Friday, October 20, 2017

Prophets of Rage - Prophets of Rage

Mix three members from Rage Against the Machine with two from Public Enemy and one from Cypress Hill, and apparently the outcome will be this kind of RHCP-inspired rap & rock music with - this is the best part! - political lyrics.

Highly enjoyable, although I will admit after I had downloaded my first song and heard "hatred... one nation... unification" I thought it was some neonazi crap. Turned out to be the opposite : "No hatred - Fuck racists... Unfuck the world"


The Girls - Emma Cline

For some reason - probably due to venal coverdesign - I expected this to be some feelgood / chicklit easy read.

It was no such thing, at least not in the conventional sense of those terms.

In the purest sense, however : Clever literature certainly makes me feel good, and chicks are at the core of everything here, so..! 

The style and the plot (a female-angled rewriting of the Manson murders) (probably extremely different from Tarantino's upcoming film) feel like they come from a younger cousin of Donna Tartt's. Brilliant!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fresh Meat season 2

Whereas I generally feel enjoying the first season of a show is an excellent reason to stop watching before it inevitably loses pace, I know most people don't agree with me on that. 

I might, therefore, be caving to the norm in that I actually not only went on to watch season two of this quirky UK sitcom but also enjoyed it practically as much as I did the first.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Victoria & Abdul - S. Frears 2017

For all his - rather irregular - talent, I've never really been a great admirer of Stephen Frears.
Nor, indeed, did I find this to be any cinematographic masterpiece despite splendid scenery and acting. 
It was, however, a very OK history lesson to watch in company of a teenager on a Sunday afternoon.
(See, it doesn't take much - whenever one of my teens takes an interest in history, I'm happy!)

Who Rules The World - Noam Chomsky

Reading Chomsky takes a certain amount of concentration; he is very knowledgeable and very thought-provoking, but his teaching skills need working on.

He grows a little repetitive around halfway through, but his biting criticism of American politics and discourse is so convincing I don't even feel like vacationing there anymore.

In short, he is pretty much the antithesis to the Trumpian take on what the US should be.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Romeo + Juliet - B. Luhrman 1996

Undeniably, it has aged a little - yet it remains appealing enough to keep my thirteen-year-old riveted up to the tragic ending. Di Caprio's youthful looks may have had something to do with her staying on, but still.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Rainbow - Kesha

A bit like last year's Gwen Stefani-album, or Martina Haag's divorce book, a large portion of this album's strength lies in the fact that it feels directly inspired from Kesha's own life and hardships (lengthy legal procedures eventually freed her from the contract binding her to the producer she accused of repeated abuse).

Though there is no 'Tik Tok' on here, it is a fairly OK pop album.

Friday, October 13, 2017

On Harvey Weinstein

Oy, all you people in the entertainment business who now seem all taken aback at the Weinstein way of dealing with women : Perhaps you should have had a look in Biskind's book 'Down and Dirty Pictures' which was already over a decade old when I read it last year?

Admittedly, it does not mention sexual assault, but it leaves little doubt as to his general personality. 
(If I knew, how could you not..?)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fresh Meat s 1

A bit old (2011) and not overly original (six bonding roommates of different personalities) but oh! there is something to be said for British humour, isnt't there?! Charming!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Dior, Couturier du Rêve at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris 1st arrdt

Despite pre-ordered tickets, there was quite a lot of queuing involved, the mob inside was exhausting and the air too stuffy for comfort. And still! SO worth it!

Room after room with outfits and accessories, sortied by colour, by style, by designer or chronologically (that's how many outfits there were). 
A commented Lady Dior handbag workshop. 
Four walls covered in real-life white patrons.
Famous photos and the dresses IRL, such as Avedon's Dovima with elephants.

Truly breathtaking!!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Beth Ditto at the Bataclan, Paris 11th arrdt

Only once before have I left a concert with an itch to take the artist with me home - and that was Gossip at the Zénith a couple of years ago, so it's safe to say the Ditto stage persona has lost nothing of its appeal.

