Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Le Dernier Lapon - Olivier Truc

A friend lent me this, thinking it would be of interest to me. Although I have mostly gone off detective stories, this one happens to be penned by a French journalist, long settled in my native Sweden, setting his story in the very northern parts of Scandinavia, close to my childhood home.

Lapland makes for an original backdrop, I'll give him that much! 
Of course, his own background as a journalist entails the usual pros and cons.

Pros :
The research is thorough. And when I say thorough, I mean super-extra-thorough! 
My experience of Sami culture is regrettably narrow, but as far as pretty much everything else in the book is concerned, I didn't find him at fault a single time. Well done, Monsieur Truc!

Cons : 
The man is a journalist. He gets his message across (our treatment of the Sami people is exceedingly arrogant) but literature it certainly ain't. The characterization is gross (the villain is not just a villain - he is a the cruelest, basest scumbag you could possibly imagine, and a paedophile to boot) and the plot oscillates between complex and just plain stupid.

All in all, an OK read.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Chefs d'Oeuvre de Budapest, at Musée du Luxembourg, Paris 5th arrdt

The chefs d'oeuvre in question are on loan from two Budapest museums, one of which is undergoing major renovation works.

It's a motley crew of paintings and sculptures, spanning from the late middle ages to post-modern art. Many of the artists exhibited I had never even heard of (Munkácsy, Rippl-Ronai plus a whole lot of other seemingly unpronounceable names) but was pleased to discover (Luini, Kokoschka) while others are of the kind who have produced practically nothing but masterpieces (El Greco, Albrecht Dürer and Goya being my personal favourites).

El Greco, 'Mary Magdalen in penitence, 1576

Friday, May 27, 2016

Konnichiwa - Skepta

How come this is the first I have ever heard of British rap music??

Is it a genre I desperately need to explore, or is Skepta outstanding in his lyrics, his beats and that overpowering, over-cute London accent?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Not that clever podcasts are in any way hard to come by, these days - it's more that they can be a bit hard to find, sometimes - but still : I am sure you are all frantically wondering what I listen to during long walks.

Currently, I listen to Värvet; a Swedish journalist interviewing Swedish somebodies in Swedish. Interesting because most of the interviewees have been interviewed a gazillion times before, yet Triumf almost always manages to find a new angle, conveying the impression of getting to know them a bit. (Pretty much what I like about Annie Leibowitz's celebrity photos.)

There is also an international version (varvet-international) where Triumf in his rather poor English meets international celebs. I can heartily recommend Caitlin Moran (always a pleasure!) and - unexpectedly! - Noel Gallagher. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Working Girl - Little Boots

Well! My favourite pair of shoes seem to have walked out of the club they were dancing at on her last album, and although they (the shoes! Her!) may not have quite returned home (oh, I did love 'Remedy'...) this is still the same lightweight, airy, clever pop music as she did back then.

Should you for some strange reason still be unacquainted with this, but be into her buddy Lily Allen, then you need to listen to Little Boots asap.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Oxford History of Ireland - R.F. Forster

Though not familiar with undoubtedly well-read historian Forster, I'm nevertheless very grateful for his initiative to sublease chapters of this history overview to whom I can only suppose to be specialists in their field. It makes for a history in large chunky chapters, each penned by a new hand, each in their own style, all equally knowledgeable and approachable.

I'm not sure I learnt anything wholly new, but I definitely gained well-needed detail and reminders! For instance, I already knew the English had been there for a long time, but I am now able to pinpoint the early 13th century. 

Also couldn't help noticing how constant repression of Irish Catholicism ever since the arrival of the Normans (that's the 13th century English, you uneducated lot) has done nothing but render Irish Catholics more staunch in their beliefs and in the application of these beliefs; anti-abortionism, censorship and religious intolerance being unfortunate corollaries. It's very hard NOT to draw parallels to our intolerance of the Muslim veil and halal food...

Anyhoo. As a bonus : An excellent final chapter on Irish literature, with astute analyses of for instance MM. Joyce and Wilde's works.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Force Awakens - J.J. Abrams, 2015

Remarkable :
1. That I finally got around to watching this.
2. How Abrams has managed to make a film that feels new, all the while being a near-replica of the original trilogy.
3. That it - albeit very narrowly! - passes the Bechdel-test!

Not so remarkable :
The film in itself. 
(It doesn't feel the same as the original films, but it certainly doesn't feel very original either...)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Five - I. Gotesman 2106

To this film there is, I would say, a lower-age limit of about 20. 
Without giving away too much I daresay you've guessed I passed my twenties quite some time ago. 
So there you have it.

And, incidentally; truly good films have no age limits.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Views - Drake

It's not that there is anything inherently wrong about Drake - on the contrary, I suspect he might actually be quite talented - it's more that I'm just not that into this softer r&b-sound any longer. There was a time when I couldn't get enough of smooth-talking souls-singers, from James Ingram to Barry Manilow to Marvin Gaye. But I guess I eventually did get enough, as I now find this bland and mushy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Where's Warhol? - Ingram & Ray

Never enjoyed 'Where's Waldo?' as much as my kids did, but this one I couldn't resist!

