Sunday, March 31, 2013

Påske-krim


I do dote on traditions of all kinds - especially those involving chocolate and good books - but this year, I'm afraid I'll have to pass on the Norwegian custom to gobble up a detective novel during Easter, as I'm too heavily into what I'm currently reading (disclosure temporarily impossible due to security reasons).
I'll simply compensate by overdoing the chocolate thing!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - M. Newell (2005)


My offspring abides more or less by my homemade tenet 'Read The Book Before You Watch the Film'.
Thursday, we finished the book (Horrible translation! Horrible!) so Friday, we watched the film. (Their tenet is more like 'Waste No Time'.)

Well, what to say? Harry Potter is always Harry Potter!
The later, the darker, the better!

The crux, however, (dissimilar from a horcrux!) is that the narrative flaws grow increasingly hard to ignore the more I watch / read them.
For instance, at the end of this one, Rowling felt the need to use something she calls a portkey, and so she hastily introduces one in the initial chapters.
Conceivably, this is a logical consequence of a lack of planning ahead, certainly stemming from the uncertainty at even being published. (But still...)


Friday, March 29, 2013

Twin Peaks, season 1


So this is how I have spent my evenings, lately; memorizing the circumstances around the killing of prom queen Laura Palmer in rural Twin Peaks.

'Twin Peaks' was groundbreaking 20 years ago, and the magic still operates.
Even my extremely cautious 15-year-old allowed herself to be wrapped up in the spell-binding universe conjured up by David Lynch and Mark Frost.

As often, Lynch delves into the crack between respectable citizens' respectable facades and those very same citizens' shabbier insides.
As often, his probing has a truly magnetic quality to it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I want to be a Sikh


Six months ago, on a website called Reddit.com, an anonymous person posted this picture, with the comment 'I'm not sure what to conclude from this.

Among the comments reacting to the picture was one from the woman in the photo.
Articulate, penetrating and poised only begin to describe her text :

Hey, guys.
This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture.
I actually didn't know about this until one of my friends told on Facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled :)
However, I'm not embarrassed or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it's who I am.
Yes, I'm a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair.
Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women.
However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body - it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn't reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. (...)
By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can.
So, to me, my face isn't important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. :-)
So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I've gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this.
Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. :)
 
I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.


Next came something I had almost thought was impossible in the virtual world of internet : The initial poster of the picture actually apologized!

I know that this post ISN'T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you're making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.
/r/Funny wasn't the proper place to post this. Maybe /r/racism or /r/douchebagsofreddit or /r/intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit.com shouldn't be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit's been in the news a lot lately about a lot of cool things we've done (...).
I'm sorry for being the part of Reddit.com that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn't 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It's fucking Reddit.com, where some pretty amazing stuff has happened.
I've read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.
So Reddit.com I'm sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity.
Balpreet, I'm sorry for being a closed-minded individual. You are a much better person than I am.
Sikhs, I'm sorry for insulting your culture and way of life.
Balpreet's faith in what she believes is astounding.
(...) Just because you're anonymous doesn't mean you can be an asshole.

I would love to use these heartwarming documents in class, I just can't make up my mind HOW...
They made my day, at any rate!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Home - Toni Morrison


Morrison is one of my most beloved writers (good one, eh?!).
Her narrative voice is almost as delicious as her actual speaking voice (listen to her reading her own books, you will see what I mean). 

The simplicity of the plot (a Korea war veteran returning home to retreive his younger sister) stands in stark opposition with Morrison's elaborate narrative structure, comprising various narrators, multiple focalizers - even, at some points, a character addressing the author - and frequent flashbacks.

Morrison's style is poetic and song-like, as ever.
Therefore, although 'Home' is not one of her major novels, it remains a an enoyable, high-quality parenthesis.

Monday, March 25, 2013

L'Album du Musée, Le Louvre


As a brief outline of the artwork you can expect to encounter at the Louvre, this works fairly well.

The chapters correspond to the subdivisions of the museum, and for each category, a number of significant artefacts are presented.

To finish, a compressed history of the building itself; one of my all time favourite museums! 

Rembrandt Van Rijn, The Philosopher in Meditation, 1632
Sublime in itself, and as a symbol for the human mind.
 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Peaux de Serpent - Axel Bauer


As far as I can tell, this album should be something for all ye forlorn to whom the demise of Alain Bashung in 2009 was a major misfortune, OR for all us who have harboured a soft spot for Axel Bauer ever since 'Cargo de Nuit' back in the days.
(1983, as a matter of fact.)

(What a bizarre quirk of fate to have your first hit single be not only your biggest-selling but also your most deviant from the others.)

'Peaux de Serpent' is pretty basic rock music, a bit introspective, nothing too frilly.
It's runner-friendly, which will be extra-nice, in case winter should finally decide it's time to retire.
 

