Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Age of Anxiety at Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

Not all the paintings at this exhibit are great art, but they are displayed thematically and properly explained. (Though the text is white on green, and on navel-level... Very convenient for reading. Not.). And there is Grant's 'American Gothic', 'Daughters of Revolution' and Hopper's 'Gas'.

What was perhaps missing, to my mind, was something from the rich array of photos depicting the gloomy American 1930s; Dorothy Lange, Margaret Bourke-White and their likes.

Still, it was a good exhibit and it moves on to London in a month so I'm glad I caught it in time.


Friday, December 30, 2016

More Fool Me - Stephen Fry

Writing books is one thing, certainly toilsome enough. 
Editing them - the famous 'killing your darlings' - is another. Almost as crucial as the writing, if this Fry mémoir is anything to go by.

Stephen Fry has a looong career of comedy, writing, speech-writing (for Labour!), TV-hosting and lobbying (gay cause) behind him. He is hilarious, most of the time, and he is also a fair enough comedian.
He knows half of London (the glitterati half) and is as lavish with namedropping anecdotes as he is with self-deprecation. He speaks openly and candidly of his former cocaine addiction.

In short, this book has absolutely everything it takes to make a side-splitting page-turner - except the editing.
As it is, there are gems in there, but they are buried in a jungle of words, rather than standing out as precious flowers.



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Edge of Tomorrow - D. Liman 2014

Tom Cruise stars in this curious mix of comedy, war action and science fiction.
It starts out as 'Saving Private Ryan', in an updated version of D Day à la 'Groundhog Day'.
It evolves into a more conventional action movie, but - and this is even more curious than the mix of genres - it actually works pretty well, especially for the first hour.

Female lead Emily Blunt. She jumps between categories faster than I change my t-shirts. And she is always brilliant.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro

Seemingly simple in structure and language, yet complex and multifaceted is Ishiguro's latest novel, as per usual grappling with his recurring theme of memory lost and found.

Set in post-Roman England, blending realistic features with mythic beasts and characters, it presents an elderly couple setting out on a quest, worthy of any old-fashioned dungeons & dragons roleplaying game. Their quest leads them to team up with a heroic warrior and a dragon-bitten youth (roleplaying, I tell you!) each on a quest of their own, of course. 
Their journey into the English countryside parallels that of their journey into their own memories forcing them to take a stand on issues of love, guilt and revenge.

Not only the theme is Ishiguro's usual business; his poetic and thoroughly elaborate yet simple style is also easily recognizable. 

Though this may not be one of his masterpieces, it remains an excellent read!


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy holidays

Carl Larsson 'Nu Är Det Jul Igen' 1907


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rogue One - G. Edwards 2016

Except that it was about a half-hour too long (probably to make up for the special-effects budget) and that there were about 200 times more male roles than female, this was pretty OK on the whole, I thought.

Though I will have you know that as far as blockbuster escapism goes, I very much preferred 'Fantastic Beasts'.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Cee-Lo's Magic Moment - Cee-Lo Green

Based on the album-cover, you'd think this album dates back from the 1980s, but that's only Green justifying his 'Est. 1980s' tastes. This holiday album is only four years old, and since this year's Christmas records have been one sorry lot indeed, my time is shared between Cee-Lo's bombastic and Mary J. Blige's more nostalgic covers

Though these 'Magic Moments' are not as funky as his latest album, they are still a lot more fun than Pentatonix 'That's Christmas To Me' or the second quirky but identical 'She & Him Christmas'.

 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Scruples - Judith Krantz

After a period of rather gloomy reads (seriously considering dropping 'Crime and Punishment' though I'm only halfway through) I decided it was time for something more frivolous.

And Judith Krantz's debut novel is pretty much as frivolous it gets! 

Like everyone else in my generation, I devoured this in the 80s, the advantage being that my young age did in no way prevent me from grasping the finer aspects of Krantz's writing, because, well, there aren't really any. 
But then, not all books need to be highbrow literature.