She remains irresistibly charming; and as the Bataclan houses only 1500, Saturday night she was not only closer, but also louder, cuter, sweatier, sweeter and generally even better than the last time.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Allied - R. Zemeckis (2016)

Remarkable that someone with the experience and know-how of a Robert Zemeckis has produced a film this conventional, uninspired and uninteresting.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Långt Borta Från Nifelheim - Majgull Axelsson

Today, Axelsson is one of Sweden's most successful writers, and though she may not yet be shortlisted for any Nobel Prize, she has been given at least one of most other major Swedish literary awards.

This opus is her literary début from 1997 (and yes, it won an award, too). 
The fact that this was her first published novel makes it particularly ambitious; multiple time spans and geographical settings; back and forth from present-day, smalltown Sweden, where the main character is caring for her agonizing mother, to the Philippines, where she spent time as a diplomat, and further flashbacks to different periods of her childhood. 
Just like in her latest novel ('Jag Heter Inte Miriam') the underlying theme is poverty, exclusion and their consequences, although strangely these motifs are much more elegantly treated here.

As an effect of Axelsson's elaborate narrative choices, reading this does require some concentration. But is so worth it! Skilfully, in tiny instalments, just like in a murder mystery, she distills the story in tiny parcels, the tension mounting as the Philippine volcano ash thickens in the air and the Swedish old mother dies.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Villains - Queens of the Stone Age

Two quick thoughts on this album :

1. I like this kind of old-school, savvy rock music. Unmistakably, the musicians go way back together (1996; I checked) and seem to enjoy what they do.

2. Producer Mark Ronson is as versatile as he is talented.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith

I don't suppose anyone really enjoys being taken for an idiot, so I can only assume that the other buyers to the 1.5 million copies sold of 'Child 44' did not read the same things into it as I did. Personally, it drives me up the wall to have the author doggedly spell out all the important facts to me, in short simple sentences, at least twice for each fact. Just to make sure, I assume, that I, the reader, won't miss out. Maddening!

Yet as all those other readers don't seem to have minded, I reckon they managed to focus on either the setting (1950s Soviet Union, described in well-researched detail) or the plot (Lo and behold! A serial killer! How unusual.). 
None of those had me precisely enthralled, unfortunately.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Nocturnal Animals - T. Ford 2016

Stylish (though perhaps less artificially so than 'A Single Man') and with a mind-spinning plot that is unsettling in the way of 'The Shining' or 'Twin Peaks'. (Or as my eldest said; "It creeps me out.")

And complicated! Blink and you will have missed something crucial.

Enjoyable, though!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Atonement - Ian McEwan

This was an ambitious work! Elaborate metafiction, multiple focalization and parallel timespans overlapping each other make this novel rise well above your average bestseller.
Also, I found the story particularly wrecking, despite having seen (and enjoyed!) the film a couple of years ago.

In the first part, several characters give their version of a single hot day and night in a pre-war English mansion. 
The mounting tension and sense of impending doom are elegantly conveyed in a multitude of details. 
The second half of the book deals with the consequences of that night.

Sad and thoughtprovoking. And beautiful!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Färjan - Mats Strandberg

Gory horror with supernatural elements is perhaps not at the top of my reading list, but this was a quick read and despite both blood and suspense in abundance, it did not affect my sleep so why not? I won't make a habit out of it.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

O.J. Made In America - E. Edelman 2016

All spring, my Professore pal has tried his best to sell this docu-series to me, and I have patiently tried to explain to him that O.J. Simpson does not interest me in the least.

In the end, I stand corrected : As it turns out, not only am I very interested in this particular former football-player and his juicy (!) private life, but the series deals with so much more than just the Simpson story. It begins with a successful athlete, then pans out on racial relations in late 20th century America.

