Melancholia – A Film for the Current Climate

I missed this film when it was first released in 2010 but after a couple of years I was inspired to watch it.  I was aware of the rough plot of the film before I viewed it but this film had struck a chord with me and I wanted to see how it might relate to the ‘real’ world in current times.

This film was written by Danish Film director Lars von Trier and as I am a huge fan of Scandinavian books and films such as Steig Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo trilogy – I knew that  von Triers film would be original and something to watch all the way through without a break.

Shot at Tjoloholm Castle, Sweden, in part one of the film, Justine – played by Kirsten Dunst, is a newly wed, arriving with her new husband at her sitser’s (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother in law’s (played by Keifer Sutherland) mansion.

After filming and photographing weddings for over sixteen years, my observation of the wedding scenes in this film were that they were identical to the ‘real’ thing – actual wedding receptions held by the upper middle classes.   I noticed that no sooner had Justine entered the reception, than the reception staff were already asking her to guess how many beans were in the jar at the entrance table, to win a prize – a slight first eccentricity.  Kirsten Dunst played the role of an upper middle class bride in a completely authentic way.

John Hurt plays the role of Dexter, Justine’s eccentric father.  He appears to be separated from his wife and is having an absolute ball at the reception.  He has befriended  two rather large ladies both called Betty at the wedding and can be seen dancing with both of them throughout the reception, much to his x wife’s disgust.  During the speeches scene, he enjoyed hiding the table spoons and repeatedly asking the waiter to replace them.  I have often observed that the upper classes always do indeed have huge receptions in giant castles and have an ‘air’ of eccentricity about them, especially when the father of the bride may even talk for over 45 minutes about his daughter and everything she did at primary, secondary school and university.  He will then talk at great length about how he enjoys playing rounds of golf with the groom.  The best man usually has to out do the father of the bride by talking even longer.

It’s quite clear that Justine is not happy at all being married – the happiest day of her life.  As the reception progresses, she goes into a deeper depression and starts doing ‘odd’ things to the annoyance of the wedding party.  She goes for a bath with her mother and delays the cutting of the cake.  She is later found sleeping on her nephew’s bed.  And for the icing on the wedding cake, she rejects her new husband’s advances in the bedroom and instead decides to go and have sex with the first man she meets on the estate’s golf course on her own wedding night.  Finally she tells her boss who’s a guest, where to shove his job.

Again – this shouldn’t surprise you – I have also, some years ago, shot a wedding video where I observed the bride at the evening reception, running off with male friends into a secluded darkened golf course for fun, while her newly wed husband was lying in a drunken stupor in the reception hall with the guests.

Justine doesn’t really know why she can’t be happy but she has observed the red star Antares in the sky.  It’s almost as if her mind and body are trying to warn her about something but she can only interpret this as depression.  She never once in the film says that she is actually depressed.  The final wedding eccentricity occurs when at the end of the disastrous reception, when even the groom has packed his suitcases and abandoned his brand new wife – the butler insists on telling Charlotte that none of the guests had guessed correctly how many beans were in the jar – and that there were in fact 638.

The theme music of the film was taken from Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isodole – it gave the film an almost ‘fairy tale’ ethereal feel, and I remember that John Boorman also used this same music in his epic classic ‘King Arthur’

In part two of the film, Justine returns to her sister’s mansion but her mental state is much worse, she can hardly feed or wash herself.  By now the blue planet Melancholia is visible in the Earth’s orbit.  As time goes by Justine’s health starts to improve however ironically, her sister starts to suffer bouts of paranoia and a role reversal between the two sisters occurs.  Charlotte starts to take pills and is afraid that Melancholia is going to hit the Earth despite reassurances from her husband who’s an astronomer.  Justine has no fear about the consequences of life ending on Earth, and takes on the role of trying to keep some form of sanity and control of the panicked situation.

Eventually Charlotte’s husband commits suicide due to the fear of an astronomical collision, and Charlotte, her son and Justine decided to await the impact together until the inevitalbe end of life on Earth manifests.

Von Trier based the character of Justine on his own experience of depression and the actress Kirsten Dunst also has suffered from depression.  Why do I think this movie is a film for the current climate?