Krantz does not give herself out to be something she isn't; this is entertainment and nothing else. As such, it has - surprisingly! - aged gracefully. 
It is less sentimental than her subsequent bestsellers, 'Princess Daisy' and 'Mistral's Daughter'
It is also very educational in its own field, since she had the intelligence to do what many beginners do; write about what they know. Krantz was a fashion journalist and generously shared everyting she knew about the industry (possibly embellishing some of it as she went; writer's prerogative).

Though teenager anymore, I still enjoyed this a great deal! 
And though it is no Nobel Prize material, nor is it any sillier than a Patricia Cornwell or a Dan Brown.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Man Up - B. Palmer 2015

Pretty much your average romcom, though British, so with main characters looking almost like normal people (especially ever-brilliant Simon Pegg) and set in London, looking more appealing than ever. Oh, London..!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

For all intents and purposes, Austen's début novel is very much 'Pride and Prejudice' from a different viewpoint, more precisely that of Jane Bennet, Elizabeth's older, more sensible, sister. 
In 'Sense and Sensibility' the secondary characters differ somewhat (the mother and junior at Barton Cottage being, for instance, much less cumbersome than the Bennets!) yet all the essentials - the two sisters, the coming of age, the marriage plot, the social context, the withering sarcasms - are very similar.

Still, I found 'Sense and Sensibility' less of a hoot this time than when I last read it. 
That might be down to Austen's style of writing not yet having reached its 'Pride and Prejudice'-heights, or it might just be that at this time of year, I'm having rather a hard time focusing on anything at all, even predestined love matches.

Great novel, at any rate, of course.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Starboy - The Weeknd

I
I'd be completely at a loss to explain to you why it is that I grew immediately tired of Drake, whereas I'm very much into The Weeknd - similar in soft-talking smoothness, which was what I held against 'Views' - but there it is.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Woman - Justice

Although I very much enjoyed previous opuses '♰' and 'Audio, Video, Disco' I have no stomach for falsetto voices (unless they belong to Prince, and - I might add - appear on records his royal badness himself had approved for release...) (but on the other hand, Kafka had asked for all his manuscripts to be destroyed...).

The upshot (of my distaste for falsettos, in case you had got lost in the parenthesis jungle) is that I don't take the same joy in this album. Most of it is OK, yet I had come to expect better.
High expectations will ruin almost anything for you.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

XXIV Magic - Bruno Mars

Some is funky, some is groovy, most is very listenable!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Rembrandt Intime at Musée Jacquemart André, Paris 8th arrdt

Most of what lacked at the Oscar Wilde exhibition was present here : explicit, readable signs, an informative audioguide and brilliant artworks. Victim of its own success, the crowd was the only setback.

Should you have a taste for 18th and 19th century art and decoration, the rest of the Musée Jacquemart André is also well worth a visit.

 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Oscar Wilde Exhibition at Petit Palais, Paris

What I sort of expected, or at least hoped for :
- The inside story on Wilde's juicy private life, at least the (major) parts of it that were made public.
- Skilled analyses of his works, scarce though they may be.
- Explicit parallels between aforementioned private life and aforementioned works.
- A plethora of witty aphorisms, not just the most famous ones.

What I got :
- Signs written in white minuscule text on red or green background, in spooky half-light.
- Lighting that actually made it harder to read those signs, throwing shadows on them as we bent over, or creating annoying reflexes.
- Giant paintings in itty-bitty little rooms.
- Exhibits and signs without numbers or references, making it hard to see which sign commented on which exhibit.
 - And as for the content in itself; none of what I had hoped for. A rather superficial vision of Wilde's life and works, illustrated by various artworks.

Quite a disappointment, in short.


Friday, December 2, 2016

L'Affaire Dreyfus - Raymond Bachollet

Emile Zola's acclaimed 1898 open letter 'J'Accuse..!' was the turning point of the Dreyfus affair.
Captain Dreyfus had been convicted for treason and shipped of to French Guiana a couple of years previously. In 1898, evidence had begun to seep out that he had been falsely accused, and the French Army was frantically scrambling to cover up its numerous blunders and heinous allegations. 

