Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Kvinnorna och Staden 1 - Kerstin Ekman

In the 1960s, Per Anders Fogelström published a series of books entitled 'City of My Dreams' telling the story of Stockholm, from a worker's perspective. They are dearly loved classics in Swedish literature and a great example of history brought 'down' from royalties and wars to a more humane perspective.

Ekman's series 'The Women and the Town' was published a decade later and completes Fogelströms stories by adding a female perspective to the new social history aspect. 
Ekman certainly paved the way for brilliant Sandberg's books, adding focus on cooking, home management, family relations and a frequent wish for another, freer life.

Add to that Ekman's considerable literary skills, and you will see that although a bit old, these first two books are a must-read.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford (London)

I am in dire need of an adjective expressing the notion contained in my own word 'Disney-esque'. I would have used it for Shakespeare's Birthplace the other day, and now again for this studio-turned-amusement park. That's twice in a week!

If you like Disney, then this 'Disney-esque' aspect should not be a problem; I personally have issues with the artificial side to it, but then I also realize that in film-making, artifice more or less comes with the territory, so...
This exhibit of film artifice is amazingly well-made and a feast for the eyes. 
It's also Disney-esque-ly well-organized, which is fortunate since it's very, very crowded. 

(And another thing : Obviously, people can do what they want; live and let die, all that; I'm all for. But What In The Name of Heaven do people actually do with all the gazillions of photos they seem to be taking at places like this?? Everyone is snapping away like there is no tomorrow!?)

I personally spent a large part of our three-and-a-half hours at the Studio Tour mentally urging people to just "go home and read the books, instead!" 
And if that seems somewhat contradictory to my previous rants on free will, then so be it.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dark Places - Gillian Flynn

Playing with narrative voices is always a good idea, especially in literature, especially in crime literature. Flynn is particularly good at it, as she demonstrated in 'Gone Girl'.

This rather classic thriller delves into a cold case - nearly a whole family assassinated in their home, the story obviously told by the sole survivor in present time, and of her family members in flashbacks.

It was an OK pageturner, not much more. Definitely not up to the 'Gone Girl' standard.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Glastonbury Abbey

If truth be told, more has vanished than remained of this site, where monks allegedly found King Arthur and Queen Guinevere's graves in the 12th century. (No evidence suggests either Arthur nor Guinevere have ever really existed of course.) 
The abbey had been founded way before that (7th century!) and persisted until Henry VIII saw no other way but to divorce first the Pope and then Catherine of Aragon, in the early 16th century.

Despite the sorry state of the abbey, enough is left to allow you to glimpse the past splendour. The spiritual presence of the Round Table and the swarms of hippies around the abbey and the rest of the town rather added quaintness to the general impression of otherworldliness. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Shakespeare's Birthplace at Stratford Upon Avon

Throngs of tourists are annoying enough to be elbow-to-elbow with, but then how could I as an English teacher and lover of Will be anything but appreciative of the fact that people want to be part of the fanbase? So I grit my teeth in silence.

The birthplace (and New Place, where he retired as an elderly self-made Jay-Z) had a Disney-sort of quality to it. 
The preparative museum was extremely lightweight (check out the Globe instead!) but the rose garden was exquisite, and contained actors performing famous monologues on demand. 

Best of all was the stroll (pilgrimage, if you must) down the Avon to the Holy Trinity Church, where we visited the Bardic grave. Though far from being a faithful Christian I am nevertheless a rather frequent visitor and admirer of elderly churches, especially when there is a Shakespeare inside.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Cardiff Castle

As far as castles go, this one was well-preserved and unusually versatile!

It contains WWI wartime shelters, a Norman keep, remains of a Roman wall, a handsome clock tower, a lavishly well-furnished residence in Victorian Gothic style plus a museum of Wales at war including a dress-up section where war-enthusiasts of all ages can dress up in authentic-looking uniforms. (I'd publish photos, but my kids would kill me.)

Beautiful and interesting.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Absolutely Fabulous - M. Fletcher 2016

Because the TV show was only broadcast dubbed to French in the 1990s, and I have always boycotted dubbing, I never managed to catch more than the odd episode.
I therefore can't compare the film and the series, which is probably just as well.

Especially as this film kind of made me regret having missed out on the series.
Not that it was in any way hilarious, but it did contain : Aging ladies disrespecting just about every rule in the book, a Jean-Paul Gaultier cameo, a 'Some Like It Hot'-pastiche, a few funny jokes and a plot! Could have been so much worse. 

