Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Jihadi's Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising - Patrick Cockburn

Knowledgeable and experienced British war correspondent (writing for the Independent) attempts an explanation of the current Middle East conflict, responsible for the masses of refugees arriving in Europe as best they can.

Visibly, Cockburn knows his stuff, yet the situation is such a mess that even after finishing this, I was still giddy from trying to keep track of the Shiites, Sunni, Alawites, Salafists and the likes.
Quoth Cockburn : "The Syrian crisis is composed of five separate conflicts, all interfering with and aggravating each other."

He also examines the influence of the intense media coverage, rendering this a propaganda war as much as a traditional armed conflict.

In short : Interesting and educational, though all but ruined by a horrendous translation making him sound like a 1930s news-reel commentator.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Serial, season 1 (podcast)

Despite my relative aversion to murder mysteries in general and my intense love of the written word in particular, I confess to having treasured every minute of this twelve-episode podcast.

The pitch is unoriginal : A Baltimore journalist sets out to investigate a fifteen year old homicide case, unaided by all except the convict's friends and family.
And it's riveting! (I'm dying to call it a page-turner, but of course it doesn't seem appropriate.)

Now, you may argue there is something prurient and voyeuristic about delving into the death of a real-person young girl (always, always the murder victim is a young girl...) with real-person family and friends, and you will be partially right - though I don't really see how this investigation could be offensive to anyone, except perhaps to the teenager who took a life sentence for the killing. 

It's actually hard to review this without spoiling it, so I'll just provide the link to the website where you can download it all, free of charge : serialpodcast.org/season-one.



Saturday, December 26, 2015

Anchorman - A. McKay 2004

I wanted to watch 'Elf' but as it wasn't available, I decided later is better than never and so finally got around to 'Anchorman' instead.

The title is self-evident - add the 1970s and the Apatow-posse - and the film très Saturday Night Live; sometimes blah, sometimes tasteless, mostly hilarious.
Above all, it's that general impression you get that the whole crew basically was in this for a few laughs and consequently had a great time together.

SNL as a movie, then. Definitely enjoyable though I can't help thinking a feature film should perhaps feel more polished than a weekly TV-show. Yet, if it did, that would probably come at the cost of the improvisations that are directly linked to that great time I just mentioned.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Xmas, God Jul, Bonnes fêtes

Most every Christmas Eve, like most other Swedes, I watch two TV shows.
(See, we like to do all the same things at pretty much the same time. That's the downside of social democracy, the way I see it.)

One of these is 'Karl-Bertil Jonsson's Julafton' which I wrote about two years ago.

The other is a mash-up of various Disney films that holds no real interest to anyone outside Sweden who hasn't already watched it every Christmas all their lives 
(You may well go ahead and laugh, but that just described 9 million Swedes, give or take a few.)

I will therefore settle for a peaceful Christmas greeting by Jenny Nyström.

 


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Love Actually - R. Curtis 2003

It is quite remarkable how entertaining this still is, despite a substantial number of viewings.

This last viewing might actually have been one too many, I'll confess.
But then, it is after all Christmas. 
(And 'Elf', which I originally wanted, was unavailable...)


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tusen År Till Julafton

Swedish TV-tradition (OK, your homecountry may not have any of those, but in Sweden we are earnest about every kind of tradition) : 
Each December 1st sees the first episode of the julkalender. 
It can be about almost anything, mostly but not necessarily pertaining to Christmas, and it goes on until Christmas Eve, one instalment a day. 

Another julkalender is broadcast on the radio, though I'm not sure anyone actually listens to that any more. 
(Radio is so passé.) 
(Now podcasts are another matter entirely...!)

This year's kalender is SO my cup of tea! A group of children are taken to various periods in Swedish history, one era per day. The children wake up in the morning, globally unaware of how the day is going to pan out, and more or less go with the flow. They get to taste period food, wear period clothes, and are treated more or less (probably less) as children of the time they are in, sometimes rich, sometimes poor.
So far, they have for instance emigrated to America, narrowly escaped the plague, been evicted from their home, received a warchild from Finland and had their pet rabbit for dinner.