In the course of time, Dreyfus was exonerated, though the affair remains an impressive miscarriage of justice and its innumerable oversights (to put it mildly) make it a major blot in French political history.

This thin booklet focuses on images pertaining to the business; mostly satirical cartoons and newspaper covers. Through these, Bachollet exhibits the particulars of the case in a brief, accessible style.

Two things remain with me :

1. The striking impact an image can have. Somehow, the brain absorbs images emotionally, without intellectualizing at all. Efficient, but hazardous, as means of communication, therefore.

2. What a shamelessly anti-Semitic society turn-of-the-century France was! What a piece of cake it must have been for Hitler to convince people Jews were the source of all evil.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Joanne - Lady Gaga

Though I may not have been terribly impressed with Gaga on stage, I nevertheless spent a good couple of weeks doing my running to 'Artpop'. I am a sucker for bombastic pop music!
(Which is the reason I love Adam Lambert with undying passion, despite how scarce he has made himself.)

'Joanne' is not in any way bombastic. Quite the contrary, it is an incursion into basic rock music (yes! rock music!) with the occasional jazzy tune. It is tasteful, unobtrusive, unexcessive and a whole load of other adjectives that I had never thought I would attribute to Lady Gaga.

Whether it will remain in my ipod for as long as my favourite 'Born This Way' is still an open question.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Angel of Groznyj - Asne Seierstad

In this decade-old book, my favourite Norwegian investigative reporter - the competition may not be exactly fierce, but still! - recounts her travels in the ravages of post-war Chechnya. 

The angel of the title is the head of an unofficial orphanage (orphanages being banned, as Putin claims there are no orphans in Chechnya) and the life-stories told are those of people surrounding her; stray children, deported seniors, mutilated soldiers, outcasts, childless mothers... 
Seierstad, however, would not be what she is if she hadn't also sought to question people from the other side of the social spectrum; ministers, government officials, racist skinheads and their likes.

As per usual, her writing is well-informed, intelligent, articulate, inspired and inspiring.


I also warmly recommend her book on Anders Breivik, the terrorist of the 2011 Utöya shooting.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

Roots

My own memories of both the 1980s TV version and, subsequently, of Haley's family saga are of enthrallment and fascination, though very likely my opinions were closely linked to my age and inexperience.

My own offspring, you see, did not quite share my views on the new miniseries. 
Nor, frankly, was I quite so enthralled myself with this. Either I have grown as jaded as my kids, or this was just not as good. I can't really tell.

As a history lesson, though, it is a very decent one!


Friday, November 25, 2016

The Night Manager

Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Coleman (sadly absent from all the publicity shots, to the advantage of much less famous blonde...) star in Susanne Bier's adaptation of John Le Carré's classic spy novel. 
Not being, however, familiar with the novel (because not being, sadly, much for spy literature on the whole), I would be at a loss to compare it to the film, thus smoothly removing the issue of screen adaptations.

What remains is the issue of spy thrillers and how they tend to give me a headache.
This most likely would have, too, if I hadn't viewed it from the depths of my TV couch, where I can simultaneously employ myself otherwise while watching. 
Half an eye was amply sufficient for these eight episodes which could have perfectly well been streamlined down into five or six.

Nicely done and all, though perhaps a bit uninspired. Unoriginal may be the word I'm looking for. 

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Crumbs - Chill Bump

Hiphop is evolving faster than any Pokemon, and that is a good thing!
Not that there is at all anything intrinsically wrong with gangsta rap, but the more genres the merrier, right? Isn't is super that there is now hiphop for nearly everyone?

This French-British duo reminds me a bit of personal favs Twenty One Pilots and Skepta, so my views on 'Crumbs' are probably a no-brainer. I did, however, prefer their previous opus, 'Ego Trip'. The music is very much the same, it's just that the two-minute format of the 'Crumbs' is a bit too tiny, I reckon.

Still; clever, well-articulated and runner-friendly! Not that common!



Monday, November 21, 2016

Maleficent - R. Stromberg 2014

Female-centered, celebrating friendship, beautifully decorated and certainly preferable to the classic fairy-tale version. 

