Sunday, January 31, 2016

Picassomania, at the Grand Palais, Paris

Picasso is always Picasso, so this was intrinsically brilliant.

That said, I was not really transported by the numerous copies / derivations of his work executed by contemporary artists. True enough, I rarely see the point with contemporary art; yet, it seems to me copying (OK; reproducing) is somehow anti-Picasso. 
I am aware he did this extensively himself - still, I feel that Picasso's reproductions (of Goya, El Greco...) are more of variations on a given theme, and contain a lot more of himself than what, say, Kippenberger or Koons' Picasso-works do.

I may be altogether wrong about that, yet the fact remains : What really did it for me here apart from Picasso's own paintings were basically portraits of Picasso. 
Plus Jasper Johns's The Seasons.

Jasper Johns, Summer, 1987

Picasso, Minotaure à la carriole, 1936

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Snacka Snyggt - Elaine Eksvärd

This initiatory handbook in rhetoric might have come in handy 20 years ago, when I first started out as a teacher. (Chances are, though, I would not have been able to absorb any of it, as the teaching and class-management took pretty much all the energy I was capable of mustering at the time.)

Now, though, it basically puts in writing stuff I have already figured out by myself, empirically. Which probably goes to show the accuracy of Eksvärd's teachings!

For instance, she states that you listen better to a person you like. 
Now, this may sound self-evident to you, but as a teacher I have found this almost impossible to wrap my head around. The trouble is, see, that although it is obviously true, the snag is that should you stumble into the trap of actually wanting the students to like you, then they never will. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pretend - Seinabo Sey

Despite and excepted the numerous internationally successful acts (from Abba to Avicii), most of the time I'm only moderately impressed with Swedish music.

This talented r&b début is quite representative, in my opinion : Slick, skilled, well-produced yet lacking in boldness and imagination. It all fits in with my theories on Swedish mentality, which I will spare you but which involve know-how, money and indecent amounts of conformity.

Still; this is good music!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Inside Out - Docter & Del Carmen, 2015

I tend to fulminate against films for children for their stereotypes and lack of originality (the eternal coming-of-age story, the cute sidekick, the family & countrylife ideals...). Though most of these are still present in 'Inside Out', I must admit a film about allegorical characters inside a kid's head is definitely a new take.

Two problems, however. It was :

1. Much too complicated for me! All those innuendos, symbols and references are admittedly not essential to get the picture, but then my thick-witted 11-year-old, who did not bother with them, just lost interest after half an hour.

2. Just not that fun, really... By far the best bits were when we were shown inside the parents' minds, and there were like two of those.

To conclude I suppose I just need to come to terms with the fact that these Pixar/Disney/Dreamworks films are no longer for me.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sista Boken Fran Finistère - Bodil Malmsten

At age 55, this Swedish writer stuffed her belongings in her car and drove down to settle in Bretagne. That indicates some force of character, and it's that character, combined with a remarkable sense of phrasing, that makes reading her so terribly worthwhile.

'Priset Pa Vatten i Finistère' is about her arrival and settling in her new home-country (no doubt extra fun by our shared experiences) and it's irresistible; attaching, thoughtful, brainy and perspicacious. Here, a decade later, she breaks up from her house - for reasons that remain obscure to me - and moves to an apartment in a major Briton city. 

It is still thoughtful and attaching and all the rest - because she is still she - and I still read with a constant smile because her prose is so stylish. 
It's not side-splittingly hilarious, but Jeeez, it's so witty!!

(As I'm reading her in disorder, the following book is here : 'Och Ett Skepp...')

Friday, January 22, 2016

The History of England III, Civil War - Peter Ackroyd

Initially, I reckoned Ackroyd should have called this book 'The Stuarts' (as opposed to 'The Tudors') yet seeing the emphasis he lays on the war of the title, it probably is aptly named, after all.

Whereas Mary Queen of Scots is generally a lot of fun to study, her descendants are a less colourful bunch. Here is a short run-through of Ackroyd's 500 pages :

1. Ill-liked spendthrift James I rouses public opinion against him, yet instigates the landmark 'King James Bible' in 1611. An opus major for the English language and hence literature.

2. Arrogant and overbearing Charles I; even more resented than his dad.

3. Parliament says enough is enough, and the civil war of the title breaks out in 1642. 
Here treated lengthily! Way too lengthily to my taste. 
Christmas is abolished in 1643! Not an enduring ban, though.

4. Oliver Cromwell is Dictator Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, and then his surprisingly sensible son abdicates.

5. Restoration, 1658 : Welcome womanizing French-lover Charles II.

6. Peremptory and - worse! - Catholic James II is so unsufferable William of Orange is earnestly invited to come invade England and - voilà! The Glorious Revolution of 1688!

End of book which you now don't really need to read, unless you are particularly attracted to the English civil war. 
You are welcome.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cupid & Psyche '85 - Scritti Politti

My inner self (at least I have tried to be discreet about it...) has always more or less looked down on youth nostalgia. 
Boney M and Modern Talking were rubbish when they were new, and the passing of time has done them no good, to my mind. Plus, there is enough recent & decent music out there for me not to have to go back and listen to stuff I already know. 
(Yes, there WAS that 80s festival in my ipod... But in my defense, those were new albums by old artists.)