A short time ago, a colleague of mine remarked that she had noticed that people around her were acting strangely – in the swimming pool and at work.  She thought that perhaps it might be something connected with the end of the Mayan Calendar which suggests that the world will end on the 21st of December 2012.  It suddenly occurred to me that for the last two years, I have also witnessed lots of people in my social networking groups, sports classes and on the roads acting bizarrely.  I’ve even had car drivers trying to knock me off my motorbike just because I ride at the legal speed limits.  I’ve witnessed people in business networking groups lose their rationale and make bizarre allegations at me in front of the whole room.  I’ve observed people in sports classes looking at me as if they want to kill me and I’ve never even spoken with them before.  I’ve witnessed family members disown each other and much more.

It then dawned on me that all of these people acting strangely, on a collective human consciousness level, are all aware of something that terrifies them, however their mind deals with this, by diverting the fear of the truth into projecting the responsibility for their fear onto other people.  Put simply, blaming everyone else with out taking responsibility for their own life situations.

Perhaps people who suffer from depression and bi-polar and many other mental health issues are, like Justine, aware that something in the future is going to happen that is not going to be very pleasant.  I sometimes wonder if mental health disorders are very much a 21st century illness as, what ever’s going to occur, will happen in the 21st century.

We have the current melt down of the financial system, banks failing, fully blown recessions, climate changes, melting polar ice caps, and the extinction of many thousands of species on Earth in the last few decades.  Many predictions over the last few centuries predict that now, are the end times, that our life as we know it must come to an end so that a new cycle can start again.  I remember in the 70’s and 80’s seeing Christians walking up and down the high street  wearing billboards printed with ‘The End is Nigh’ and just simply not taking them seriously.  Nostradamus predicted that when the worst times are over there would be a thousand years of peace on Earth, a possible paradise.

Perhaps the people with mental health issues will be the ones who end up becoming the leaders and guides of the future as, like Justine, they will have already experienced surviving their own personal hell.   They will have  a perspective on reality that will allow them to remain calm and help others deal with a future possible global cataclysm, if and when that occurs, in whatever form it may take.

This is an excellent film, with an original script and gives you food for thought.  Go see it.

Posted in film production, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yamaha Majesty 400 Super Commuter Review

Just before departure for a Biker’s Rock Night & Camping

The Yamaha Majesty 400 Maxi scooter is probably the best bike I’ve ever had.  It’s my 3rd Maxi Scooter and my fifth bike to date.  My first bike in 1995 was a Honda 125cc scooter and in those days, that was one of the largest sizes of engine you could get for a scooter.  It sadly passed away in a head on collision while on holiday in Berwick upon tweed.  In 2004 I managed to save up for my first big bike – the Honda Deauville tourer – this bike taught me a valuable lesson in what bike not to ride.  I’ 5’4″ and I often would drop this bike due to its immense 228 kilos.  I traded it in for a Yamaha Xmax maxi Scooter which was very light weight however it was not quite powerful to get me up to speed on the motorways.  I progressed onto a Yamaha XJ6 600cc inline four cylinder naked street fighting bike which was powerful and reasonably light weight, but didn’t find it’s dirty oily chain drive palatable or like the fact that I had problems with the gears on this bike.

So I decided in June of 2012 that I needed a new bike which was fully automatic with no gears, a bike that was not too heavy to manoeuvre, a bike that would keep me dry in the wettest Scottish riding weather possible, and did not have any dirty oily exposed parts.  The answer was to purchase a modern maxi scooter.

I spent weeks researching different machines – I got the brochures laid out all over the coffee table – I read up on their specifications and features, it became almost a pleasurable form of meditation.  I looked into the new ‘Hybrid’ bikes which are scooters that want to be motorcycles but none of them appealed to me as these bikes have features of the motorcycle which I wanted to get away from.

I narrowed my search down to two Japanese models – the Suzuki Burgmann 400 and the Yamaha Majesty 400.  The MJ was more expensive by £700 and I opted to pay the extra due to brand loyalty and also I liked the design features of this machine.