 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Stonehenge, Amesbury

I believe it was Bill Bryson who said that the mere visit of Stonehenge takes approximately eleven minutes. In that he is probably right.
Cleverly, the English Heritage has spiced it up a bit with a small preparatory museum, a couple of life-sized, paleolithic huts, a shuttle to take you to and from the rocks, the mandatory cafeteria and one of the most fanciful gift shops I have ever encountered.

The stones themselves were majestic and imposing, though I'd be hard pressed to say whether that is due to the formation itself or to everything you have heard and read about them. Not that I'm sure it really matters.

 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tva Nötcreme och en Moviebox - Hammar & Wikingsson

When this was published in 2003, authors Hammar and Wikingsson were two buddies and budding media stars in Sweden. Today, they are two of the greatest and coolest Swedish hipsters, having just finished shooting their first feature film after a decade of hugely successful TV shows and documentaries.

This is an essay book, dealing with their teenage years in 1980s smalltown Sweden. It was interesting to me probably in the same way Des Barres's 'I'm With The Band' is entertaining to whoever grew up with Led Zep and the Stones. Recognition and identification are key.

Fortunately, Hammar & Wikingsson excel in their own idiomatic style, which is by far more articulate and witty than Des Barres's. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Martian - R. Scott 2015

Whenever my lawfully wedded husband starts grumbling about what he considers to be unrealistic details in James Bond-films (the last time, I believe it was the Russians piloting the wrong plane model...) I nod and go "Oui chéri, you're right, that is THE most preposterously unbelievable thing about 'Moonraker'"...

As for 'The Martian', my severe lack in space engineering skills should probably prevent me from being too categorical, but not much about this story of an astronaut forgotten on Mars - not to mention the retrieval of said astronaut! - felt in any way real to me.
Not that realism is always necessary in a film (or there would be no James Bond films) (I wouldn't miss them) but believability is! Coleridge's "willing suspension of disbelief" only goes so far, I'm afraid, where I'm concerned.

The actors here are top-notch, and the scenery spectacular. Still I wish Ridley Scott would stick to TV.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

I'm With The Band - Pamela Desbarres

This would, then, be the Groupie Mémoir of all Groupie Mémoirs (not that I know of all that many...). Des Barres's claim to fame is that she slept with a considerable number of the greatest rock stars of the free-lovin' 1960s. 

I'm in two minds about this. On the one hand it's kind of refreshing to read about a woman genuinely embracing her own sexuality. On the other hand, it's also a bit depressing to realize how consistently she views both herself and aforementioned sexuality in relation to the men she has sex with. 
I suppose like the rest of us, Des Barres is a child of her time, though. She grew up in the 1950s, and 4.000 years of patriarchy (probably more) are not so easily dismissed.

As a rock'n'roll mémoir, this was just as interesting as quite a few of the others I have read. Des Barres, for all the drugs she certainly took, seems to have kept a clearer mind and  brighter memories than, say, Ace Frehley or the Mötley Crue, whose brains apparently shrivelled up from all the alcohol, and who don't remember much of anything any longer.

In short, this was mostly entertaining yet probably a lot more so for someone who is more into the 1960s than me.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fördomspodden

The concept is kind of fun; confronting celebrities with the interviewer's preconceived notions about him/her is slightly more original than a classic interview situation. And funnier. (Arguably, it might actually be more fun for the interviewee than for the listener but at least someone is having a laugh..!)

It is also somewhat more shallow, since no time is given to really delve into anything. 
Plus, interviewer Persson asks a lot less follow-up questions than I would have.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

How Did We Get So Dark? - Royal Blood

I have no idea How You Got So Dark, but I kind of like it!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

ApeTizer - Shaka Ponk

I enjoyed both their previous concert and album so much, my usual low-expectations principle was sadly unapplicable to this five-song EP.

Very fortunately (as I have already got tickets for Bercy next March..!) I still enjoyed this! Perhaps not as much as 'The White-Pixel Ape' but enough for the time being. 
Album coming up in November.

 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Neva Left - Snoop

What Snoop is : Accessible on most music-streaming platforms. A very OK rap artist.

What Snoop is not : Jay Z. 