The middle-aged lady I somehow seem to have become, however, definitely outgrew this stuff decades ago.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fantastic Beasts - D. Yates

YES! It works! I enjoyed it! 
So very relieved right now! I would have hated to hate it.

(Basically, it's Harry Potterland in stylish New York prohibition. Entertaining escapism!)


Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Night Of

After a night of drug-induced sex with a stranger, a confused young man wakes up in her house, to find her mutilated corpse in the bedroom. 
Whether he did it or not is of course at the core of the following seven episodes, though the main topic of this mini-series is more in the line of scathing criticism of our criminal justice system, and what it does to people.

Overall, the series bears an uncanny resemblance to the first season of the podcast 'Serial', at least in the essentials; the doe-eyed young Muslim accused of the murder of his girlfriend (why, oh why, are young girls such perpetual murder victims?..) which he may or may not have committed. 
Plus, that ambivalence; the uncertainty as to his guilt or innocence.
That realistic feel; the accuracy in particulars and settings makes 'The Night Of' seem almost as documentary as 'Serial'.
And the nail-consuming tension!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Grand Prix de France de Patinage at Bercy, Paris 12th arrdt

I tend to consider sports very much like I do porn : Though I don't mind practising them myself, I cannot for the life of me see the point of watching other people do it. 

Figure skating is probably the exception to confirm that rule. 
The gap between brilliant skaters and those merely good is abysmal, even to a neophyte like myself - and there were some truly talented people on the ice at Bercy last weekend!

The single hitch - there always is one - was that a four hour long show requires more comfortable seats. Came out satisfied, but with a sore bum.

 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

La France d'Avedon at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris 13th arrdt

Ricard Avedon's soulful photos of Dior's gorgeous 1947 New Look, frequently inhabited by Audrey Hepburn, against a backdrop of historic Paris are available for admiration at the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand.

Also on display are a number of portraits, most taken for Egoïste magazine, plus a series of videos of the artist himself. All of it brilliant! 


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hard Times - Charles Dickens

I have long considered Dickens's writings as somewhat akin to Steven Spielberg's kind of art.
They both seem quite at ease with their appeal to the mainstream audience; no flirting with the highbrows here (well, mostly no flirting..!).
They share modest yet undeniable educational ambitions and something of a political conscience.
They are both of them more into action than finely tuned psychological portraits; their characters are frequently shallow yet endearing.

Sadly, all of the above result in my dislike of them both.

On 'Hard Times' as such : 
Dickens's violent anti-utilitarian, anti-industrialist views render this frankly unpalatable.
Besides, the endearing characters I boasted in the previous paragraph are here merely shallow, followed from afar, not even remotely likable.
The plot - another of Dickens's usual fortes - is slow, uneventful and predictable.

In short, the title pretty much sums up my reading experience.

 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Felicia Försvann - Felicia Feldt

Feldt's mother is a Swedish High Priestess of child education, author of a controversial bestseller, published in the early 1980s. You might, therefore, argue that this mother, whom Feldt turns upon in this horribly public manner, at least partly gets what is coming to her. 

Feldt's narrative is that of a childhood filled with alcohol, men coming and going, moving house annually, suicide attempts, melodrama, occasional abuse and a mother whose educational methods are sometimes irresponsible, to say the least.

The mother in question has declared this book to be untrue and some of Feldt's numerous siblings have also distanced themselves from her story. 
Accordingly, sorting reality from narration is hardly possible.

Fortunately, that sorting does not feel relevant, if you choose to consider the book as a literary work rather than a tell-all. It is elegantly written, it has the features and the ring of authenticity (that Feldt's truth may be at variance with other people's truth does not necessarily make it any less true) and the main question she asks - Do you have to forgive? - concerns us all.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Skrock och Skrömt - Beatrice Norberg

I even enjoyed the booklet on ghosts and folklore in London, so that I would equally like this opus - dealing with the same sort of stuff around my hometown - was, so to speak, a no-brainer.

