Random News Stories
IOC’s Decision to alter Luge track at Vancouver 2010
Questions remain over the Olympic Luge track at Vancouver 2010
A Million dollar luge track was created for the 2010 Winter Olympics for the Luge competition. The organisers claimed it would be the fastest luge track in the world. Before the competition started there was a fatality during one of the training runs at turn 15 on the track. Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, of the Republic of Georgia,was sadly killed when he lost control at speeds up to 140 kmh crashing into the woodwork that overlooks the top edge of the track. The IOC and the winter sport’s governing body investigated the incident and said it was down to athlete error and not due to the safety of the track.
However, the IOC made a decision to change the distance of the luge run for both the men and women’s competitions. When they made this decision they said that it was to reduce the top speed that the athletes could attain during each run. The changes meant that the men should start from the women’s usual start point, and the women to slide from the junior start point, considerably reducing the overall distance of sliding.
On Monday 15 Feb 09, as the competition got under way, the father of Nodar Kumaritashvili, spoke about events leading up to the fatal crash. He said that he had spoken with Nodar before the practice run and said his son was worried about the safety of the track particularly turn 15 where he would some hours later lose his life.
His father says he warned his son to take care but he fears his warning went unheeded.
The question remains that if the track was safe and met all competition requirements then why was the decision taken to change the start points? The German women’s luge team have come out and said that the speed at the end of the run -from the revised start point – is no different to that of the planned women’s start point. This suggests that the reasons given for the major changes made to the competition do not stand up.
The changes to the start points have altered the nature of the competition but not reduced the end speed so why make them? The competition is going ahead but the changes have left the commentators repeatedly making excuses for the top class athletes unusually poor performances and making a farce out of the results table.
This looks like a quick knee jerk reaction which leaves serious questions as to whether the Luge course was safe for competition and met all the safety requirements, or whether it was a tragic accident with athlete error to blame.
The Vancouver Olympics are beset with problems at the moment not least the massive overspend on the event that Vancouver’s citizens will have to meet after the game. There have been ugly scenes in Vancouver over the weekend as protesters – against the huge amounts of money involved in the Olympic games – damaged shop fronts. Vancouver citizens claiming that public services have been cut in order to meet the growing cost of what is becoming an Olympic games that Canada may wish to forget.
Then as in Beijing 2008 within sight of the Olympic village the spotlight has fallen on the plight of the growing number of homeless in the city.
Once again questions are being asked about the Olympic legacy and with developments for London 2012, currently changing the face of East London, people want to know exactly what are the real benefits of being an Olympic host city.
I’d seen the clips and a brief “making of” documentary on Film 2010 but nothing prepared me for the complete immersion into James Cameron’s spectacular vision. I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with the whole 3D thing, I worried it wouldn’t work for me…how wrong was I. London’s iMax cinema on the south bank is huge and was apparently sold out that day although there were a number of vacant seats around ours. Who would pay up to fifteen pounds a ticket and not turn up I’ve no idea.
I liked the experience immensely I thought how I’d like to see in 3D all the time; of course we do already but somehow it’s become obsolete. I wondered how other epic films such as Gladiator and Blade Runner would look given the 3D treatment. I describe the feeling as like a visual version of having hairs standing up on the back of your neck when you hear a particular tune, it’s kind of like that but for your eyes and for a sustained period. I’m not ashamed to say that once or twice there was a tear clouding my super-enhanced vision as the emotive struggle between the Na’vi and the humans played out.
Yes the film has a very strong anti-capitalist message, money is the root of all evil, for “unobtainium” think oil. The destruction wrought by the humans is obviously rooted in anti-Americanism and more than one thinly veiled reference to the Iraq invasion, the war on terror, creeps into the script. As for the Na’vi they carry a strong ecological message about awareness of and being connected to, your environment; respecting life not destroying all in your path for monetary gain and power.
Some reviewers have dismissed the Na’vi as tree huggers but I think that is slightly misplaced and undeserved. Cameron is quite right, we as a human race are destroying our planet, only last week I learned how the wanton destruction of rainforests in Sri Lanka, the home of our close cousins the Orang-utan, is being carried out by illegal Palm Oil farmers. Without getting into the climate change/global warming debate, you can find many instances where we have in the past and continue to destroy the environment and fuel our ever growing consumption of the world’s resources. Avatar seeks a balance between the myriad of life forms and we’d do well to heed something of its message.
Avatar isn’t perfect, it is pockmarked with clichés, stereotypes and predictability. It borrows heavily from other films, but on the surface it does seem to represent something of a turning point in the cinematic experience. The 3D works really well, surprisingly more so with scenes in more compact spaces rather than the sprawling vistas of Pandora. The creation of fantastical flora and fauna on the verdant moon is stunning, the action sequences thrilling, the ten foot tall blue beings, reminiscent of doe-eyed Manga creations and the sci-fi aliens Greys.
Something else I was reminded of whilst watching the film and that was the recent discussion about people having dual personalities one for interaction online and another for the real world. This idea of being able to be something and someone else is taken to the nth degree in Avatar. The idea for us to plug in permanently and opt out of real life although inviting at first is fraught with danger including the small matter of the end of society as we know it. This grave warning didn’t stop me from Avatering my Facebook picture however.