The food they have tasted I will not even go into. Most of the time, merely looking at it makes me want to puke. Kudos to the kids for actually tasting it!

History from a child's perspective, then! Love it!

(And PS yes my kids enjoy it too, by the way.)

Friday, December 18, 2015

The History of England II, The Tudors - Peter Ackroyd

The title of this opus is simultaneously accurate and a bit misleading. 
It is indeed a history of England, yet of the conventional kind - no new social realism drivel here. (On the other side, if it had been, it would have been 1500 pages long instead of 500.) As a result, it depicts Tudor dealings - in detail! - and not much else.

The Tudors being what they were (a colourful bunch!), there is much to be told!
My favourite anecdote to tell students is when Henry VIII said "F*ck off" to the Pope and created his own church, to marry Anne Boleyn and have a son, helping himself to the Church's wealth and lands all the while. A sweet deal, as they say.
This is of course then followed by all his other wives (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived), the succeeding monarchs in rapid succession - poor Edward VI who died at 15, the queen of nine days Lady Jane Grey, and 'Bloody' Mary Tudor - to finish with the long reign of majestic Elizabeth I.
Colourful only begins to describe it!

The downside, however, to King Harry's Act of Supremacy (there always is one, isn't there?) was the subsequent religious turmoil. Not only because it was hard on the English people to reform their religion pretty much on a whim, but also because religious wars are both tedious and so goddarn stupid you want to chuck the book through a window. ("Mass in Latin or mass in English? Hm. Let's fight it out! And burn a few heretics while we're at it!")

The subject-matter was mostly fun, then, and the writing was OK, though perhaps not Nobel Prize material. But then, that is not exactly what you want from a historian, either. 
(Though if you do, and if you read Swedish, I can recommend Peter Englund!)


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kingsman - M. Vaughn 2014

However Tarantinoesque, cinema-aficionado and reference-filled this action comedy may be, it also contains much of what I consider to be the very worst kind of entertainment violence, because actually intended to make you laugh. 

It is with some reluctance, therefore, that I must admit to finding this - despite a couple of drawn-out episodes during which I closed my eyes - in the end, all things considered, notwithstanding certain undeniable weaknesses, fairly entertaining. But violent. 


Monday, December 14, 2015

Adam Lambert Original High Tour, Europe 2016

Seriously, Adam, WTF?!? 

Far be it from me to wish to find fault in your visiting tiny Scandinavian capitals (not everyone does, and believe me, I know what I'm talking about), but honestly, why must that exclude Paris??
Are you worried about terrorists? Offended that we haven't bought enough albums? Or is it me? Did it vex you that I found the album more of a Max Martin-album than anything else? Don't you want a woman to stand up for her opinions?

Please, reconsider!

 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Curtain Call - Eminem

I'm having something of an Eminem-moment, as a logical spin-off to my recent 1980s festival.
That I didn't really listen to this much in the early 1990s may be the reason to my current enthusiasm - or it could just be that this is brilliant music and Eminem is a genius?


... And as a Christmas bonus : A brilliant remix of 'Business' (not on 'Curtain Call'). 
(Obviously brilliant : Remixed by Norwegian Matoma. Scandinavians have such class..!)
 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015

I'm sorry if this sounds horrifyingly condescending, but I must confess there is something rather satisfactory about having already read the Nobel Prize winner before the award!


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Walking Dead, season 1

OK, so I watched a mere two episodes of these, but truth be told, my opinion was all set even before the end of the first. 
(Yet I swear I walked into it with an open mind! I am not opposed to zombies on principle. Enjoyed 'World War Z' - on paper, that is.)

My opinion is this : Zombies and stereotypes both feel terribly outdated. 
I have simply watched too many good TV series to stick with this kind of crap.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Kylie Christmas - Kylie Minogue

This was certainly heaps better than Ariana Grande, though admittedly that is not saying much.

Both superficial and lightweight pop artists, Minogue benefits from her 30 year long experience and capacity to pick talented people to work, thus ensuring a higher overall quality. This is still not my type of Christmas album, but it's passable.

(That posthumous duet with Frank Sinatra, however... When you are an average talent, it's generally a good idea to stay away from immortal legends.)