And yet, Norberg's book, though more consistent than the London thing, was far less likable! Few and poor illustrations, large chunks of text consisting mostly of listings of testimonies and legends, and what I perceived as a lack of enthusiasm for the subject, though it may well have been just a lack of taste in storytelling.

Fortunately, the subject titillates me! 

I have a very scientific approach to supernatural events (well, at least I myself feel highly scientific about it!) : As neither their existence nor their nonexistence have been proven, I cannot but confess myself open to their actuality. Same with god, same with aliens. 
Spices up my life, it does, this take on things!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dance of the Vampires - R. Polanski 1967

Notwithstanding Polanski's status as one of my all time favourite directors, I must own up to never having enjoyed this weird mix of horror, farce and slapstick.
Realized when viewing it again the other night I still don't.
Much preferred the musical.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Strange Little Birds - Garbage

A bit late to be discovering Garbage now, you will say (and you will be right) but to that I will reply Better late than never!

As I am wholly (or all but) ignorant about their previous albums, I can't compare them to this. This I did, however, enjoy! Intelligent rock music is not something I come by every day, sadly. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Peaky Blinders

From the outset, I'd like to emphasize that I have only watched episode 1 of season 1 of 'Peaky Blinders'. And you are absolutely right; nobody in their right mind should attempt - or be allowed - to review a series after just one single episode. 
It's indecent and dishonest, but voilà! This is my blog and I review what I want!

To compensate, the review in question is mercifully short : 
'Goodfellas' in post-war Birmingham. 
Not a thing in here (in the pilot, that is!) that you haven't already seen before, unless perhaps the setting. 

Well-made and all, but...


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Norbottens Museum, Luleå (Sweden)

It's not the Louvre, obviously.

Nor do I really expect it to be.

What I do expect, however : A permanent collection to mirror the ecosystem, culture and history of the very north of Sweden. Explicit signs in Swedish and English. A consequential exhibition of Sàmi art.

What I get : Temporary exhibitions of rather disappointing characters. A great playroom if you are 6 and want to play at the 19th century. A beautiful cafeteria.


(There are ways to make small museums work! This is one.)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Nyponbuskar... - Jan Gradvall

Once you are done listening to Gradvall's podcast and reading at least some of his previous books, you will most certainly want more of him.

It so happens that this is Sweden's probably most clear-sighted, outspoken and articulate music journalist, and consequently this collection of texts - interviews, editorials, opinion pieces, articles... - is 600 pages pure pleasure.

What stands out with Gradvall is his open-mindedness : Contrary to many of his colleagues, he appreciates quality, notwithstanding the genre. He does not automatically take to Neil Young or Van Morrison, nor necessarily frown upon the Swedish House Mafia.

He is also a feminist, pointedly taking interest in female talents, be they musicians, journalists or others.

Plus, he is the only culture journalist I have ever read to link the subway ticket prices to cultural integration; or to glorify the humdrum existence of a taxpaying parent as opposed to sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.

Brilliant.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Aelita - Mando Diao

Very regularly, the most determined, not to say dogged, of my Swedish friends tries to convince me of the Mando Diao greatness. 

No success so far, I'm afraid. Except for the occasional pop gem ('Dance With Somebody' if you want to Youtube them. Plus, on this album, 'Black Saturday'.) I tend to find them a bit - what? Lacking in dynamic? Mediocre? Un-inspired?
The one thing I can determine with certainty is that they are Not My Cup Of Tea. Sorry.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Liv Till Varje Pris - Kristina Sandberg

That I actually sat down to read part three in a trilogy after only moderately appreciating part one says loads about the booming second-hand book market in Sweden. 

Luckily for me, as it turned out! I found this last part infinitely superior to the first novel; not sure why. I guess either my previous judgment was heavily influenced by my private life at the time - I distinctly remember the situation and time of year - or Sandberg just stepped up her heroine in part two?

The main character has by now grown up to be a housewife in 1960s smalltown Sweden. Despite appearances, this has a lot in common with Elena Ferrante's hyped up yet disappointing 'Brilliant Friend' in that it highlights ordinary lives of ordinary women, so very much less frequently described than those of their male counterparts (probably because the women had kids to tend to...). 
However, contrary to Ferrante's, Sandberg's writing is as ambitious as accomplished, adroitly skipping between different narrators and points of view.