Cameron’s epic Avatar can be seen as a solid platform for the world of 3D cinematography, you watch the film and think if they can do this now what will there be in years to come? 3D home cinemas, more than likely, 3D total immersive game experiences almost definitely, and probably a whole lot more that we can’t possibly imagine right now.
Cameron is said to be working on a sequel to Avatar which will no doubt cost millions of dollars as this one did which kind of flies in the face of the anti-capitalist theme but hey who am I to stand in the way of a good story…if it is a good story.
Contemporary Art Continues Despite the Big Freeze
By Michelle Dee
While the city of Hull struggled against the adverse weather conditions on Friday 8th January and people tried in vain to get home after many businesses were closed earlier than usual a group of dedicated contemporary artists were preparing for the opening night of Contents May Vary at Red Gallery in the city.
Battling against all odds the show opened on time just minutes away from the gridlocked roads and traffic chaos in the city centre. The Manchester based art collective of Alice Bradshaw, Liz Murphy and Richard Shields have in the past worked collaboratively on exhibitions. This show saw them working individually on either side of the Pennines, without communicating their ideas to each other for the show. The collective have previously used vacated buildings, car boots and other unconventional spaces to present their work and have received awards and accolades from local and National press.
Richard Shields practice explores the coming together of high brow and low brow art in everyday found objects. Entering the first white washed space you are faced with three pizza boxes on the three adjoining walls. The first box has its central image cut out revealing the corrugated cardboard structure which gives the box its usual rigidity. The second is complete, with a painted central image of the iconic Italian scene of the Bridge of Sighs. The picture has been painstakingly reproduced mimicking the styles of Canaletto and Ruskin, renaissance painters of the period. The third box, which on closer inspection reveals itself to be a canvas on wood painting, shows the box as it is used, then discarded today. I learn from Richard that the use of that particular printed image on the box has been recently discontinued so lending Richards work a sense of rarity. However by coincidence we learn that a Hull firm uses the same image albeit on a white box not the brown as in Richard’s piece. The heavy varnishing on the three boxes refers to the practice of varnishing paintings from past eras, just before opening night where they would be seen for the first time.
The middle of the Red Gallery has been altered by Liz Murphy our second visiting artist creating a new space. A space where there is an initial feeling of secrecy and intrigue as you enter. On the far wall there are the words, “This One is For Marni Nixon,” heavily daubed in black paint. The wall is lit by eleven desk lamps placed below the dedication that is shouting out to be heard and seen. Marni Nixon was the voice behind many of the musical stars of yesteryear, performances; she was the voice of Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, she brought life to Deborah Kerr’s English school teacher in the King and I, and it was Marni’s voice that Richard Beymer’s, Tony, fell in love with in West Side Story not that of Natalie Wood: although it is widely thought that Wood was deceived into thinking they would use her recordings. The truth is Marni was doomed to sing her part from behind the stage curtain because she was deemed too unattractive and for a long time no-one knew of this shameful deceit on the theatre and film companies’ part.
Liz obviously feels a sense of outrage by Marni’s talent going unrecognized and not being credited as part of the cast. This idea is taken further by a series of ink drawings covering filling one corner of the space: roughly sketched scenes from the three hit shows, but in each case Marni Nixon’s face adorns the shoulders of the leading ladies. Although shining a light quite literally on Marni Nixon’s closeted career Liz suggests the secret that the film companies’ were desperate to keep, in the enclosed nature of her constructed space.
This piece of work seems to underline our continuing obsession with superficialities; perceived beauty and pleasing appearance holding more sway than raw talent. Would we have loved the musicals any less if Marni had been credited with those favourite songs?
The third and final piece is an audio visual installation and is arguably the most powerful. Blank Newspapers asks questions about the pervasive nature of today’s mass media. As you walk into the space you immediately become aware of a hubbub of voices, emanating from four speakers placed in the four corners of the space, all conversationally repeating the word “Blah”. By conversationally I mean as if “blah” was taking the place of all the other words in a narrative, complete with different intonation, pauses and imagined punctuation.
As you move around the space taking in the looped footage of crumpled balls of blank paper all moving on the t.v. screen in the centre of the space you find your ear tuning into different Blah voices. In fact you can stand in the middle listen for one “Blah” voice and then go and find from which corner it is coming. In this way I was drawn to one particular voice, I like to think because it seemed to stand out from the rest it was the voice of the artist responsible for Blank Newspapers, Alice Bradshaw.
The opposing wall contains a row of newspaper stands in which sit blank newspapers. Alice invites the viewer to pick them up and read them. How you choose to read a blank newspaper is left up to you. On the wall are instructions on how to document this unusual reading experience and directions to where you can send your interpretations of the challenge.
I feel compelled to come up with an original innovative way to read, use or otherwise interact with the blank paper. It is this interactive aspect that would make me choose Alice’s piece over the other two if pushed. I like the idea that the art work could be ongoing provoking new ideas and extended its life outside of the space where it was first seen.
The opening night was attended by twenty or more people, good numbers on a night where many larger events would have just cancelled. One enthusiastic couple had walked a considerable number of miles to the show after their bus had given up on Hedon Road thus proving the Red Gallery’s remarkable appeal.
To respond to Alice Bradshaw’s Blank Newspaper challenge