So it was slightly embarrassing to find myself tuning in to this old Scritti Politti album. 
It is only six tracks long and I knew every tone inside out, back in the day. 
I thought it was brilliantly clever pop music in an updated, very British sort of way. 

And I still do! The production has aged a little, and I don't suppose I will hang on to it for quite as long as I did back then, but I have been at it for a couple of days now and I have compared it to their contemporaries (Dead or Alive, Simple Minds, Level 42...) and it does stand the thest of time SO much better than all of the others. 

What a relief!

 (You will notice the video has aged a lot more than the music has...)


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Shaun of the Dead - E. Wright 2004

For once, the French movie poster pretty much nails it : A romantic comedy with zombies is exactly what this is. 
The fun - yes, indeed! fun there is! - lies neither in the comedy (highly conventional) nor in the zombies (the post 2004 zombie onslaught in entertainment has killed the market by now) but in the combination of the two, in the irresistible dialogues and in the contagious pleasure Wright, Pegg and Frost evidently derives from working together.

'Shaun of the Dead' is their first collaboration but contains themes and motifs that have grown recurrent in their work (the pub as a central meeting place, the grisly horror scenes, the emphasis on friendship... Though no aliens in this one!).

You also want to see : 'Paul' (still my favourite!), 'Hot Fuzz' and, to complete your collection, 'The World's End'.  
Have fun!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Alan Rickman, R.I.P

Best Potter-quote ever!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pitch Perfect 2 - E. Banks 2015

Could it be that there is only one single way to make sequels to this type of competitive song & dance film?

That would certainly account for the uncanny and embarrassing likeness of 'Pitch Perfect 2' to, say, 'High School Musical 2'.

On the plus-side : Witty dialogue! Girl power! Chipper song & dance acts! 
                                  In short, everything that made 'Pitch Perfect' worthwhile.

On the downside : Irritatingly ostentatious product placement. 100% predictable plot.

Conclusion : Like with most other sequels, you can pass on this one, and be none the worse for it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Capture - Caribbean Dandee

Listening to this and comparing with hyper-popular young rapper Jul, I finally figured out what it is about French rap that I can't abide!
It's not the French rap in itself; it's that 98% of it seems to be made by teenagers for other teenagers. Be it Jul, Maître Gims, Nekfeu, Black M or whoever, they are all lightyears away from Eminem, Macklemore, Jay Z, Snoop, Kendrick Lamar or anyone with an ounce of anything resembling maturity....

Except for Joey Starr! This took me some getting used to, but it was well worth the effort. It is heavyweight, hardcore, die-hard rap music, simultaneously oozing of know-how and feeling. And a brilliant cover photo!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Blackstar - David Bowie

So this is way too experimental for me, I must confess. 
Still, kudos to Uncle Dave for remaining avant garde and unconventional even though he sometimes is more oddball than genius!

Update Monday Jan. 11 :
The timeliness of this post turned out to be as unexpected as unwelcome. 
Uncle Dave could perfectly well have remained with us for another couple of albums, as far as I'm concerned... 
RIP, then, things being what they are. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Kiss, Den Osminkade Sanningen - C. Linnaeus

One thing growing old older has taught me is that there are upsides and downsides to pretty much everything. Take rocker mémoirs, for instance :

On the plus-side : You get a fair idea of the personality of the rocker in question, as he/she is speaking in their own voice, from their own perspective. Who knew that Lemmy Kilmister, may he rest in peace, was such a conservative old fart?

On the downside : Very often they just don't remember much of their past, alcohol and drugs having all but wiped out what brain cells there were to begin with. 
Also, they tend to embellish the truth a bit, like the rest of us. (Ace Frehley "Oh no, sir, I had NO IDEA those S:es would look like SS symbols! I just thought they looked cool.")

A biography penned by an outside observer - preferably, as in this case, a journalist - when well-made - as in this case - therefore presents the advantage of looking at the facts from several different aspects, speaking to several different people, thereby improving your chances of getting somewhere nearer the actual facts.
Moreover,  journalists tend to be better at phrasing, making the reading easier and more pleasureable.

The inconvenience (I told you! There is one to almost everything.) is that the object (here; the band) is viewed from the outside and you never feel really close to them. 
Which is also a pity, as I'd be truly interested in learning more about the business machine Simmons - Stanley.

All in all; a fair read.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary

Brilliant! Side-splittingly brilliant!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Carol - T. Haynes (2015)

So stylish it almost physically hurts, poetic, excruciatingly slow and perhaps a bit shallow? (Is that what happens when a film is actually too stylish for its own good?)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Det Är Något Som Inte Stämmer - Martina Haag

Impossible to even think about this book without referring to how extremely autobiographical its content is (or at least seems). Haag herself - a lightweight comic writer - recently divorced in circumstances highly similar to those of her heroine (a lightweight comic writer whose husband walks out on her...).

That said, this no doubt taxing experience has done her book a lot of good.
The writing is still lightweight but the plot breathes pain, sorrow and fury, though nowhere near enough to pass the real-literature test. Remove Haag's personal experiences, and there is not much left to this.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Greatest Hits 2015

Best Books

(I refuse to choose! You can't make me!)


Best Cultural Outing

 Best Music

(I'm so, so sorry, Adam. I still listen to this, of course, but you really need more guitars!!)

(Why is it so terribly hard to choose only one, this year?)

Best Film

(Though I also very much enjoyed 'Dear White People')

 Best TV shows