Close friends, lawyers and collaborators are questioned, and the use of archive footage is extensive. Simpson is depicted as a charismatic, selfish wife-beater, completely indifferent to the black civil rights movement, aspiring mainly at being considered 'non-coloured'. 
There is dark irony, therefore, in the fact that the black community weighed so heavily in his release.

I might try to take the Professore's advice more seriously in the future.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Sjuka Själar - Kristina Ohlsson

The writing style is so unbelievably common and uninspired that I can't help wondering what on earth possessed Ohlsson to make her want to write a book. It certainly wasn't the love of fine literature.

It might, though, have been the urge to tell a gripping story - It is, indeed, gripping! 
Serial killers (yes; again...), satanism, mysterious pasts and ghosts, no less. 
Overkill she has not worried about. Throughout the book, I kept wondering how she would manage to tie up all the loose ends in a satisfactory and non-disappointing way, seeing how spectacular and overwrought the plot panned out. 
Obviously I won't tell you how; suffice to say she managed!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Skäringer & Mannheimer

I generally prefer well-structured interviews (not like Mark Maron's) to people prattling on about whatever pops into their minds, but this one actually makes me laugh out loud in the metro from time to time.
It's a successful TV author / performer and a successful actress / performer rambling on about everyday topics (charity, doctor's visits, feminism, childbirth, bees...) and it is sometimes thought-provoking and mostly fun.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hacksaw Ridge - M. Gibson 2016

Andrew Garfield is, ordinarily, the epitome of boyish charm (which ought to make him pretty much the opposite of the disgruntled director Mel Gibson?) and yet here, he may be overplaying his charms a little.

Apart from the conscientious objector soldier, refusing to bear arms, I had already seen the rest of this film in countless other war movies. I was bored and don't like writing about films I haven't finished, so I sat through it, and can therefore now safely recommend you not to.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Girls, season 6

I felt compelled to quit this brilliant show after Hannah became such a horribly annoying sub teacher I am positive I would have strangled her had it been physically possible.
And yet, that is the bottom line and the strength of this show; that the characters are multifaceted, evolving, 'real' people.

In this brilliant final season, the girls are enriched by a couple of boys (one of them Riz Ahmed!) who are allowed to take up more space.

Sorry to be so wholly lacking originality but : Fantastic series.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Everything Now - Arcade Fire

Some of this is really OK pop/rock music, and some of it just sucks. 
Uneven only begins to describe it. A strange combination of high and low - all the more bewildering as some seriously talented people have been involved - which makes for a rather lukewarm general impression.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Château du Lude, Loire Valley

Yet another beautiful Renaissance château, built in the Middle Ages (though not much, if anything, remains from those days) and surrounded by a spacious, flourishing park.

The château is still inhabited, which lends a titillating impression of peeping into people's private lives to the visit. Stately renaissance furniture.

An extra plus for the visit being comprehensive enough to show us not only the usual sitting rooms and libraries, but also the kitchen and cellar.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

No Such Thing As A Fish

Three witty Englishpeople and one American, all equipped with microphones, each describing an interesting fact learnt during the week. 
Everyone comments and quips, it's all terribly British and rather fun.

The topics tend to be science-oriented, which is probably the reason I didn't find this quite as hilarious as I had thought I would.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Beguiled - S. Coppola 2017

As faithful readers will no doubt have guessed, I have not seen Don Siegel's 1971 version of the same novel. 
Even so, considering the context, the director and the male lead (Clint Eastwood), I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the two films are fundamentally different.

Despite the civil war setting, Coppola's movie feels profoundly modern. 
Attention lies on the women, Farrell's wounded soldier serves mostly as a foil, triggering and funnelling their actions and feelings (multilayered, confuse and sometimes contradictory, as feelings tend to be).

Plus : Beautiful imagery and the perfect, 90-minute format. A treat! 

Friday, September 8, 2017

About Time - R. Curtis 2013

So it would appear that there is a reason to the demise of the romcom.