Warhol's familiar demeanor is easier to spot than Waldo, but then he hides in culturally charged surroundings - the Sistine Chapel, the Bauhaus, Studio 54, Pompeii... - at culturally eventful times. 
Explanatory texts elicit the who's who, as Warhol is by no means the only artist present.

It's a pity my kids are too old for this by now.


Monday, May 9, 2016

The Velvet Underground, exhibition at Philharmonie de Paris

The upside to attending an exhibition on a subject virtually unknown to you is that you are bound to learn a lot! Also, the low-expectations principle is a given.

As my beforehand knowledge of the Velvet Underground hardly went any further than to their most famous songs, I did, indeed, I learn a lot! I also admired smashing black and white photos of just about everyone who counted in the 1960s New York art scene and some much less smashing grainy Warhol videos from the Factory.

Possibly led on by my low expectations, I found the exhibition as a whole rich and fairly varying. And the music! (Worth the detour if nothing else for 'Waiting For My Man' loud and clear.)


Sunday, May 8, 2016

Unknown - J. Collet-Serra (2011)

Watch 'Frantic' instead. 20 years older, 20 times better. Apart from that, it's the same film.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling

After softening our perceptions of the villains in the previous volume, Rowling here puts Big Daddy Dumbledore under scrutiny, revealing his flaws as she also sheds final light on Snape, forcing us to change our minds about him for the umpteenth time. 
Also, several of the secondary characters are given welcome space to develop.

There is a lot going on in this opus, which may be why - apart from shameful, commercial reasons - although it was divided into two films, quite a lot was left out.

Interestingly, this grand finale still feels almost as grand as it did when I first - feverish with excitement! - read devoured it. 
That is saying something! (Not sure whether it's saying something about me or about the Potter saga, though. Perhaps both.)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Serial, seaon 2

Whereas I binge-listened to season 1, every episode a cliffhanger, I am still only halfway through season 2. This is a reboot deluxe, Sarah Koenig now delving into a 100% different case : An American soldier posted in Afghanistan having abandoned his post, then spent five years in captivity before being released to an American public experiencing, to say the least, mixed feelings about his homecoming.

The case is interesting, and there is nothing wrong with the treatment; quite the contrary.
I'm not sure why I lost interest... I seriously doubt I will get back to it, though.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - JK Rowling

This one is my personal favourite! Mostly, that is due to the delicious ambiguity Rowlings enhances her characters with.

What the insights into Voldemort's past indeed lack in subtlety, they make up for in well-meaning. The same best of intentions surface in Rowling's & Potter's treatment of bullied Luna Lovegood; and that Harry's arch-enemy Draco Malfoy suddenly shows a weaker and more touching facet is nothing short of genius.

However, the first prize in duality obviously goes to the Half-Blood Prince himself!
The rollercoaster evolution of Professor Snape (he's evil; no, wait, he's good! Ah, no, he's evil! Well, no; he's good after all! Oh no, he's a traitor!...) is exhausting, but it certainly kept me on my toes, on my first read! And it does tally with Rowling's persistent reluctance to let us judge on first sight. (Or even second.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Zoo de Paris

Newly and thoroughly renovated : Roomy, clean, well-kept, healthy-looking animals in fairly capacious pens.

If zoos are indeed necessary (as I suspect they might be; persuading kids to respect wildlife and environment is bound to be a lot harder if they don't have a clue as to what those two look like) they might as well be like this.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - JK Rowling

All my thoughts and writings on the first, second, third and fourth parts are obviously still valid.

Complementary views on number five : 

- To my mind, Dolores Umbridge makes for the very villainest villain of all, in part because of how admirably atypical she is. Still, I'll willingly admit that her foil, Bellatrix Lestrange, is passably unnerving as well. 

- Despite a fair number of able-bodied female characters, the books only occasionally pass the Bechdel-test. It is with great reluctance I own up to this. 
Rowling, I love you, but what were you thinking?

- Harry himself is often extremely bothersome in this instalment. 
Though that may not come off as a compliment to Rowling's characterization, anyone who has ever spent any time with a fifteen-year-old knows that it is.

- Analogies to markedly bigoted periods in muggle history - say, 1930s Germany or, wow!, Europe today! - are mercifully left to the reader's own appreciation.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Le Musée du Louvre

pic nicked from musee30.wordpress.com Thank you!
We came to view Dutch masters, but frankly, they are few and far between at the Louvre.
The latest acquisition, two early Rembrandt full-length portraits, are currently exposed before travelling to the Rijksmuseum in June, so they are worth seeing.

Otherwise, the Louvre excels more in history (which we skipped this time) than in art; at least that's my humble opinion. Luckily, the Mona Lisa is visible from afar, so you can peek casually at her while elbowing your way towards Caravaggio, David or Goya.  

Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, by Rembrandt van Rijn, ca 1634