Brilliant, indeed!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Agnes Grey - Anne Brontë

Quite evidently, Agnes is a close cousin (or sister?) to Charlotte's immortal Jane Eyre; their conditions and personalities are so similar I can't help assuming this was the typical Brontë mindset (their brother Branwell was apparently the exception to this rule). 
Agnes's subdued love interest, however, is exceedingly different from fierce Mr Rochester; Mr Weston probably has more in common with StJohn Rivers, whom Jane so firmly turns down.

Likewise, the same motifs underlie both books; modesty and religion, but also diehard independence and feminism, all presented in their idiosyncratic tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. 

Where 'Jane Eyre' keeps the reader constantly on her toes, 'Agnes Grey', however, lacks a bit in adventure and conflict... It becomes very clear why Anne is not one of the prominent Brontës.


This was my first www.librivox.org recording! Books from the public domain, read by volunteers = Free audiobooks! Brilliant idea, though in the future, I will be more careful with what I download. Whereas the collaborative reading of 'Agnes Grey' did expose me to a range of accents (Indian, Australian, American, British! All in one book!) it also somewhat took focus off the book itself.

 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Klimt - Nathaniel Harris

Although Harris presents 50 major works in chronological order, commenting them all separately, this is in no way any sort of thorough analysis. 

It's more of an introduction to Klimt and to his early 20th century Austria, moving from chaste, Victorian values to more explicit, Freudian representations of sexuality. 
Klimt was one of the forerunners of the avant-garde Secession-group, which is very clear in his most famous works, the portrait of Adèle Bloch-Bauer (above) and 'The Kiss', for instance.

I knew less about his early paintings, of which this multi-portrait (of authentic Vienna nobility) is my favourite.


Zuschauerraum im altem Burgtheater, Gustav Klimt, 1888



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Musée des Arts Forains, 12ème arrdt

For y-e-a-r-s I have walked by this mysterious place - a museum closed to visitors! - having to settle for a peep through the gates at the turn-of-the-(last)century merry-go-rounds and fairground games.

Obviously, when the opportunity to visit presented itself, I was delighted.
No such thing as a low-expectations principle was possible nor, fortunately, needed.
The lightning, the objects and the surroundings were all rather breathtaking!


Open to the public during Christmas! Warmly recommended.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Café des Chats, Paris 11th arrdt

The smell of cat's pee is overwhelming and takes some getting used to, even for a seasoned cat-owner like myself. Once your nose is accustomed to it, this is very much you average Parisian café - except for the cats who wander around freely on the premises, sleeping on benches and armchairs, playing and eating from your plate if you let them. (Provided you are having a dish they are interested in. They prefer meat to dessert, I noticed.)

It was cozy enough, especially if you don't have a cat at home, I suppose.
A piece of advice : Eat quickly. That will avoid cat hair on your plate.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Red Hot Chili Peppers, at Paris, Bercy

Easy listening this certainly was not, but then on the other hand the RCHP had the audience in rapture long before the concert had even begun.

We were still in rapture after a modest 90 minutes, though nothing but the length was modest about it : The sound, the energy, the light show and the set list were all a skillful mix of ambition and know-how, and I loved it!

(And that's despite remaining rather undecided regarding their latest album).


Friday, October 14, 2016

BBC History Extra Podcast

If you are an aficionado of the new-generation mainstream history magazines, then this should appeal to you, as well. 

True enough, the podcast passes for little more than a promotion device for the magazine in question and the sound is often very mediocre. 
Still, twenty minutes feels like a decent length for a lightweight yet correct treatment of various and engaging subjects, such as the Romanovs, Agincourt, Shakespeare in 1606, Benjamin Franklin's London visit...

Nothing too in-depth but rather OK when you are on the move.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On The Road - Jack Kerouac

The title is as brilliantly simple as it is self-evident; Kerouac's alter ego main character relates his hitch-hikes across 1940s America, including an incursion into Mexico.
 