If despite
Richard Curtis's savoir-faire,
time travel in a romantic story,
British humour,
this still feels uncharismatic and unoriginal, very much based on the same blueprint as 'Love Actually' and 'Notting Hill', then I reckon the genre is simply dead.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Game of Thrones, season 7

Setting aside all other advantages of this show (writing, characterization, refusal of stereotypes, setting...) it is actually a lot better than a. the books and b. the first season, especially now that;
- they have plucked up the courage and sense to do without unwarranted sex scenes.
- the plot moves steadily on towards the end, gaining focus and convergence (and white walkers and Arya Stark).

In short, it is a super-feelgood thing to watch all the Good Guys dear to your heart finally get together, all the while knowing in the back of your mind that Game of Thrones is not your average Spielberg movie and might not end with a "happily ever after".

Monday, September 4, 2017

Leeds Castle, Maidstone

My kids, begot by a history-crazy father, have already visited a large number of castles despite their early teenage years. Needless to say, they have considered every one of those castles an inexpressibly boring heap of old stones. 
Remarkably, both these teenagers declared Leeds castle the best they had ever visited, possibly because we never got around to actually entering it. (Having been there before, however, I know it is rather sumptuous inside as well.)

What we did get around to doing : Saw the falconry show (love falconry!), got lost and muddy in the maze, watched a somewhat over-advertised large-screen video on the battle of Britain, walked in the park and looked in on the Dog Collar museum.
With a little more time, we would also have taken the punting tour around the moat ("puntagenet"!) and done the treetop adventure course. 

For any history buffs among you, I will point out that the castle in question was built in the 12th century and subsequently taken over by British royals. Henry VIII lived here with wife no 1, Catherine of Aragon. And though it no longer looks quite (or at all) like it did in the 16th century, it remains a very beautiful castle.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Avici - Avicii

Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with sounding like The Swedish House Mafia, but after Avicii's previous opus, it's a tad disappointing, isn't it? Plus, it a couple of years too late.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Dunkirk - C. Nolan, 2017

More than a war-movie, this is a work of art. Great art, in the line of Kipling, Hardy or Otto Dix. Outstanding!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kvinnorna och Staden 2 - Kerstin Ekman

As previously stated (when I re-read the first two books) this series combines literary genius with new social history and extensive historical research. Unmissable, therefore.

But then, in book four, something strange happens. The book is set in what was present day at the time of writing (1973) with frequent flashbacks into the near past, and somehow it doesn't work. I suppose it is the 1970s spirit that adds this decidedly hippie, free-love spirit to the story that sadly is doing it absolutely no good at all.

Although the third part was excellent, part four was therefore something of an anticlimax.
It would seem not even Kerstin Ekman has produced 100% sheer brilliancy, then?


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Grateful - DJ Khaled

Contrary to what you'd expect from his stage name (at least if you are as much of a hiphop novice as yours truly) DJ Khaled does not produce dance-friendly electronica, but intelligent, beefy rap music, not quite up to the standards of a Jay-Z or an Eminem, but definitely above the likes of YG or Snoop.

Appearances by said Jay-Z, Beyonce, Drake, Rihanna, Chance the Rapper and Travis Scott are an added bonus.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sherlock Holmes Museum, London

£50 ticket fees for four + 50 minutes of queuing in the street + a 25-minute visit + 10 minutes in the particularly well-stocked gift shop. 

True enough, all the exhibits were genuine Victorian furnitures and accessories, but still... 
 As they say; You do the math. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

National Portrait Gallery, London

A modest three floors - but three very full floors! - of the exquisite mix of art and history.
Not perhaps the most mindboggling, innovative, moving of artworks (at least not all of them) but still : Art + History!

Famous portraits of famous people from British history, exhibited in chronological order starting with my favourites the Tudors, going all the way to an oil-on-canvas of Ed Sheeran, via Shakespeare, the Brontës, Disraeli and all sorts of royalties. A great way to spend a couple of hours! 

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.