Sunday, July 23, 2017

HHhH - Laurent Binet

I used to be fairly interested in World War II. Then I went and married my husband : Overkill of WWII interest. That's why it took me so long to get around to reading this biography about Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Gestapo, architect of the Holocaust etc. 
(Also the man of the brilliant book-title : Himmler's Hirn (brain) heisst (is called) Heydrich. The publisher felt 'Heydrich' was too basic a title, according to Binet.)

Binet's passion for the war and the assassination attempt on Heydrich in particular makes my husband's look like a lazy pastime. That is a strength and a snag, actually, since I personally thought that a good hundred pages of detail could and should have been edited out of this book. (But then I wonder whether editors actually edit anything at all any longer? I feel books just like films are getting longer and longer, yet none the better for it.) 

The take on narration, however, elevates 'HHhH' from a meticulous history book to an original literary work, no less! Binet converses with himself and his readers, prattles on about his musings on other writers, on the narrative course to follow, on how much fiction is profitable to a history novel, on the difference between a novel and a book, on his research, his travels, his girlfriends past and present... Impossible to say how genuine he is, but it certainly feels both imaginative and accurate at the same time.

A bit long, but excellent!  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fake Sugar - Beth Ditto

Quite possibly I may be more into Beth Ditto for her voice and personality than for her music.

That doesn't mean I don't enjoy listening to her, though! Not overly innovative, but very listenable pop/rock/whatever!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dear White People s1

A film developed into a TV series is not a particularly promising concept, and one that I would certainly never have watched had it not been writer & director Justin Simian himself who was in charge of the show. And even so, it took me some time to get around to it. 
I am, as I may tend to repeat a tad too often, extremely suspicious to all sorts of adaptations.

But what do you know?! Turns out that rule, too, has exceptions! Or at least this one!
Somehow, Simian's brilliant film has become a brilliant series. It's still clever, political, risqué, thought-provoking and occasionally rather provocative. And as if that wasn't enough, it also daringly plays with narrative voices, perspective and timeline, which is a stunning performance, really, in modest 30-minute episodes.

It's still about racial tension on an Ivy league campus. And homosexuality, outsidership, love, ambition and a lot of other things.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Sapiens - Yuval Noah Harari

So this time I read it in small portions and an active pen in my hand. Also a good way! (Last time's unmitigated praise here

What stuck with me the most on this reread was the concept of cognitive dissonance : "Every man-made order is packed with internal contradictions. Cultures are constantly trying to reconcile these contradictions, and this process fuels change."
For instance, we see equality and individual freedom as fundamental values. "Yet the two values contradict each other. Equality can be ensured only by curtailing the freedoms of those who are better off. Guaranteeing that every individual will be free to do as he wishes inevitably short-changes equality."

You might argue this is more of a philosophy-lesson than the history Harari promises in the title, and I would say it is both and all the better for it.



Saturday, July 15, 2017

Okja - Joon-Ho Bong 2017

I suppose I simply should have done some more research before hitting 'play'.
Past the first twenty minutes, it was embarrassingly obvious that this was in fact a kid's movie : Predictable, farcical at times, overly simplistic, edifying and animated by very basic emotions. Plus a young kid and her cute pet. Basically, this is 'E.T.'

Attentive readers already know how I feel about Spielberg.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

A fervent admirer of Woolf (rediscovered  'Orlando' to great satisfaction) I nevertheless found this opus more strenuous than enjoyable, just like last time I read it. 

The experimentation in narrative technique and point of view definitely did loads for postmodern literature but it makes for some tiresome reading. 
Focalization skips from one character to another in what felt like a nonsensical way and as there is no plot to speak of, I never got really acquainted with the characters and so was wholly unable to muster any interest in them.

Sadly, I gave up halfway through! I like her short stories, some of which are a lot more abstract, but for some reason I just can't get into this. Might have to try it a third time, at some point in the future... 
(I don't know why I refuse to accept that I just don't like it. I SHOULD like it!)
 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ten Things I Hate About You - G. Junger 1999

Shakespeare it ain't, but not far from either. Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Heath Ledger, all youthful and innocent and cuter than they ever were thereafter in a 1990s fashion, re-enacting 'The Taming of the Shrew'. 

My thirteen-year-old liked it, which may not say much but she is, after all, the number one target audience for this.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner

The timelessness of art is gripping not only when I contemplate 600-year-old Notre Dame de Paris, but also when realize this Faulkner masterpiece is almost a full 90 years old. 