For all its Beatnik bravado, this iconic road-novel feels deeply patriotic; Kerouac's love for his country and its people pervades the whole book (like "air you can kiss").

It is also a tale about friendship - a bromance, if you will - in its both clear-sighted and heartbreaking portrait of the narrator's confused friend Dean, who no doubt would today have been diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder, and who blends in with the country, implicitly throughout the book and explicitly in the final, dazzling, paragraph.

Just like 'The Catcher in the Rye' and 'The Bell Jar', this narrative is emblematic of a the generation who grew into adults in postwar America. 
All three novels share the same idiosyncratic charm, making them virtually impossible to resist.  

 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Place For Us To Dream - Placebo

Oldies are indeed goodies as far as Placebo is concerned. 

I still think the world of iconic songs like 'Pure Morning', 'Without You I'm Nothing' and 'Nancy Boy'. 

I still cannot wrap my head around the change they went through after 'Sleeping With Ghosts' but nothing has been quite the same since...

I still have faith, though! Molko and Olsdal will work it out! (Yet that time has not yet come, judging by the latest single 'Jesus' Son'. And my hopes were up after 'B3'!)


Monday, October 10, 2016

Prometheus - R. Scott 2012

This could have been a very OK sci-fi movie, had it not been for that so typically Scottian taste for action gore. Or cheap thrills, to use my term.


(Incidentally, I have the exact same views on Scott's classic 'Alien'.)


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Suicide Squad, the Album

Rap + Rock + Noir + Quite a lot of posing = Totally listenable!


Skrillex, Twenty One Pilots, Wiz Khalifa, Panic! At the Disco and an old Eminem.

 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Elizabeth's Bedfellows (An Intimate Story of the Queen's Court) - Anna Whitelock

To my mind, Elizabeth I is one of the most intriguing royalties; her Tudor House is the second most captivating (after Gryffindor) and her period the one which bred Shakespeare

More probably needn't be said about this fairly detailed biography, except that I found the title rather disgraceful. I do realize selling books about well-studied historical figures is probably no picknick, but to make it sound as though she slept with lots of men - which she most likely did not - is a cheap trick. Although Whitelock does go into Elizabeth's long-standing affair with Robert Dudley, the Queen's most frequent "bedfellows" were her chamber ladies, who shared her bed every night, as was common at the time.

The book focuses on court life, and I took great pleasure in learning about :

- The numerous conspiracies to her life. 
Being an unmarried Protestant queen in a recently converted country, surrounded by Catholic neighbours and bearing no offspring certainly was an unsheltered position. 
The Pope was not the only one - nor necessarily the most powerful - to want her dead.

- Her Advisors' desperate and feverish marriage plots
Preferably with a royal neighbour, of course, but as time passed, they would have gladly accepted nearly anyone. Anyone with a penis, capable of producing offspring! 
It sounds laughable now, of course, but as previously stated : A country without an apparent heir was extremely fragile. Why she so stubbornly refused remains a mystery.

- Her diseases; the collective panic they caused - a panic reinforced by the fact that she (at the risk of repeating myself) had no heir apparent - and the attempts at curing her. 
A true miracle how anyone at all survived medical care in the 16th century.

- How her enemies persistently resorted to her sexuality to undermine her legitimacy and authority as a ruler, depicting her as lewd and over-sexual. 
Renaissance slutshaming, no less.

- The desperation she felt about aging (for reasons stated above) and the ingenious means she resorted to in order to look young. 
Good thing for her plastic surgery was not yet available, though I wonder whether a decent nip/tuck would not have been preferable to using toxic mercury powder?


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Duel - S. Spielberg 1971

Well, it has aged, though for some extremely unfair reason, antiquated male fashion feels slightly less ridiculous than outmoded ladies' fashion. Or perhaps I'm just too ignorant in  / bored stiff with suits to spot the difference.

At any rate, costumes, dialogues and music are clearly outdated; but still! 
Still, this is a masterpiece. 
In my not always so humble opinion, 'Duel' is probably to this day one of Spielberg's top five.