Saturday, April 30, 2016

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - JK Rowling

Slight SPOILER ALERT coming up - Be forewarned, ye who enter here

Here, halfway through the seven books, the mood shifts perceptibly.
It happens long before Harry actually encounters Lord Voldemort in the flesh - although that is a pivotal moment to the whole series - and it makes for a darker, more demanding story than the imaginative children's enjoyment that constitutes the previous three books.

This book is also a lot thicker; generally a sign that the creator has fallen in love with his/her characters, which is not always profitable to the opus in question.
In this particular case, however, I happen to be just as much in love with her characters myself, and so the one drawback I can see to this books' 800-page length is that it's too bulky to be conveniently carried around.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Napoleon at Ste Hélène at Musée de l'Armée, Paris 7th arrdt

After his 1815 defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon was sent into exile at Ste Helena, a tiny island off the west-African coast, where he spent his remaining six years as an English prisoner.

For all intents and purposes, those were quite uneventful years, which certainly explains the lack of vivacity and adventure of this exhibition. Should you, however, harbour some fond passion for Napoleon and wish to admire his furniture, china, clothes, letters and books, then this will definitely be your cup of tea.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Pride and Prejudice (BBC miniseries, 1995)

Well, yes, it has aged a bit, rather... 
The actors are excellent, though; especially Firth who speaks daggers even when silent.
Besides, this is still to the best of my knowledge the most faithful and most undistorted version, notwithstanding my views on adaptations.

It does not pass the Bechdel-test, however, though that is perhaps not to be expected from a novel published in 1813, and whose plot rests mainly on the fact that women could not legally own property in Great Britain until 1882. (And of course, only married women. Wouldn't have been very useful to the Bennets.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - JK Rowling

After studying the film in class, I thought I knew it too well to take full pleasure in the book again.
That was forgetting, of course, Rowling's lively writing and the many details necessarily cut out of the film.

I won't go over the benefits of either the book nor the novel any more. 
Suffice to say I devoured it in two days, despite knowing it nearly by heart. 

I will state, however, that I greatly admire how effortlessly consensual Rowling is with her characters. Without attracting the least bit of attention to it, she is persistently non-sexist and non-racist in a very natural way that should be run-of-the-mill. Love it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Picasso.Sculptures at Musée Picasso, Paris 3rd arrdt

Never been one to take joy in sculptures, even when sculpted by the great Spaniard himself. This exhibition, however, all but made me change my mind.

The echoes and correspondences between sculptures and paintings are highlighted from apt exposition. Moreover, they reflect the Picasso versatility; their greatly varying character illustrate how he repeatedly switched method and material. 

On the newly reopened museum itself :

- No major Picasso paintings; indeed not all that many paintings at all, though if you are into ceramics, you may well be in your element here.

+ A great number of works in a great number of distinct styles and materials.
I admire Picasso for the same reason I admired Prince - Some might even say I was a purple addict from 'Purple Rain' to 'Chaos and Disorder' - i.e. their constant refusal to take the easy way out, seeking new paths rather than settling down to their success. That's courageous!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Thermes de Cluny, Paris 5th arrdt

This time, our sole ambition was to have a quick look at the Roman baths, as some of us are studying them at school. 

We therefore breezed through the Medieval museum, pausing merely in front of the strangely mesmerizing 'Lady with the Unicorn', and focused on the remains of the baths, in the basement. They are well-preserved, but could do with some TLC so as to be more than just large, empty stone halls.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - JK Rowling

The flying car, the heir of Slytherin, Moaning Myrtle, Ginny Weasley, Dobby, Gilderoy Lockhart and Fawkes, the phoenix. Among others. 

Plus, the commencement of the soul-searching of Harry himself which is about to make him such an admirably complex character (brilliantly dodging the goody-two-shoes trap that most Good Guys fall into) (not only Judge Taylor, to do him some justice).

Friday, April 22, 2016

Min Kamp / My Struggle 1 - Karl Ove Knausgard

Despite all the laudatory opinions and flattering criticism, I hardly expected much else from this than male ego and garrulous introspection.

Despite Knausgard's undeniably skillful writing and unexpectedly approachable writing, I still feel male ego and garrulous introspection was pretty much what I got.

Despite his talent, I just don't feel that yet another heterosexual, middle-aged white man's mémoirs is precisely what the world - or at least I - needs right now. 
Sorry. I'll pass on the following five parts. (Yes! Six in all! I'll refrain from commenting on that one...)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Friday Nigth Lights season 3

Though I won't pretend the Friday night games are my favourite part of the episodes, the failure of the previous season made it painfully clear they are essential to the storyline. 
For a show to revolve around smalltown, high-school football, merely talking about it will just not do.

Clearly, competent writers have taken back the helm here, allowing for characters and plot to unfold and change, all the while remaining outwardly the same.

What worries me is that I am starting to find the pivotal couple more than a little vexatious. Indeed, whereas the teenagers are all multidimensional and changeable, Coach Taylor and the School Headmaster are turning into what Bridget Jones would have termed a "smug married couple". (I'd call them insufferable goody-two-shoes.)
I hope they pick up in next season. 