Re-reading it, I'm thinking it's almost as if Faulkner had been determined to experiment how much it is humanely possible to play on narration while still remaining coherent and maintaining his literary standard. 
Reading takes focus and concentration, therefore, but is so intensely pleasurable I tore through the novel in two days.

It is set, of course, in Faulkner's usual, fictional Yoknapatawpha county, and revolves around the Compsons, the fall of the Compson family paralleling the decay of the Old South. The narration is divided into four parts, the first three told by different members of the family and the fourth by an omniscient narrator. Daughter Caddie does none of the narrating yet is at the core of the plot, most of which, incidentally, is already in the past when the novel begins.

For anyone with even a slight interest in literature, the Norton Critical Edition is always The Shit To Get, as it completes the novel with a series of very enlightening critical texts -  by prominent critics; here Robert Penn Warren, Jean Paul Sartre and André Bleikasten, for instance, though my favourite is Olga Vickery's A Study In Perspective -  plus, in this case, Faulkner's own Appendix, explicating the plot to the point it's almost indispensable.

I just remembered precisely why Faulkner my Favourite Author of All Time.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Going Clear - A. Gibney 2015

Though I had heard good reviews of this documentary, I had also viewed enough other documentaries on Netflix - of that very American, overly-dramatic, Nat Geo Wild-kind - to be a bit skeptical as well. Unwarranted skepticism, as this turned out insightful, knowledgeable and finely tuned.

It dealt in detail with :
- Founder L Ron Hubbard, his insanity and his batty theories. (Watch 'The Master'!)
- Successor David Miscavige, his paranoia and violent methods.
- Big bucks.
- Travolta and Tom Cruise.

For obvious reasons, it's tough to have any sort of opinion on the veracity of their findings, but the whole documentary draws essentially on interventions of ex-scientologists from Miscavige's inner circle. It also fits with things I have read about the sect (France classifies it as such) from other high-ranking scientologists.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Plan B - Jonathan Tropper

Present in this first novel by 'This Is Where I Leave You'-writer Tropper :
A tad Jackie Collins (sexy, beautiful women, big love, a celebrity with a cocaine habit) 
+ A lot of 'Friends' (1990s yuppies, a tight group of friends, incessant punchlines) 
+ Heavy 'The Big Chill' inspiration (relational melodrama in a wooden cabin in the forest, an absent friend, midlife crisis).

Original? Not so much.
Shallow? Yes.
Entertaining? That, too.

Also : A demonstration of how tough single-voice narration can be to pull off...


Monday, July 3, 2017

The Crown season 1

This series was well in the line of the royal Windsor-family; keeping a stiff upper lip, all in understatement (litote, I mean!) and restraint.

Although it is of course hard to tell facts from fiction, it has a truthful ring to it and doesn't feel overly sugarcoated. 
For instance, the children are conspicuously absent except when playing with their dad in the background. Somehow, it all manages to feel both genuine and dramatized in some authentic yet off-biopicky way.

The light, setting and costumes are gorgeous, and finally, it is very pleasant to watch a series that actually draws on the fact that it is a series and not a two-hour motion picture, i.e. taking its time, steering clear of conventions and daring to be discreet in the Windsor way.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Kung Liljekonvalje av Dungen - Maria Lang



Maria Lang is pretty much a Swedish version of Agatha Christie :
- The plot is regularly set in the small town native of her recurring Police officer hero (on whom I had a Serious Crush as a teenager) (still do, frankly) where people frequently resort to murder to solve their problems, like in Miss Marple's St Mary Mead.
- The characters are Swedishly quaint in just the same way as Christie's characters are Britishly.
- The whodunit plots are puzzles without any ambition whatsoever to be anything else. Which is OK since in those days, detective stories weren't yet thirteen to the dozen, each more violent and seedy than the previous. (#old and #grumpy)

This book was first published in 1957 and I got my copy in 1982 (I was 14!) so it wasn't exactly fresh from the print even then. It is one of my favourites so I have reread it a number of times. Interesting thing about rereading detective novels; I feel I have forgotten all about the plot, but then as I turn the pages, it all comes back to me in portions, a little at the time. Only happens with detective novels. This time, though, it came back to me a bit too soon. I suspect I may have to pick some other of her novels next time I get an urge for 1950s smalltown Sweden. 