Friday, March 22, 2013

London, Amazing & Extraordinary Facts - Stephen Halliday


This was interesting and well-documented, as might be expected : No tourist information, perhaps, but a multitude of more or less obscure facts on the origins of street names, buildings and the likes.

The style is anything but Britishly witty, unfortunately. Indeed, the dullness of the writing and the technicality of the information (according to the editor, the author specialises in "British and industrial history" which you sort of sense while reading) do no credit to the book.

On the plus-side : Numerous illustrations!

On the minus-side : No map.



Thursday, March 21, 2013

Veep


My expectations were high - and yet, you'd think I know better!! - but after a couple of episodes, I now wonder whether 'Veep' is not a victim of its own accomplishment.

In point of fact, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President of the US is so very much the picture of Sarah Palin it's virtually impossible to be at all sympathetic towards her.
And it may be just my old-fashioned me, but I need to be able to warm up to at least some of the characters on a TV-show, or else I'll lose interest.

Although 'Veep' isn't 'The West Wing' (but then, who is??) it remains fairly coherent; and Louis-Dreyfus is a rock.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Paris Haute Couture, Hôtel de Ville


My own wardrobe nowadays consists essentially in black t-shirts, black cardigans and jeans. Nothing too fanciful, you see.

Nevertheless, despite this apparent lack of sartorial passion, haute couture IS special, even to me.

At the Paris City Hall are exhibited 120 créations, ranging from plain everyday dresses to sequined, multicoloured evening gowns, most of them lent from the Musée de la Mode (Musée Galliéra).

My one reproach would be that the venue is too small, or too jam-packed; it's hard to see properly for want of space.
But the dresses are mesmerizing!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Parks And Recreation


The pitch is slightly different from Tina Fey's '30 Rock' but there are more concurrencies than discrepancies; the leading lady co-produces and plays the leading part of an entertainingly imperfect boss.  

Like all TV-shows that are not based on stereotypes, it takes a while to get into it, but it was absolutely worth the trouble!


And French TV, look here : It is just pitiful to have no way to catch a brilliant series like this on TV, not even on cable!
I hope you are all suitably ashamed of yourselves.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Next Day - David Bowie


Hands up anyone who had ever dared to presume the Master would ever return with music of this caliber?

'The Next Day' sounds a bit like an older, maturer relative of 'Scary Monsters' (which just happens to be my personal favourite), but of course stands well on its own.

Somehow, though, Bowie's poise and prodigy lie not so much in composing expert music as in his unwillingness to stagnate and his talent for evolving and changeing.



Saturday, March 16, 2013

Women's Suffrage Movement - Housego & Storey


Before I start preparing classes on historical issues, I like to take a crash course in the matter myself, to be prepared for at least some of the possible queries.

As crash courses go, this one was efficient and educational!
Highly-illustrated, very accessible stylewise and of course dealing with a largely under-explored subject matter.


Emmeline Pankhurst


Friday, March 15, 2013

Louis C.K.


Here is a TV show I need to pick up on pronto. So far, due to the cowardice of French TV and my own inability to get around to streaming, I have only been catching Louis C.K. on YouTube (which is acceptable, but has its limits).

Where Seinfeld will make you crack up at the trivia of everyday life, and Ricky Gervais  endeavours to be as provocative as is humanly possible, Louis C.K. will first have you snorting with mirth and then spend the following two days rehashing his theories.
Only to ultimately reach the conclusion he has nailed it precisely.

See what he has to say about the difference between girls and women :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnDH-RXCptY

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dark Matter - Philip Kerr


Kerr writes detective novels set in historical, well-researched settings.

Phycisist and mathematician Isaac Newton's inexperienced assistant is narrating this one (how original!...), taking place during Newton's stint at the Royal Mint, in late 17th century London.

It's clever and articulate; even the translation is decent!

I can find just one flaw : At no point do I read on, thinking "just ONE more page, I need to see how this goes".
There is no suspense at all, which is extra annoying for a detective story.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Never Let Me Go - M. Romanek (2010)


The pitch is out of the ordinary; orphans are being raised as organ donors to a premature death, and need to come to terms with their fate.

The novel is not Kazuo Ishiguro's best - I would have to say 'When We Were Orphans' on that one - but it is still very gifted writing, reassessing Ishiguro's obsession with the past endlessly influencing the present.

The film was not quite as worthless as it has been made out to be : Admittedly, the actors all overdo it (and that's no credit to you, director Mark Romanek!) but it is poetic, though sometimes verging on the melodramatic.



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Museum of London (well; London!)


This was a new experience for me; I had never been here before, but it was well worth a visit!

The rich history of London is retold in numerous rooms, presenting artefacts, detailed displays, films and interactive games.
A laudable effort has been made to link the past to the present which did much to heighten at least my interest in the prehistorical era.

Geographically, the museum was not hard to find (right behind St Paul's) but once inside, it got tougher. Corridors everywhere led to a constant sense of having missed out on things.