Instead, listen to Michael Bublé, Mary J Blige, Babyface, Barry Manilow or Barbra Streisand!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Kisses - Ariana Grande

In case you wondered, this is precisely the type of Christmas music I, despite my love for all things Christmassy, have absolutely no stomach for. 
But then of course, I don't much care for Ariana Grande the rest of the year, either.

In case this is your cup of tea, though, you will perhaps also enjoy the album I will be reviewing tomorrow... /music of suspense/

(DID YOU SEE THAT CLIFFHANGER?! The suspense is UNBEARABLE!)



Saturday, December 5, 2015

Christmas Market, Swedish Church in Paris

Not quite as crowded as usual, and plenty of Swedish candy, ginger snaps, Christmas decorations and hot dogs, though this morning they had already run out of gingerbread dough, which was basically what we came for. (Too lazy to bake, we had planned on following my 11-year-old's advice "Let's get dough and eat it.")

Should you be looking for some item less in demand, you may also want to have a peep at the Boutique Suédoise, right next to the Church. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

En Finir Avec Eddy Bellegueule - Edouard Louis

Every once in a while, it just happens : Everyone raves over a book, then I read it - and find it actually IS every inch as magnificent as it was claimed to be!

Yet, this opus did not have much going for it, storywise. Autobiographical accounts of an outsider intellectual in a boorish, underprivileged smalltown family aren't exactly on top of my reading list, I can tell you. 
I can't bear pessimism, and before this, I wouldn't have thought it possible to tell this kind of story in an objective mindset, without poring over the sordid parts, especially as the story is the author's own.

No whining, then! A clear-eyed, detached view on his family, expressed in a dispassionate but elegant voice. 
No wonder he has won so many awards. All well-deserved.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Allt Jag Inte Minns - Jonas Hassen Khemiri

Khemiri is, as I belive I may have mentioned before, Sweden's second best now living writer. And the hottest by far. There is absolutely no way in hell any low-expectations principle could be even remotely applicable to any of his works. 
Quite fortunately, there is no need, as he always meets even the highest of expectations.

There is an elegant fluidity and quirky idiosyncracy to his style that no other Swedish author comes near. He deals with subjects that are universal - here; love, friendship, personality, money, social exclusion - in characters that are generally underrepresented in Western literature. Plus an absolutely irresistible, subdued, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour!

The multiplicity of narrative voices relating the same events from conflicting point of views logically ought to render this somewhat cumbersome to read, yet the story is so addictive I gobbled it down in a couple of hours. 
Regrettably! It's already over now!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Daylight Gate - Jeanette Winterson

For all the giant print, ample margins and thick paper, there is no disguising the fact that this is more of a novella than a novel. A quick read, therefore, though you may also want to set aside some time for digestion!

Bold as ever, Winterson writes about a major witch-trial in early 17th century England, blending historical accuracy - most characters have really existed, and the context of religious upheaval is quite authentic - with fiction, as much is necessarily unknown, 400 years later, allowing for Winterson to take some liberties with the plot.

It certainly takes both courage and skill to pull off a book dealing in subjects such as witches, sorcery, talking severed body parts, satanic masses, paucity, torture, the devil and all sorts of gothic regalia, not to mention sex and violence. 
Winterson possessing both skill and courage, she not only carries it off, but also broaches issues of feminism and personal beliefs. All in flawless style!
 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Scorsese at the Cinémathèque de Paris

I've never been an unconditional Scorsese-fan, and this afternoon it became embarrassingly obvious why : Though familiar with his recent films, I don't remember ever having seen 'Mean Streets', 'Raging Bull', 'Taxi Driver' or even 'Cape Fear'
I have, however and unfortunately, seen 'After Hours', 'The Colour of Money' and 'The Aviator'...

Most of his films were present at the exhibition, much to its credit, though some definitely more present than others...

In all, I found this interesting, instructive and not overly technical.
The exhibition focuses on film extracts, rather than on props and script pages (though these are present too, down to the Scorsese family table...), classified thematically round the recurrent motifs of his work; New York, brotherhood, sin, atonement, redemption...