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Histoire de la Violence - Edouard Louis

You may well harbour all sorts of opinions on the author's choice to tell an autobiographical event (rape and physical violence) in a novelized narrative - and all sorts of opinions are indeed both harboured and expressed in the media - but Louis's literary talent is so irrefutable, there is no way for me not to love this.

The writing style is elaborate, with multiple narrative voices and multiple time spans intertwining as the night in question unfolds, just as these events interweave with stories of his past (again!). Convoluted yet seemingly effortless = Truly elegant!

Extra bonus points for the literary interlude assimilating his experience to that of Temple Drake in Faulkner's 'Sanctuary'.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

New York Public Library Podcast

These are live recordings of people conversing in front of an audience so the sound quality is very far from that of most other podcasts. But then the quality of the speakers largely outweighs anything else!

Knowledgeable, articulate, intelligent writers, artists and thinkers speak about literature, their lives, economy, world politics or Shakespeare.

My favourites :
Marjane Satrapi (of brilliant Persepolis) was a blast! Funny and clever and irresistible!
Jay Z was surprisingly well-phrased and levelheaded. (That surprised me because I know he hasn't done any higher education.)
Gloria Steinem was her usual intelligent, outspoken and humane self.
Noam Chomsky is always Noam Chomsky, but that his conversation partner Yanis Varoufakis should be so convincing I had not anticipated.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

I Am Not Your Negro - R. Peck 2016

James Baldwin's articulate and perceptive musings on race relations in the US + heaps of stock footage = Yes this was interesting and thought-provoking, though not necessarily very original.

If, however, you are accompanied by a curious thirteen-year-old, desirous to learn more about icons Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, then you definitely want to choose another film.


Friday, June 23, 2017

And the Great Unknown - Bror Gunnar Jonsson

Not all of this is very runner-friendly, but all of it is bluesy yet original and it rocks!
(very runner-friendly!)


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

Regrettably, the very useful low-expectations principle is a no-go with Mohsin Hamid.
I have read and loved all his previous novels ('How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia', 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' and 'Moth Smoke') and his essay collection so I should have been slightly better prepared for the inevitable disappointment, due to come sooner or later.

'Exit West' deals with a country under extremist attack, emigration and then immigration - highly topical, distressing subjects and not so very different from Hamid's previous novels. 

The treatment, however, is incomparable. Far from his previous first person narrations, this story is told in a Paulo Coelho-esque narrative voice, observing from the outside and naming only the main characters. (Others can be described as "the man" or "the second man".)
This ambitious / pretentious fairy tale, stilted style of writing was one of the things I hated about 'The Alchemist' and I can't say I appreciate it much here, either. Whereas this impersonal narration does bypass tearful melodrama, it also prevents at least me from identifying with the characters. 

So : Could have been good, should have been good, but I suppose not even my personal housegods can hit a home run with every book. Hamid will do better next time, I'm sure.    


Monday, June 19, 2017

Look Who's Back - D. Wnendt 2015

What the concept of the return of Adolf Hitler to today's Germany may lack in originality (classic fish out of the water) it makes up for in audacity.

Indeed, to have the Germans find him charming and captivating is what I call a very bold move! Whether that in turn compensates for what I definitely felt was a lack of credibility (I mean Come On!! It's Hitler!) is an open question.
 
What did bother me in this film :
- I wasn't very funny. It should have been. It would have been like a glass of water to swallow the pill.
- It depicted the German people as a homogenous bunch of conservative fascists. Which was daring enough, but in my experience very unfair. 

In short, an interesting idea which would have deserved a better treatment.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Trespasser - Tana French

Even before I came across the mention of Rhys's 'Wide Sargasso Sea' in 'The Trespasser' I had made the connection between Antoinette, the brown murder detective at war with the rest of the squad, and Antoinette, Mr Rochester's first wife from 'the islands' subsequently become 'the mad woman in the attic' at war with the rest of Thornfield Hall.
Love French for her literary references! Previously, I have drawn parallels to fellow Dubliner James Joyce.

However, I love French for more than her taste in literature : 
She also smoothly avoids the greatest pitfalls of crime literature and the worst stereotypes in today's society as a whole. 
She writes elegantly and idiosyncratically. Single-voice narration is not that easy to pull off.
She is following a path which, I believe and hope, will eventually lead her away from the murder plots and towards something more ambitious.

In short; a good read!

