-totter escape from Moria, which was just silly. Those examples were from The Fellowship of the Ring, the least objectionable of the three movies.

The last two movies lost me altogether. Dwarf tossing jokes, dumbing down the Ents, the sad twisting of Faramir and his father Denethor: all combined to push me right out of the story. The moment of no return was in The Two Towers, when Aragorn is knocked unconscious and falls into a deep river while wearing a mail coat. So he drowned. But somehow he washed up downstream (wearing a mail coat?), was kissed by his horse and rode away to further adventures. Unfortunately, since people who fall into rivers while unconscious and wearing heavy clothes drown, I found it impossible to take the rest of the movies seriously. ZombieAragorn is not a good addition to the story.

Many people do not find these issues a problem. It’s only a movie, they say, and seem to be able to ignore heaps of bad things in favour of the spectacular moment. I can’t manage turning off my critical brain, and the more I need to, the less I can enjoy the movie.

So there you have it: thumbs down to The Lord of the Rings movies. I really wanted the movies to be good and I’m really sad that I can’t enjoy them as much as I would like. It was a massive achievement to film the book at all of course,

Tell us your favourite book-to-movie fails!
Need inspiration? Check out the library’s page on Books into film & television. More film stuff on our Film webpage and Read the Book — then see the film.