Friday, March 31, 2017

Soumission - Michel Houellebecq

My reading this just now was pure coincidence and yet serendipity incarnate, as the French 2017 election is referred to as "the starting point" of the plot. 

The present uncertainty as to the election's final results definitely heightened my experience of this account, where politics and religion are the major themes : In a near future, a Muslim party wins the election and sets up government in Paris, after a period of escalating right-wing extremism.

In his inimitably cynical way, Houellebecq manages the feat of telling his story without any apparent judgment whatsoever. Where his writing style, sharper than a scalpel, tends to make my spine shiver whenever he writes about feelings - let alone women - it appears to have been born for this kind of work. For the first time, I felt that his storyline actually matches his style.

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Spirit - Depeche Mode

One of my more memorable concert memories is that of Depeche Mode at the Globe Arena in Stockholm, in 1990. It was made striking largely because I had no idea beforehand what a brilliant stage artist Gahan was (though in all fairness, I have seen him much less inspired after that, as well).

Clearly, they have come very far from their Violator days, although that is more due to the distance in time (over 25 years!) than to their having truly moved on musically. 
But then, not everybody is David Bowie or Prince. Most are not.

At any rate, I found this quite listenable! Not that they precisely spark with joy and inspiration - when have they? - but the expertise of aging rock musicians who know each other well is always something of a treat.

I might even have considered buying concert tickets for this summer, if they had played anywhere else but at the Stade de France. That place is just Too Darn Big for music, in my humble opinion.
 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Avalon Boardgame

What I enjoy when playing : Laughs. Action. Suspicion. Roleplaying.

What I do not enjoy : Thinking. Going on for more than 90 minutes.

'Avalon' therefore suited me fine! It allows for the possibility to rack your brains a whole lot more than I did, but I daresay my playing was none the worse for my being a bit... ahem, restrictive in my mental exercice.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rebecca - A. Hitchcock 1940

Du Maurier's storyline still holds. There are two distinct female roles, making this epos perfectly well-suited for a remake, all the more as Hitchcocks's stageing, genius though it probably is, has aged rather mercilessly.

In short, why not offer us a new version of 'Rebecca', rather than all these updated princess-movies?

Bechdel-test passed with honors, as a pure bonus.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Behind the Candelabra - S. Soderbergh

At first, I felt a biopic, even destined for TV, definitely unworthy of the Soderbergh skills.

But then of course, those skills of his elevate what could have been a rather commonplace  biography, into a very decent film.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Thing About Biopics

There is something inherently affected about biopics : Somehow, art should not be about attempting to imitate life as closely as possible. Art implies making a statement of some kind, adding or removing something from reality as we percieve it.
Otherwise, I just don't see the point.

Admittedly, you can consider biopics less as art than as history lessons - As such; sure, why not?
I still have an issue with the inevitable subjectivity, which I think affects you stronger in picture than in text, as we have an innate tendency to believe what we see, even in the 21st century.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dans La Légende - PNL

Nope, French rap is still not at all my cup of rap. 

Still! 

This is innovative. Innovative is always good, whatever the outcome. (The outcome here is something dreamlike, different from any rap music at least I have ever heard before. Nothing I am really into, as I said, but still! Innovative!)


Besides, these gentlemen come from the southern suburbs, where I used to work. 
They feel like my homies..!


Sunday, March 19, 2017

So Good - Zara Larsson

I do tend to enjoy too much of a good thing, so I'd never have thought too much sugar could be anything but sweet, but several of Larsson's sentimental poptunes in a row left me queasy.

Not only did I expect better; I expected MUCH better. 

Get Shellback next time.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

The word 'novel' derives from the latin word for 'new' and dates back to the early 19th century, when novels were precisely that. They were considered decidedly second-class to poetry and history - especially the 'sensation novels' reaching a mostly female, therefore inherently inferior, audience - and were disapproved of by more refined members of society (though of course widely read).
 
In 'Northanger Abbey', Austen has a go both at contemporary gothic novels (Radcliffe's 'The Mysteries of Udolpho' is explicitly mentioned) and at conduct books (Richardson's 'Pamela' comes to mind, of course). There is also her customary marriage plot with its pertaining social criticism, as well as the equally frequent coming-of-age of her main character.
That makes for a lot of various themes in one and the same book!

True enough, Austen ought perhaps to have settled for less, and arguably might have, too, had this novel been penned later on in her career. As it was, this was her first finished novel, sold to a publisher in 1803 (for £10!) but only published posthumously.

Her sameness of themes is bewildering to me : Was it, in the end, rather fortunate that she did not get to repeat herself in more than six novels? Or would she, given a few more years, eventually have matured into a more versatile novelist? 


Only one more Austen-novel to go now, then I will have reread them all (except Pride and Prejudice, which I felt I knew well enough already).

Re-www.librivox.org : Elizabeth Klett is an excellent reader!