Other French books you want to check out :
'Broken Harbour'
'The Likeness'
'The Secret Place' 
'Into the Woods'
'Faithful Place'


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Rilès

For some wholly inexplicable reason, I have always had something of an issue with French rap music.  I cannot explain why, but French rap just doesn't speak to me.

As it turns out, that issue does not at all apply when the French rap in question is :

a) in English. (Good English, too! I am an English teacher - I know a good accent when I hear one.)

b) brilliantly talented and original. (I mean, like, really very talented!)



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Here I Am - Jonathan Safran Foer


The key question to this novel, it seems to me, is not so much (W)HERE I am, but rather WHO. Foer explores subjects of jewishness, kinship and identity for over 500 pages, which is, I'm sorry to say, at least 200 too many in the present case.

In its family saga form, it rather reminded me of Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom' (no particular favourite of mine). They very much share the same genre as literary bestsellers. Regrettably, I had come to expect more of Foer after his two previous masterpieces ('Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' and 'Everything Is Illuminated'). 

 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pollinator - Blondie

Without wishing to focus on their age, I don't suppose it's reasonable to ask for renewal from people this old. Not everyone is David Bowie. (Very few are, in point of fact.)  Therefore I won't hold the 1980s sound against them in any way.

That said, the world can definitely do with some more 'Heart of Glass' and 'Atomic'-like songs! It's up-to-date and fresh and very runner-friendly!

And though I can't say I particularly respect elderly musicians playing their own elderly songs, I set great store by elderly musicians playing new songs.



Friday, June 9, 2017

The Departed - M. Scorsese 2006

So there was a lot of characteristic Scorsese in here : Organized crime, plenty of talking, explicit violence, Leo Di Caprio, an aging mentor, a tight plot, deception, a great deal of swearing, white powder and of course a single female character torn between the two doppelgänger, Damon and Di Caprio.

And all that know-how which makes it a good film. 


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Poldark season 1

There was actually one exceedingly handsome fellow among Peter Jackson's dwarfs, but sorry to say it was not Aidan Turner. Perhaps if Richard Armitage (King under the Mountain) had been cast as homecoming hero Poldark, his dour face might have compensated for what I felt was a lack of creation and innovation in this BBC series. At least it would have been nicer to look at.

As it was, I must admit Iost patience with this after a mere two episodes.


Louis CK 2017

Louis CK on stage is less up close and personal than his TV series, obviously, but still; the perfect stand-up comedian. Smart AND funny. Deals with topics ranging from abortion ("Don't have an abortion. Unless you need one.") to religion to rescue dogs to Achilles to married life to 'Magic Mike' to his dad's penis.

Watch and learn, Schumer. Watch and learn.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Album - ABBA

Mercifully, the world has already forgotten about the 1977 disaster 'ABBA The Movie' (Lasse Hallström's worst film ever, although admittedly that isn't saying much).

Hopefully, not everyone has forgotten about the accompanying album. It's their best! 

I know them all by heart, you can take my word for it. It's still their best.

(This video, though? Another great moment in the Hallström filmography. I don't suppose he understood a single word of the lyrics?)

 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Santa Clarita Diet s1

I very nearly gave up on this. Though the pitch is refreshing and frisky - mousy housewife turns zombie - I found the first two episodes gruesome and gory, which felt like a cheap trick (as opposed to a clever script).

But then around episode three, something happened! 
There were slightly less torn-off body parts and a lot more irreverent punchlines. 
The secondary characters gained depth.
The opposition between Suburbia and human-flesh-devouring undead sharpened.
I suddenly realized all the first-rate characters were women.
It became great fun!


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Tropismes - Nathalie Sarraute

A tropism (I love Wikipedia!) is "a growth or turning movement... in response to an environmental stimulus". The motif of tropisms in this short story collection may not be immediately perceptible when reading - but then, truth be told, almost nothing is!

All the elements I considered as the upside to Lucia Berlin's short stories - analogy of narrator, point of view and focalization - are conspicuously absent here. 
In Sarraute's 29 short sketches, everything is implicit and differing from one piece to another. The point of view is always subjective but then as the narrator keeps changing, these texts demand constant focus and contemplation.

It is fortunate, therefore, that :
1. The narratives are very short. All 29 amount to less than 100 pages in all.
2. Sarraute's writing is so unbelievably adroit. She is of the same literary family as Woolf and Joyce, and that is a very, very restricted family. 
 
Beautiful!