The Majesty has a different design from conventional motorcycles

The MJ has a very different design from a conventional motorcycle which means that someone of my build can manoeuvre this machine with ease.  All the weight of this bike is low down – the fuel tank and the engine are all underneath the rider’s seat.  The wheels are smaller than that of a motorcycle which helps keep the seat height down.  I found that I could get this bike on and off  it’s centre stand with relative ease.

I remember the excitement of riding this bike off from the dealership on the first day.  I was aware that the controls of this machine are different to that of a conventional motorcycle.  I had to remember that the left hand lever was a brake and not a clutch and that my feet did not have to move to change gear.  I found it odd that when I came to the end of my journey, all I needed to do was turn off the ignition key.  For the first few trips I’d have to pause for a few moments as my left hand would automatically want to pull the  clutch and my left foot automatically wanted to change the gear foot lever to neutral.

AUTOMATIC

The advantage of a fully automatic bike are evident when riding in town – you are constantly starting and stopping at traffic lights and junctions so it was a pleasure not to have to constantly painfully pull on a clutch lever at every stop, as I would have with previous manual motorcycles.  The MJ has no gears at all, this bike uses Constant Variable Transmission.  The first design for CVT was sketched by Leonardo Da Vinci in the 14th Century.  The main thing to be aware of is that with CVT it’s easy to not realise just how fast you’re going so it’s necessary to constantly check the speedo.   Because there are no gear changes, I find that I can pull away from a total stand still, fast, if I need to.  So the MJ is a twist’n Go machine which helps you concentrate more on the road with less controls to think about.

WEATHER PROTECTION

Suede Sandals remain 50% dry in heavy rain weather proofing test

Inevitably, living in Scotland, I would experience riding in the rain on the MJ.  I have so far been very impressed with the weather protection of this bike.  I  did a test one weekend when the rain was so heavy that no biker in their right mind would go for a spin.  I decided for fun to ride from Edinburgh’s Granton harbour to Crammond beach in extremely heavy rain, wearing sandals to see how wet my feet would get.  I found that suede sandals were 50% dry at the end of the trip.  I have now found that if I have better quality waterproofs and waterproofed gloves, I can travel on the MJ in the heaviest downpour and I will get to my destination completely dry.

BUSINESS

The MJ is the most practical machine I’ve ever known.  I bought my MJ for Business and pleasure.  Very often I have to attend business networking events and have meetings with clients and I have to look professional.  I can now turn up to events in full suit and tie and no one would ever know that I had travelled in bad weather on two wheels.  I can open up the seat and store a laptop and large leather briefcase.  At the end of my journey into town, I can store two full face helmets, my waterproofs, gloves and scarf in the bike’s boot.  Due to the weather protection of this bike, I can arrive at business meetings completely dry no matter how heavy the rain has been, with no dirty oil stains on my trousers.

For Video or Photography shoots in town, I can place my camera bag in the boot or alternatively in the top box.  I can attach my Tripod bag to the hand rails on the seat.  I’ve even travelled on the MJ to shoot weddings.

PLEASURE

The MJ is great for  taking mini trips at the weekends on the A roads.  It’s not designed  for long journeys on motorways and it’s not the bike for going out with groups of bikers who ride sports bikes.  However, I discovered to my surprise that more of my female friends have expressed interest in going for bike rides on the MJ.  It has a large comfy passenger seat and the bike does not look aggressive and I think that’s why it appeals more to women.  Even my mother couldn’t resist having a seat on it – I had never seen that before with my other bikes.  I have taken friends for short bike rides and I get much pleasure from letting another person share the experience travelling on a motorcycle.

The Majesty’s foot rests can be used as mini tables

I always take a compact camera with me on my bike rides and add them to my facebook motorcycle diary albums.  Very often I like to ride the MJ down to the coast at Crammond and take photographs.  I usually always bring a flask and sandwiches and discovered that I could use the foot rests as a mini table which is very handy – especially as the bike’s fairing stops cups from blowing away in the winds.