Exhaustive and engaging.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Feber - Gradvall, Persson, Lokko & Olsson

Four male, middle-aged, high-brow Swedish rock-journalists together created the website from which these reviews are extracted. Of the albums under study many are unknown to me, and most were recorded by male rock or jazz-musicians, and so the testosterone levels in this anthology are excruciatingly high. It says something about the quality of the writing, therefore, that I still leafed through all the 500 pages in the teeniest-tiniest font I had ever come across on paper. Stylish phrasings and knowledgeable authors are an unbeatable combo! 

The reviews are somewhat akin to mine, and to Nick Hornby's in that they are overwhelmingly very positive, as they are bound to when you get to pick what you want to review (Well, in Hornby's case, the white-clad Polysyllabic Spree does it for him, but as they hold him in a firm grip...)   


On the music itself there is much to be said (as they do!). A friend of mine (the knowledgeable Professore) claims rock music is currently assuming the same status as jazz music already has; i.e. an elitist, rather high-brow type of music, enjoyed by people who discovered it in their now lost youth. 
There is something in that, I reckon, although some of us of the lost youth are experiencing difficulties in coming to terms with the situation...



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Heart Blanche - Cee-Lo Green

Quite possibly, you may need to share my tast for bombastic music production in order to fully appreciate this one, but then if you do, chances are you'll dance yourself into a hip dislocation. 
Quite reluctantly - from what I gather, Green is a nitwit, to put it nicely - I confess this is high-class, number one, top-notch, super-funky r&b! 

 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mars Attacks! - T. Burton 1996

So, this hasn't aged a day and is still absolutely hilarious!

And that is hilarious despite my strong aversion to violence supposed to make you laugh, and despite the current state of affairs in Paris and elsewhere. 
Whenever the Martians X-ray someone to death, I'm in stitches - especially when it's the white dove in the desert..!

 

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Mary Christmas - Mary J. Blige

Should you care for some pre-Christmas songs performed by a lady so classy it actually physically hurts, but your Phil Spector-album is all worn out, then this wittily-named album is for you!

Love it, and love it even more that it features Rodgers' and Hammerstein's wistful 'My Favourite Things'.

 


 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jack The Ripper, Pitkin Guide

More light reading from the Tower of London souvenir shops! 
The subject matter is suitably gruesome and the treatment here balances deftly between prurience and historical facts, the main problem being that there is simply not enough of those (hard facts, that is) to keep going for very long. 
Which is why a thin volume like this is probably just what you need in the Ripper-case, though I am of course aware thousands of pages have been written on the issue.

Did I learn anything new from this? 
Can't think what that would be, I'm afraid. It did however get me thinking about perhaps doing something on Jack the Ripper in English class. A roundabout way to study Victorian England, perhaps?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

True Detective, season 2

As the only way to go from the top is down, proceeding from a hit show is necessarily something of a quandary.

Mercifully, Pizzolatto sidesteps the main pitfall of simply putting in more of everything, from gory details to victimized women (though there is still more than enough of both, thank you very much). 
He does not, however, quite manage to keep the storyline clear and understandable. 
On the contrary, I found it so convoluted some episodes almost gave me a headache - while this might, of course, also be linked to the constant change of director (Fukunaga, come back!). The final three episodes were way above the rest, to my taste.

The actors are all brilliant, the characters nuanced and subtle and the show has pretty much everything you could reasonably ask from a good detective series (perhaps too abundantly, even). 
Still, it took me a bit of discipline to keep going after the first two episodes...


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Friday, November 13

This is all going to take some time to digest. 

For the record, I tend to agree with Joann Sfar : This is not about religion (unless you find solace in it, of course!). 
It has nothing to do with Islam, either. 
And it should reasonably work wonders for our understanding of, for instance, Syrian refugees and their reasons for leaving their country.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Masterpieces in the Van Gogh Museum

A masterpiece of a book from what I think was the best museum I visited all this year!
Vincent's brother Theo, Theos widow Johanna and their son endeavored to preserve and promote Vincent's work, and accomplished this with as successfully as ever Priscilla Presley, albeit with slightly more taste.

The collection of over 200 paintings was kept together and lent to a museum in the 1930s by Vincent's nephew. The institution that eventually became the Van Gogh Museum also houses a whole heap of letters plus paintings by Van Gogh's contemporaries.