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Stranger Things, season 1

Well, this was an interesting mix, to say the least! Part 'Twin Peaks', part 'ET' plus a minor percentage each of 'Alien' and Von Trier's series 'The Kingdom' and a whole lot of other more fleeting references! Still, for all its resemblances to existing masterpieces, I found this creative, addictive and, as a former roleplayer, all but irresistible.

The story takes off with the disappearance of a child, which might not sound overly original, yet the plot is well-constructed, with mounting tension, well-penned dialogue and attaching, maturing characters.

Quite possibly I should not have showed this to my thirteen-year-olds, but I did and they both loved it.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Plates Coutures - Matmatah

Whoever claimed French rock was dead (might have been me) had clearly forgotten all about excellent Skip the Use and Shaka Ponk. While neither of those have released anything new in a while - though I belive Shaka Ponk is on the move! - the Briton gentlemen of Matmatah are kindly stepping in, after a decade of absence.

I know none of their previous albums, so can't compare them to this. The low-expectations principle is applicable to the full! 

Possibly partly therefore, I found this to be very fair rock music, of a kind you don't hear much of any more. (At least I don't.) Nothing overly original, but very listenable.



Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Night Fever - Music inspired by the new musical

As two out of three Gibb brothers hopefully rest in peace, it may not be very charitable or politically correct to say this, but it is nevertheless a RELIEF to enjoy these disco tunes without those awful high-pitched voices! 

The production is not very inspired, and it all sounds a bit bland, yet the joys of nostalgia are not to be underrated. (Though there is no way I could listen to this more than a couple of times in all. Nostalgia or not.)


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Cashmere - Swet Shop Boys

OK so it may well be that I have a major crush on irresistible Riz Ahmed at the moment, but it's not as if I didn't have good reasons :
'The Night Of'
 'Rogue One'
'Nightcrawler'
Fundraisers on Twitter for Syrian children or vandalised Jewish cemeteries
A playful instagram account.

Even though I feel their rap leaves room for improvement, the Eastern influences and the raw energy of this keep growing on me. Which is fortunate, as I would have hated to dislike anything Ahmed is up to. (I know it's bound to happen. But the later the better, yeah?)




Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Persuasion - Jane Austen

Too much marriage plot, too tender a heroine, not enough sarcasm.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

59th Grammy Awards Ceremony

What I might remember from the ceremony :

- Beyonce, obviously. I admire just about everything about her except, sadly, her music.
Still! Her number was visually impressive and daring, as usual. This is not what hit music usually sounds like. 
Her leaving empty-handed was nothing short of a scandal.

- Corden's pathethic aping of DeGeneres's iconic Oscar-selfie. (Everyone wants to trend on social media, I guess, but...)

- Bruno Mars! Masterly demonstrating that he masters both imitation, of Prince in 'Let's Go Crazy', and personalized inspiration, playing 'That's What I Like' sounding even more like Morris Day and the Time than usual. (Almost more than Morris Day himself did, though he had aged gracefully.)

- Adele's lovable personality.

- Gary Clark Jr and William Bell! Wicked!

- How thankful I am that the American passion for country music has so far not spread to Europe.

- James Hetfield's microphone problems; that sort of thing should not occur on this level of professionalism. 
(Could be the sound technician was just about as un-/skilled as the scriptwriter.)

- Chance the Rapper's excellent gospel number and how he thanked his mother, his father and his lord saviour for his awards.


In all, not a great year.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Min Europeiska Familj - Karin Bojs

For all my love of historic museums, I always tend to breeze through the prehistoric rooms.
These items just don't speak to me. That I read Bojs's book at all is because it was recommended to me by a generally trustworthy person. (My dad, if you must know. Dads know everything, that's a fact of life.)

Sure enough, this was as interesting as it was well-penned!
A seasoned and awarded science journalist, she diligently slips from her present day genealogical research to way back (54.000 years back) and then cruises forward in history, lavishly presenting us with recent DNA-research results, their conclusions and her theories.


What will hopefully remain with me from this book :

- Artistic energy and creativity is partly genetic! And these genes' downside - why does everything always have to have downsides?? - is a heightened risk for mental instability.

- Where the Cro-Magnon got his/her name : From the cro = shelter where 19th century Monsieur Magnon found the bones.

- Our dark skin colour, originally designed to protect us from the African sun, grew paler when we migrated north because it prevented us from absorbing vital D-vitamin from the sun.

- The Sami are the only European indigenous people left today.

- Around 6-7.000 years ago, better metal axes = better boats = finding new metal mines = a new type of society where wealth, trade and aristocracy took on a greater importance.

- What we inherited from the third great migratory wave, from the East : Indo-European languages, the wheel, horses, slave trade.

- Bojs's words of the caution required in genetic studies. There are no such thing as 'better' genetic dispositions; it's all a matter of context. Any superiority claims of any kind are null and void. And that is a scientific fact. Says not only my dad, but also Karin Bojs.

 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Captain America 2, Civil War - A & J Russo 2016

How come there is still no Black Widow-movie while most of her male counterparts get not only their own films, but also hyper-crappy sequels like this??