To compensate, the giftshop was a real treat!!


And some final advice : When in London, take a Duck Tour trip : Amphibious buses tour Westminster and Buckingham Palace to end up in the Thames, commented by knowledgeable and Britishly cheerful guides. 



National Gallery, London


Should you happen to feel like being squeezed almost flat on a Saturday afternoon in London, I would have advised Oxford Street.
As it turned out, the National Gallery comes not so far behind.

This place is crammed with masterpieces (and tourists).
One of my all-time favourite art museums, though preferably on a week-day.

The Ambassadors, Hans Holbein jr, 1533

Friday, March 8, 2013

Watch The Throne - Jay Z & Kanye West


However modest my passion for hiphop may be, there is nothing to do but surrender to the sheer savoir faire of this combo, and do your utmost to avoid understanding the lyrics.



I'm Telling You For The Last Time - Jerry Seinfeld (1998)


This is a stand-up comedy special which aired on HBO just after the final 'Seinfeld' episode.
It seems to have indeed been the last time he told us : As far as I'm aware, he hasn't done any stand-up comedy since, which is a pity (but also very classy! Get that, Tina Turner, with your mutliple farewell tours...).

He IS hysterically funny! An unfailing sign of talented comedians is the ability to have people splitting their sides at approximately nothing. Hence, Seinfeld rambles on about air travel, kids, supermarkets, medicine, sports, clothing...

After Tina Fey, he would be my favourite candidate to host the Oscars.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Anonymous - R. Emmerich (2011)


Once I had overcome my initial consternation ("Emmerich?! The dad of '2012' and 'Independence Day' made a drama set in Elizabethan England?") and got the hang of the plot (Shakespeare was a fraud), the film became somewhat wearisome.

Though the frequent flashbacks and the elegant setting did what they could to arouse interest, most of all this made want to see Shakespeare-plays, whoever wrote them.

Regarding the birth of his works, it bugged me a little that the film gave the distinct impression Shakespeare retired when Emmerich's ghost writer De Vere died.
Such was not the case; Shakespeare had new plays performed well into 1611, almost 10 years after De Vere's death.


By now, of course you are dying for my opinion on the fraud-theory, so here it is :
The arguments in its favour are all very fine and dandy and quite plausible.
However, it seems to me that in the 400 years that have elapsed since his death, something should have transpired at some point?
Or this is really the best kept secret in Western history.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Midnight in Paris - W. Allen (2011)


Owen Wilson literally plays the part of Woody Allen (I swear, you can frequently hear Woody coming out of Wilson's mouth. A bit like when you find yourself mimicking your mother.) travelling in time to meet a theoretically possible but statistically unlikely concentrate of subsequently famous artists ; Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Dali, Bunuel, Man Ray...

I'll acknowledge there is a certain charm to be found in Allen's predictability, BUT! wouldn't it be lovely to be a little taken aback at times? What if Wilson had actually gone on to marry his nasty fiancée in the end?


Plus, I can't help wondering : Paris on film obviously looks nothing like real-life Paris.
BUT! Whenever I set foot in the US, almost everything looks uncannily like it does on film.
How to explain that??
I guess I need an American viewpoint on Paris.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Dexter (season 7)


Admittedly, catching a series at its seventh season is the very embodiment of anti-serendipity. 
I do realise 'Dexter' was probably a whole lot better a couple of years ago.
All good things come to an end, and tv-series generally stop being good at least two or three years before anyone has the sense to cancel them.

Yet, despite the tired and cliché characters, even the most weary of plotlines (seriously, how can anyone not be fed up with serial killers????) is boosted by the ambiguity of the Dexter character himself.

It kept me up for a number of episodes, but by now I feel that at the end of the day, for all his duplicity, it remains a basic police show.
And I have had just about all I can take of those.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - T. Alfredson (2011)


Brown suits, sideburns, cigarettes and briefcases galore in this adaptation of Le Carré's spy classic.

I'll readily admit my longstanding deference for Alfredson's dad, one of Sweden's foremost comic figures, may well have influenced my opinion on this movie, which I found elegantly filmed, in a subdued, restrained way albeit more classic than cutting-edge.

Must also confess to having missed the beginning and never read the novel.
The plot - with its fifth-column infiltrators, frequent flashbacks and murmured dialogue, heavily laden with innuendo - therefore soon had me utterly lost.



Friday, March 1, 2013

Suit & Tie - Justin Timberlake


I personally don't think Justin Trousersnake is the Da Vinci Renaissance genius some people give him credit for.

I will, however, allow that he follows his own path, bravely refusing the currently omnipresent electro / dance beat.

This could be a silky-voiced James Ingram or a 'Dirty Mind'-ed, pre-Jehovah Prince.
In other words; plain, old-fashioned funk!

Video by David Fincher :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsUsVbTj2AY