Category Archives: Ethical

Man in the Mirror

I accompany the Gardiner Street Gospel Choir each Sunday evening at the 7.30pm mass in St Francis Xavier’s Church on Gardiner Street. This Sunday was a special service to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Joseph Wresinski, who strongly believed that “extreme poverty is the work of mankind and only mankind can destroy it”. He founded the organisation ATD Fourth World in the 1950s and it continues to bring the voices of the world’s poor to the corridors of power.

Take a moment and read the last letter he wrote before he died in 1988:

last-letter-jw-1988

We sang Michael Jackson’s song ‘Man in the Mirror’ (written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard) after the mass as a special tribute to Wresinski’s legacy.

Such a great track (sidenote: there are apparently two versions in the new Lego Batman movie). The outro is just fantastic. The choir (The Andraé Crouch choir, The Winans, and Siedah Garrett), the synth bass, the whole thing in a slightly other world at the end. The song’s key change lifts us from G major up to A flat major (listen how the electric piano sound is switched out at that point for a grand piano…Greg Phillinganes really lets loose!). The whole last section rests on a variety of the IV chord – D flat sus 2 – which provides the ‘open’ feeling. The bass that punctuates every six bars rather than eight, as we might expect, and this also destabilises the listener. You just have to relax into it. The singers are so confident, though, as is the bass…it leans us out over the edge of the chord, starting on a B flat, but draws us strongly back in…B flat, F, C, A flat, D flat. So satisfying! I love that the song stays in this place right to the end. Michael’s final urging to ‘make that change’ flies off at the end with infinite possibility.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Such an enjoyable film! These are just some scattered thoughts.

This most recent take on the Batman story by director Christopher Nolan has been characterised by its brilliant baddies. A deep-seated desire for revenge fuels every one of the characters who rise above the throng of Gotham to engage in the struggle for its soul, and deception is very much the weapon of choice.

Despite having seen promo shots of Anne Hathaway in a catsuit, I was still delightfully surprised at her deft handling of the mask of Catwoman’s character. Gone is the weirdness and slight supernatural flavour given to the character Michelle Pfeiffer so memorably embodied. Here is a truly suitable partner for Bruce Wayne.

Perhaps it’s just my overactive crossword cortex, but I wondered at the link between her name, Selina Kyle, and the apt adjective ‘slinky’!

Bane was amazing. A true monster, right down to his buried heart. The tenderness with which his mask is repaired by the object of his affection was beautiful.

A few musical things stood out. The music that plays at Miranda Tate’s charity benefit (to which Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle dance) is Ravel’s gorgeous ‘Pavane pour une infante défunte’, which translates as ‘Funeral music for a dead princess’. Later in the film, we learn just how much the death of a princess has brought about Gotham’s apocalypse.
There is a great moment, as Bruce Wayne fails in his second attempt to escape his prison, when the tensely pulsing strings suddenly chug to an embarrassed slower tempo. An extremely satisfying musical joke, pitched perfectly, as was all the humour in the film. (Sweeping generalisation, perhaps…your thoughts?)

Lovely reappearance by Cillian Murphy, who gets a great line as he pronounces sentence on an unfortunate victim. The hint of scarecrow in his costume was bang on.

One last thing I noticed was how the timescale of this trilogy is believable. There aren’t endless villains, nor is there endless time. A man – for that is what Batman is, after all – has but a short time to live. As remarkable as Bruce Wayne’s physical transformation is during the course of the film, he is not superhuman. There is a limit to personal vendetta. But, as this Olympic year has shown us, there is always a fresh generation of achievement, a fresh hunger to carry the ancient fire of the gods.

50 people, one question

A beautiful video. If you haven’t watched it, then please do before you read on.

The thing that struck me was the pacing of the video. We don’t hear the question until almost three minutes in. When we do, we then don’t hear the people’s answers immediately. There is nothing immediate about this video, although there are moments of quick revelation that catch the breath and brim the eye. I was so moved as I watched the faces of those interviewed as they ingested the question; the surge of emotion as they think about it is heartbreaking.

It occurs to me that the power of this video is in the connection we viewers feel with the subjects. Seeing the question break across the minds of one person, then another, then another, we are given time to really let it sink into our own minds. Each one of these individual vox pops would have been over in a couple of minutes. It is the skilled direction that makes this art. Art is about framing something, throwing something into relief, casting light on something and saying “hey, look at this”. For me, the crux of the video is that portion where they think. The answers are interesting, but it is the nameless regrets that the film touches in its subjects—among whom we, of course, are numbered—that makes this a brilliant study.