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Army of Darkness - S. Raimi 1981

I don't suppose anyone even remotely acquainted with my tastes would imagine I could find any pleasure whatsoever in this (except of course my husband) : Blood-spattering entertainment violence, gross and amateurish special effects, a plot designed as a parody of its own genre and sadly uninspired dialogue. 
In many ways, it feels like Sam Raimi used this to practice for 'Ghostbusters'.

And though I do see the attraction : Nah. Not my bag of tea.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

"For Crying Out Loud" (2017) - Kasabian

50% are new songs of the same upbeat, melodious, indie-ish rock music kind as their previous album, which I very much enjoyed.

50% are live recordings from a 2016 concert where they seem to have been particularly chipper. 
I hope that is a regular feature, as I have now got my tickets for their upcoming Paris concert. Can't wait!


Friday, May 26, 2017

The Middlepause - Marina Benjamin

So I'm not really turning fifty IRL yet. But in my head, the process has already started, and it is MUCH harder than I had expected! Like the author Benjamin says "50 is my mum!"


Which is why I figured the concept of this book was promising; a skilled journalist's musings on menopause and passing the 50th hurdle.

Yet for all that, I don't really recognize myself in Benjamin's experiences, however similar they are to mine.
While she sees the end of her life approaching, I'm personally more childishly chafed at the irritating physical inconveniences of aging. 
While she sees taking hormones as "reckoning with the treatment's desperately misogynistic roots", I was just greatly comforted at coming to terms with those insufferable hot flashes.


Some interesting stuff, though! 
Partly, obviously, on the "desperately misogynistic roots" of hormone treatment (1960s doctor refused to acknowledge cancer risk of his oestrogen treatment, using his wife as a lab rat; her suffering the same fate as most lab rats do).
Also on what someone called Hammond calls "autobiographical memory". Means that "the older you get, the more you notice the recurrence of things you've come across before". This is why the older we get, the faster time seems to pass. Makes sense!

There, I have summed it up for you in a nutshell. You don't need to read it now unless you share Benjamin's feelings about 50. (In which case, you may buy my copy at a very reasonable price.)


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Amy Schumer, The Leather Special

As much as I do like Amy Schumer, her film 'Trainwreck' and all that she stands for (gender equality, female sexuality, outspokenness etc), this just didn't make me laugh at all. 
I simply didn't find it funny.

I had much more fun watching her on Youtube have a heckler thrown out of the Stockholm show. I suggest you watch that instead.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Swimming With Sharks - Joris Luyendijk

The Swedish subtitle augured well; "A journey into the inner workings of finance."
I know virtually nothing about finance, and scratch is generally a pretty good starting point.

I did learn. Some. For instance, I gained awareness of how narrowly we avoided worldwide catastrophe in the 2008 crisis, and how little has changed since then.

The author - a London-based Dutch journalist - has conducted 200 interviews with City-insiders and published them on his 'Guardian'-based blog. His findings seem well-sustained and his conclusions not too far off.

And still, for some reason, I didn't learn as much as I had hoped to.
The writing and the presentation both felt fuzzy and vague, and the whole book just didn't come off as very educational. At least part of that might have been due to the Swedish translation, which was uninspired and old hat at the same time.

In short, a couple of hours unfruitfully spent..!


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Legion s1

Even the most careless readers among you out there are probably aware by now of my distaste for superheroes. Possibly also of the eerie frequency with which I still find myself watching them.

Here, the superheroes have been enriched with filmic ambitions, snazzy 1960s fashion, Downton's Dan Stevens looking like one of the Gallaghers, a fair share of talent (his name is Noah Hawley, he created 'Fargo' and I've read a book of his!) and profuse cultural references in the Pink Floyd/Tommy/Clockwork Orange-genre. 

Psychedelia has grown rare on modern day TV - suffice to say, there is a reason - so over-using it like this is a very bold move. And though I have despite my spouse's insistent attempts at indoctrination always been impervious to Pink Floyd, I do love me a bold move!
Also bold : Furthering your narrative in this slow, meandering fashion, actually assuming your audience is capable of thinking for themselves, and do not need to be shown or told everything.

As for likenesses to the cinema or comic versions of the X-men, I really wouldn't know, but the narration is fundamentally different here.

So whereas I would never have believed the combo psychedelia + superheroes could be anything but a nightmare, it turns out to be quite a winning concept!