I still kind of wish I had quit after the excellent first 22 episodes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, season 1

That self-righteous, bubbly Kimmy Schmidt is not absolutely insufferable - especially having spent ten years in a bunker made captive by a sectleader - I put down to the humanity of Tina Fey's cretive genius. 

This very much is a logical fallout from '30 Rock'; endearing characters, entertaining situations and dialogue. 
Not side-splitting or electrifying, but entertaining!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Arc de Triomphe, Paris 8th arrdt

Not once in the three decades that have elapsed since my arrival in Paris had I mounted in the Arc de Triomphe. Not a grievous oversight, as I realise now that I have been up there.

However : The view is neat, the queues are a lot less lengthy than at a certain other Parisian vantage point and a recent photo exhibition showcases uniforms of unknown soldiers from various wars.

If you do want to view Parisian rooftops, apart from the Eiffel Tower, there is also the Tour de Montparnasse or Centre Pompidou. Among, certainly, others.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dope - R. Famuyiwa 2105

When you are looking to rent a film with your twelve-year-old and he picks and indie movie, presented at Sundance and Cannes, then you click RENT pronto.

I had never heard of this film before, but it turned out to evolve around three Inglewood geeks attempting to get rid of a backpack-full of drugs without getting killed in the process, and concurrently escape the ghetto via college.

All about choices, therefore! Plus great music and piercing dialogue!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - JK Rowling

Though I may have already stated pretty clearly how much I love Harry Potter, I reckon it has been a while, so I can safely repeat myself. 
I do love Harry Potter!

I am not that into the films; adaptations of books everyone has read and loved rarely lead to innovative film-making (not to mention my views on adaptations..!) so they are OK but largely inferior to the books. 

I hadn't read this one since 2012, and while it's more of a children's book than my personal favourite - the later, the darker, the better! - it is still a charming, entertaining and original. 
I remember reading it for the first time, and marvelling at how creative it was.

Not great literature, yet a great read!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Life of Pablo - Kanye West

I'm not going to pretend I actually get this album in any way, but what I do get for sure is that there indeed is something to get (if you get what I'm getting at).

In other words, this is not particularly easy-listening, nor hit-oriented. 
There is artistic ambition in here - and talent! - no matter what opinion it is frankly impossible not to have about Kanye as a public clown figure. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How To Be A Heroine - Samantha Ellis

Fun and clever reads are all too rare and hard to come by, is what I've always said.
Regrettably, Ellis may now have upped this so that in the future I will want entertaining reads to be not only fun and clever, but fun and clever and feministic. Something tells me that finding those is going to be even harder.

All the more reason to enjoy this opus to the fullest, I guess.

Ellis parallels her own life story with insightful analyses of her favourite heroines in popular literature.
Happily, she has read and loved much the same books as the rest of us, so this all has a highly familiar ring to it (In point of fact, it's such a pleasure to reunite with many of these, I now feel like re-reading a great number of books... I even think I might buy the Anne of Green-Gables-series, to see what I missed out on. Never got around to her, for some reason.) 

Personal favourites : Lucy Honeychurch ('A Room With A View'), Elizabeth Bennet ('Pride and Prejudice') and Jane Eyre (well... 'Jane Eyre').

Oh, and the crucial question (which is NOT whether Ellis learned anything from all this reading. Of course she did, but that's not the point.) is whether there has been any real progress in the portrayals of young heroines in the last 200 years. 
Quite luckily, the answer is YES, although the road here has been long and winding indeed; for although Jane Eyre (1813) may be no Lisbeth Salander nor Katniss Everdeen, she is infinitely more fierce and independent than Sara Crewe ('A Little Princess' 1905) or the ladies in 'Valley of the Dolls' (1966). 
Remarkable that one of the first should have so much in common with heroines of today.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Underground - Haruki Murakami

Like most of Japan, Murakami was shell-shocked when in March 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo sect released sarin gas on a number of trains in the Tokyo underground. Twelve died, thousands were injured. This book, a series of in-depth interviews with some of the victims, is Murkami's attempt at coming to terms with the event.

What affected me most in these accounts was the Japanese stoicism; how an astonishing number of the injured deduced they "must be coming down with a cold" at the symtoms, and staggered on to their offices, though some were hardly able to walk.

Just like we Swedes at our "JFK-assassination-moment" (You know; that one time when everyone remembers where they were, and what they were doing. To me, that was when Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot down in 1986.) the interviewed Tokyoites all underline their surprise at the unexpectedness of the attack in what they had felt to be such a safe place. That is probably also why the Japanese emergency services turned out to be so utterly unprepared to deal with the situation.

This edition also contains Murakami's follow-up work, 'The Place That Was Promised'; similar interviews with mostly defected members of the sect, allowing for another angle to the events.
I'm not sure I found this second part very helpful - the interviewees are young outsiders, rather lost in life, most of which had no idea what the sect leader was preparing, even less able to clarify anything.

Still, the overall impression is of an interesting work; well-penned, though too long.