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

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.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Queen of the Clouds - Tove Lo

I haven't checked up any statistics, but I figure Tove must have been a commonly given name in Sweden in the late 1980s (cf Tove Styrke), or is it just that they are musically talented by accident?
This Tove here is probably even more adept than Styrke, as she is an established composer and producer with Max Martin's Cheiron studios even before releasing this début album (co-author of 'Love Me Like You Do', for instance). 

Not surprisingly, therefore, this is quite a fine album! Unpretentious yet not unambitious pop music! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


I can quite easily see what attracts my eleven-year-olds to this simplistic and violent super-hero show.
I suppose it's obvious even to them what puts me off. 
(At least it is now that I have carefully pointed it out to them!)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fawlty Towers

For every episode of both seasons now I have been trying to determine who is my favourite character among the stroke-inducing staff of this family-owned Torquay hotel.
Despite Manuel's undeniable charm and Basil's dizzyingly warped mind, I think I rather prefer Sybil. Nothing better than a strong-willed, strong-voiced woman to cheer me up, any time!

And also : This has altogether aged remarkably little, to my mind. 
Or is it perhaps 'gracefully' I mean?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Osiris, Mystères Engloutis at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris 5ème

I missed out on this last time it was in Paris, five years ago; this time around, I was joined by 80% of my family and we all enjoyed it!

Obviously, more impressive artifacts can be viewed at the Louvre, and admittedly, the most imposing objects are not the ones dug up from the river bottom, but the ones on loan from Egyptian museums - but still! An exhibition is an exhibition, and this was abundant, educational and beautifully staged.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Berömda Sista Ord - Ake Persson

Persson is a journalist at heart, and his taste for storytelling comes in handy when he here attacks simplified biographies of a dozen historical persons, including Billy the Kid, Julius Caesar, Che Guevara and Joan of Arc. The bios all lead up to their more or less renowned final words, as promised by the book title.

Whenever the exact wording, or even the authenticity, is in dispute, Persson tries his best to argue his case, all the while remaining well within the scope and understanding of the history neophyte.

One that stuck with me, that I did not know of already, was Magda Goebbels, who not only committed suicide along with her husband at the idea of a life without their führer, but who also assisted all her six children in stepping into eternity for the same reason.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Furious 6 - J. Lin 2013

Well, one good thing about this : It was exactly, precisely, frame per frame what I expected it to be. The hallmark, I suppose, of a successful marketing campaign.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nidstangen - Larsson, Korsell & Jonsson

Larsson is by far the very best of the so-called Stockholm Noir authors, and so it is no major surprise that her go at youth literature soon had my at first extremely reluctant eleven-year-old breathless and eager for the rest, once he finally condescended to co-reading this with me. 
Action-packed and bloodcurdling; simple yet not simplistic. (Harder than it seems, I suppose, or everyone would do it.)


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Music Complete - New Order

Well, this WAS an exciting release! The low-expectations principle was absolutely unapplicable, yet a favourable outcome was in no way a foregone conclusion...

But WHEW!! I LIKE it! I do! It may not be groundbreaking any more, but then not even Bowie is, any longer. Intelligent and very runner-friendly music, that's pretty much all I ask for, and that they do provide!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Snow Queen - Michael Cunningham

Just like in 'The Hours', Cunningham's writing feels a bit contrived and affected. 
It is poetic and well-wrought yet perhaps over-burdened.

By reason, these convoluted phrasings ought to feel insufferably pretentious (as I thought they did in 'The Hours', though admittedly, the inevitable comparison to Virginia Woolf's masterpiece certainly did his book no good.) 

Yet, somehow, here, it actually works! That might be down to the storyline, following two middle-aged New York brothers during a decade in their lives. Though  that may not sound particularly enthralling, I am still recommending this. I enjoyed it.