Though Van Gogh's art may be an acquired taste - I know it took me some time to appreciate it - this book is educational for all; short, yet informative, texts commenting on the 100 selected masterpieces, all presented in the same order as at the museum. Geography matching biography, they make for a dazzling journey through Vincent's life, up to its precipitate closure in Arles, after a mere decade of highly productive painting.

 
Wheat-field With A Reaper, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889



Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Life Is Easy - Bright Light Bright Light

Behind this oddball pseudo lies an indie Welshman, producing what for all intents and purposes appears to be quite clever and danceable and pop-ish electro-music.

I had never heard of him before - let alone heard him - though he must have been at it for a while, and / or doing well since this album includes duos of him and Elton John as well as Ana Matronic, of the sadly dormant Scissor Sisters.

I somewhat hastily downloaded the remix version of this album - 'Life is Hard' - which I am beginning to regret as I now think the original version might be better. 
You want to buy the original instead. 
(Or perhaps both? Indie artists deserve support!).


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Splendeurs et Misères at Musée d'Orsay, Paris

I remember visiting the Musée d'Orsay a good twenty years ago (feels like the day before yesterday, though...) and having been very moderately impressed with its content. 
The low-expectations principle, therefore, automatically applied.

Despite those favourable circumstances, today I was yet again more impressed with the building than with the paintings. 
The bottom floor is horrendous, unless you are into romanticism and symbolism. 
The second and fifth floors were more enjoyable, though the large number of impressionists from a very restrained period (1848-1914) made them all but indistinguishable, with a few notable exceptions (Hello, Cézanne and Van Gogh!).

Initially, we went to see the permanent collection, yet as the imagery of prostitution titillated my significant other, we went through the exhibition as well.
It all became a bit too much for my already overheated brain, but I'll say this much of it : It was extensive and extravagant, overflowing with paintings (few of which were very memorable), photos, ancient erotica, books and even an interesting piece of furniture used by King Edward VII (allowing him to somehow have sex with two women at the same time - no further information was provided, sadly. I'm having a hard time visualising it - all the while carrying his considerable girth). 
In all, I would perhaps label the exhibition history rather than art, but it did avoid the pitfall of the 'happy hooker' myth, so I was thought it was OK.

 


'Olympia' by Edouard Manet, 1865


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Feu - Nekfeu

For the life of me I cannot figure out why, but the fact remains that French rap just doesn't do it for me.
No obvious reasons spring to mind; they are not all of them Maître Gims. 
Nekfeu, for instance, feels genuine and fairly clever. Still, it simply feels weird. Which is a pity, seeing how productive France seems to be in rap music : It would be so convenient to like it!


On the plus-side to my not appreciating even Nekfeu : What a relief to discover I don't systematically take to all white rappers!...


Monday, November 2, 2015

Haunted London - Rupert Matthews

Well, yes I'll own up; No matter how much tourist junk I already own, nothing can keep me away from gift shops at historical or art museums. 
This I got from the Tower of London; a quick and entertaining read intended for shopping-nuts like myself. With any bit of luck, I might even be able to retain some of it in the future, to spice up my forthcoming London tours.

My favourite haunts are these two :

The 'original' old Lady of Threadneedle Street; not the Bank of England, but the spirit of the elderly woman who for many years returned from the grave to wait for her brother, former Bank employee eventually convicted of fraud.

The hand of Oscar Wilde, penning witty Wilde-isms ("Death is the most boring thing in life, except marriage and dining with a school-master.") at the now demolished St James's Theatre.

A light read, physically and metaphorically.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Rocky Horror Picture Show, 40th Anniversary au 104, Paris 19th arrdt

1975 saw the release of the film version of the London musical Rocky Horror Show. 
Although not an immediate success (to say the least), it can still be viewed in selected cinemas today. The viewings are generally quite a trip, as you get your money's worth in rice and water thrown at the audience by the performing crowd (and by the audience itself).

Yesterday's birthday party took place at a roomy venue, filled with people of several Rocky-generations, many of them in disguise.
The film was, of course, the main attraction. While watching it is definitely an experience to be shared, the large number of people who shared it had both up- and downsides.

On the plus-side, seeing hundreds of people doing the Time Warp all together was clearly a kick and nothing you get at the tiny Studio Galande, where there is simply no room to stand up during the film.

At the same time, the room was way too big for any of the usual comments or jokes to be within earshot of more than a couple of people. For the same reason, the screen was out of reach for the acting crowd to touch it, or point to anything on it. The role of the audience - which is really crucial at the RHPS! - shrunk to a mere presence.

So, in short : A one-time experience, but nothing that will in any way compete with Studio Galande.


As for the rest of the evening : 
The Bubblegum Screw are in dire need of a new sound technician. (And possibly better acoustics.)
DJ Moule was an interesting acquaintance I hope to renew!


Friday, October 30, 2015

Agincourt, 600th Anniversary, Tower of London

Admittedly, the exhibition in itself was fairly modest - someone had a lot of fun displaying about 30,000 painted tin soldiers on a battlefield - yet the event in itself serves to commemorate this major battle. Actors in costumes roamed the Tower grounds, among with indecent amounts of tourists.

I confess that though I nailed the century, I would never have known the precise year of the battle, though I guess I might have if I had lived in victorious England, rather than in defeated France.


I'm beginning to think I should henceforth perhaps start travelling to London on my own. As I keep bringing different people every time, I also end up seeing the same sights every time. And there was a Goya-exhibition going on at the National Gallery!!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

I Farans Riktning - Viveca Sten

As an author of crime fiction, you can follow one of at least two paths : 

In the Tana French-manner, you can attempt innovation of the old whodunit-genre, over a century old by now and containing a number of more or less unavoidable items.

Or, like Viveca Sten, you can sing the same old song for the gazillionth time, reducing your personal input to choosing the names of your characters (which you then have reappear in book after book, so choose them wisely). I may be exaggerating a tiny little bit, but you get my drift.

I know which I prefer, and I reckon you know too, by now. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Edvard Munch : Van Gogh)

Forerunners in expressionism and impressionism respectively, of similar mindsets, exhibiting Van Gogh and Munch conjointly is not so far-fetched as it may seem. 
I found Munch's work of extremely uneven quality, however, and we went mainly to see 'The Scream', which seldom leaves its Oslo headquarters. It was a bit of a letdown, if truth be told : Though the image is powerful, the pastel on cardboard does it less justice than the reproductions, heightened in colour.

The rest of the Van Gogh Museum, though, was absolutely brilliant! 
A crushing amount of paintings (over 200!) from a mere decade of work of a supremely talented artist, displayed by chronology and - as it happens - geography, enriched by works of contemporary artists (mostly French, mostly Van Gogh's buddies and colleagues; Gauguin, Pissarro, Millet...). 

Wonderful giftshop, as well... Loved it!

Vincent Van Gogh, Bedroom, 1888

 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Darling River - Sara Stridsberg

Parallels to existing masterpieces are always tough to pull off; all the more so here as Stridsberg has chosen one of the Top 5 of what may well be the most brilliant books ever written (Nabokov's 'Lolita'). No book nor author can really take the kind of comparison Stridsberg inevitably exposes herself to. 

The juxtaposition doesn't do her any good, obviously - though I seriously doubt I would have appreciated this in any case. Contrary to 'Beckomberga', I found this unbearably arty and conceited. The symbolism was so heavy it physically made my shoulders slouch.
Pompous way out of proportion!


Monday, October 26, 2015

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Oh, but this was magnificent, indeed! 

The building is grandiose, more so from the outside than on the inside, admittedly, yet roomy, lofty and elegant inside as well. 

The mix of paintings, furniture, sculpture, china and miscellaneous artifacts made for variation and cultivation. The signboards were informative and easily read (as opposed to current Parisian fashion, which dictates text in dark grey on light gray on signs placed somewhere waist-high. Try reading them in a crowded room...)

The Nightwatch is large enough to be admired from afar (Not that it's exactly Mona Lisa's fault that she is so tiny, but convenient it is not.) and text sheets with extra information were available for the curious. 

The giftshop was a treat.

Ik wond het geweldig!


The Nightwatch, Rembrandt Van Rijn, 1642


Friday, October 23, 2015

Hot Fuzz - E. Wright 2007

Puny Simon Pegg as an elite police officer transferred from London to the English countryside, and acolyte Nick Frost as his amateurish colleague = All the ingredients you need for a classic odd-couple, fish-out-of-water police comedy.
BUT THEN appears a masked, sanguinary serial killer, wreaking havoc among the Stepford Stanford residents...

This was not as side-splitting as 'Paul' yet sufficiently irreverent and catchy to be fun on a rainy night.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Wikileaks, La Guerre Contre le Secret - Moreira, Herrmann

The older I get, the more often I have to remind myself that the only alternative to ageing known to man is dying. The downsides to gaining mileage are not that many, in point of fact, but they are crucial. (For instance : Death moving closer by the minute.)

One of the damnedest of these downsides, apart from the one mentioned above, is my inability to form a distinct opinion an any consequential matter. Whenever I lean toward one side, the other pops a valid argument, so that in the end, I take everybody's points and find they are all more or less right to some extent and there is no way I can ever take side.

Wikileaks is one of those hopeless issues. Assange's personality set aside; irresponsible idiots or or fearless whistleblowers?
I want to conclude at the second option, yet I do see the arguments for the former as well.

Twenty years ago, I would have known exactly what to think of them, I'm sure.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Lost Continent - Bill Bryson

I was already familiar with Bryson - He is incredibly prolific and has written interesting books about nearly everything (Shakespeare, trekking, his own childhood, history...) though his distinguishing feature is travel literature.

Here, he rambles across the American continent by car, missing out on only a dozen states. At the time of the book, he had already been living in England for a number of years, so by and large this is a rediscovery of the country he grew up in. 
Myself an expat, I can certainly relate to his bewilderment and irritation at finding how -  deceitfully! - the country has changed while he was away. You do feel sort of let down, though thankfully I'm not as irritated at Sweden as Bryson gets at the US.

His irritation, of course, is hilarious; laugh-out-loud-on-public-transport hilarious! 
All the more so as this is a fairly old book - 1989 - and young Bryson was, apparently, much less congenial and jovial than older Bryson, which was the one I had read before.
In scathing terms, he ruthlessly disapproves of modern America's ever-present consumerism (and the town names; Tapwater, Dead Squaw, Dunceville, Coleslaw, Colostomy...)
 
From now on, I am definitely sticking to younger Bryson!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

www.popcorngarage.com




66 references to films to find in some Hollywood-hoarder's garage.
As absorbing as time-consuming as frustrating.

(My first score was a disgrace. I'm "no John McClane" according to the site. So you see why I just have to try it again, at least once.) 
(Or until I get a better result.)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Straight Outta Compton - G. Gray 2015

 
To my mind, biopics are not really films. I won't go back on why (though my reasons are right here, should you care for them). 
Therefore, I won't linger on the plot, the language or the inexistent role of women in this film, as they don't really correspond to anybody's creative choices. 
It retraces the early years of N.W.A, pioneer west-coast rappers and superstars of today. The story smacks of reality but is not very original, as many band-stories tend to be disturbingly similar.

As far as biopics go, though, I found this unobjectionable enough. 
Director Gray doesn't come off as possessing much artistic integrity; it feels as if he has pretty much captured on film what Dre and Ice Cube has told him to. 
I may be wrong there, of course. Still, some artistic ambition betters almost any film.

To compensate : kick-ass music!


Friday, October 16, 2015

1980s Festival

There is a 1980s revival festival going on in my ipod. 

I'm not sure exactly what happened - I have always staunchly fended off any temptation to wallow in nostalgia, and smugly looked down on people my age cavorting merrily to Boney M or Modern Talking. (Though the difference may lie in quality : Boney M was crap even in 1978. Music doesn't automatically improve with age. It's not wine.)

Surprisingly, I now find myself running merrily to :
The Pet Shop Boys,
New Order,
Alison Moyet of Yazoo, and 
Duran Duran!

I have, however, decided to try and stay away from the Simple Minds. 
At some point, you simply have to draw a line.