First Camping Trip on the Majesty

My first camping trip on the MJ was a joyous event in October 2012.  I had travelled a short distance out of Edinburgh city to Pathhead in Mid Lothian to photograph a biker’s Rock Night.  I was able to store all my camping gear in the top box and  boot, and strapped the rest onto the back seat.  I enjoyed not having to carry a heavy rucksack with camping gear as I had to previously with the XJ6.   I had a good shoot, and managed to get a sleep despite ice on the inside of my tent.  After brewing my own tea on the portable stove, I enjoyed a ride down to the Scottish borders to visit a friend.   This bike handles the twists and turns of the country roads well although due to the design of this bike, you ride in a sitting position with feet forward which means that cornering requires a little more concentration.  I found that the MJ powers up the Scottish hills just as well as my XJ6 600cc machine could.  I also managed to do an emergency stop easily at 60mph when 3 pheasants decided to walk in single file on the road in front of me.

NEGATIVES

In my humble opinion, this bike is perfect – there is nothing about it I would change as it’s so practical – however, be prepared to spend over two hours each week cleaning it.  It has many plastic panels and they all get covered in road filth on the outside and underneath in the areas where the back wheel sits.   The brake pads also produce a lot of what is called brake dust which is very very dirty if it gets on your skin.   However, cleaning isn’t generally a problem as most bikers enjoy cleaning their bike – for me it’s almost a form of meditation that I enjoy practising.  I like to polish the leather seats and windscreen meticulously.   I get great satisfaction from seeing my bike gleaming after it’s been through 4 consecutive days of monsoon  like rains.

The MJ has a 14 litre tank so when full, you can expect to get approximately  130 miles until the reserve warning indicator starts flashing.  I usually find that I have to remove my helmet so that I can reach down to the fuel cap which is slightly awkward to access compared to conventional motorcycles that have the tank as high as the handlebars.

CONCLUSION

The Majesty is the perfect commuter for Mini Trips at the weekend

The Yamaha Majesty 400 is the perfect machine for commuting to work in town and for doing your daily shop.  It will take you and a friend away on short weekend camping trips in all weathers.  It is the ideal vehicle for business people who prefer to travel into town on two wheels and still look fresh on arrival.  This bike is easy to control, the instrument display is large and clear.  The Majesty has been developed over the last 8 years and is completely solid and reliable.  At £6400 this is a great value for money super commuter that will give the owner many happy years of riding on two wheels  in comfort.

For further information about the Yamaha Majesty, there is the MajestyUSA forum at http://www.majestyusa.com

by Vincent Johnston (jinja-ninja.com  Striking MultiMedia)

Posted in motorcycles, scooters | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Versatility in Media Production is the key

When I first started working in the Media Industry, I worked as a freelance Cameraman for Video Production facilities in the Days of Analogue Video.

After re training in Digital Shooting and Editing, several years later I started my first Video Production company, offering DVDs.  After a couple of years, realising that my work level was not increasing as much as expected, I decided to add more services to the company, by taking other hobbies and including them into the mix.  I  added Photography, Digital Music Production so that I could produce my own Video Podcasts.  I would write my own scripts, produce my own music and take my own photographs, allowing me to produce in house projects on a zero budget and adapt my website to sell online products.  Of course, I had to invest in new cameras, software and learn how to use the new software.

Ten months later, I now offer my services under the umbrella of MultiMedia.  I have produced two podcasts with another two half way through production.  This year I intend to offer stop motion animation so that I can offer more ‘fun’ oriented promo videos for clients who want to promote their services using video.

Since the Launch of MultiMedia Last year I have more or less been working a 7 day week, but it’s enjoyable as I’m combining hobbies with career.

You reap what you sow, therefore I have found that despite being in the worst economic crisis of all time, I actually came out better off financially that before I started MultiMedia – so the investment in the technology an a new wesite, was worth it.

I have a passion for Motorcycling and each weekend, when I’m out with my bike clubs, I always take a compact camera, take photos, and put them up on social media sites to promote Scottish Tourism and Motorcycling.  I don’t get paid for this but I can add them to my ever growing portfolio so that potential clients can keep up with my latest activity and see the quality of my work.

I’ve also had advice from colleagues and friends on how to promote my services the best way, and have had help with some PR tips from time to time.

At a time when there are fewer media jobs combined with technology allowing anyone to be their own media producer with just an iphone, the key to being successful in the media industry is to be as versatile as possible and combine your media work with a subject you know better than your competitors.

We're adding Animation to our Media Services

Posted in film production, Media Industry, Multimedia production, video production, working in the media industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment