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!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Matmatah at La Cigale, Paris 18th arrdt

A rough estimate would be that around 98% of the audience at La Cigale last night were over-excited, homesick Bretons, craving for Matmatah's older hits of a folkish, rock breton kind of arena music.
The remaining 2% were me, not a Breton bone in my body, and very largely preferring their latest album.

The group finally achieved something like general satisfaction, playing old and new songs alike, and yet I suspect the Bretons left the venue just as slightly disgruntled as I was.

However, one major advantage to bands with a long career behind them is that not only do they play their instruments well, but they play well together, perfectly in sync with one another. Though I can't say I've ever suffered from a lack of synchronicity in a band, I still feel I detect and delight in this musical consensus. Very satisfactory!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grace and Frankie seasons 2 and 3

Two out of three from season one are still valid. 

- The Fonda - Tomlin chemistry from 1980 comedy '9 to 5' is still working so they seem to be having a blast together. Which is generally a blast to watch. 

- Marta Kauffman from 'Friends' is still Marta Kauffman from 'Friends' so the generality of the sitcom is the same. 

HOWEVER. The number of times you want to watch this odd couple fight and make up is limited. I felt my limit was reached some time towards the end of the second season. I still plowed through the third but I am definitely done now. (Though a change of mind at the premiere of season 4 is perhaps not entirely out of the question. We'll see.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

God Help The Child - Toni Morrison

As the adjective 'compelling' has become part of the stock-and-trade in book blurbs, it now has a rather watered-down ring to it. When it comes to Toni Morrison's work, however, it remains 100% accurate. 

'God Help The Child' is about child abuse and love. Though it is set in modern-day California (as opposed to a historical, Southern background), I still view Morrison as a direct descendant of my personal housegod William Faulkner

They share so much, not just the Southern scene and writing style, but also the preoccupation with race (or skin color, as we like to call it here in Europe), memory and the influence of the past on the present; not to mention the elaboration of their narratives. 
True to her habits, Morrison blends several voices, points of view and time spans, all of which ought to make for troublesome reading yet somehow only serves to heighten the experience.

In short, I loved this (in case it hadn't showed already). 
I also realize it is the second time in only a few weeks I mention Faulkner. Perhaps time has come for me to reread 'The Sound and the Fury'?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Burning Spider - Parov Stelar

Some googling informed me that this cryptic stage name designates an Austrian musician, slightly older than our average DJ (like, 20 years older) and with a longer career behind him.

I had never heard of this person before (which probably says more about me than it does about his renown) but am now very satisfied with having discovered him, as this turned out to be an interesting blend of jazz and electronica (or whatever I'm supposed to call electronic dance music, these days?).

As an extra bonus, some of the lyrics contain actual social criticism! 
I thought there was some rule against that in any music but rock and hiphop.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

L'Art ou la Vie! - Tzvetan Todorov

Just as I enjoyed Todorov's essay on Vermeer, I learnt from and took pleasure in this little book about Rembrandt van Rijn. The no-nonsense writing style is the same, and the content is divided into thematic chapters which makes it easy to consult.

Regarding Rembrandt the man, the book pretty much confirmed my previous impression, i. e. that he was not a very nice person, at least if his love affairs are anything to go by.  Indeed, even before becoming a widower, he had an irritating tendency to demand great versatility of his women; they had to be servants, housekeepers, models and lovers. 
True enough, Saskia's last will was not helpful as it in practice prevented him from remarrying, and also incited unwholesome money transactions with his only surviving son (who inherited everything).

Todorov argues that this aloof attitude is part of the fine print when it comes to great artists; that in order to make statements on the universality of human nature, the artist must to some extent take his/her distances from individual human beings. 
(Todorov also warns us against doing what I just did, viz pass judgment on these traits of character.)

I reckon Todorov is probably right on all accounts. 
It won't keep me from :
A. Considering Rembrandt a self-absorbed twat and an artistic genius. 
B. regretting that so few women had the opportunity to be self-absorbed enough for their artistic genius to develop, before birth control came along and made life better for all of us.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Humanz - Gorillaz

I have always found Damon Albarn a very likable persona and so as a consequence am relieved whenever I like his music. (Especially as it is not always the case.)

I enjoyed this! Not exactly toplist material, perhaps, and admittedly a bit tiring after a while, but a personal and original mix of genres.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Manual For Cleaning Women - Lucia Berlin

As a general rule, I'm not too fond of short stories, very much for the same reason I am rather unmoved by poetry; it feels like a waste of my time to keep adapting to different narrators, settings and points of view. Plus, I need some time after I finish one, to ponder it, and I don't always have the patience necessary for all that pondering.

With Berlin's short stories, most of the above issues were eluded, since the narrator and point of view remain the same (the author) at different times of her life. 
This, therefore, felt more like a literary autobiography than a classic collection of short stories. 

That was OK, though, particularly as her writing style was elegant, poised, natural and yet hyper-polished in the manner of a Raymond Carver. A pleasure to read.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Grace and Frankie, s 1

Agreeable surprises are getting much too rare, these days. This was one! Entertaining, not too brainless TV-series in the perfect half-hour format are not that easy to come by.

I have recently gone over all first five seasons of 'Friends' and found them excellent - up to the time when Ross says Rachel's name at the altar, and for some reason they all grow insufferably irritating from there (especially Whiny Ross and Bitchy Phoebe). So much greater my pleasure at discovering 'Grace and Frankie'!

This show has a lot going for it :
- Old people in all four leading roles!
- Three-dimensional, real-people female characters!
- Bechdel-test passed with honours!
- Gay lovers! In their seventies!
- Fonda, Tomlin, Martin Sheen & Sam Waterston!
not to mention :
- Always witty, occasionally side-splitting dialogue!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Automaton - Jamiroquai

So Jamiroquai apparently woke up one morning and decided to celebrate the Saturday Night Fever anniversary all by himself! Not doing too bad of a job of it either! 
It's not Daft Punk, but it's very listenable.

Monday, May 1, 2017

L'Etranger - Albert Camus

I suppose the urge to reread classics is a sign of aging as good as any. (Especially as I'm also starting to feel that the remainder of my life is now much too short for bad books. I'm as yet unsure of how to best combine these two.)
I have come across extracts from 'L'Etranger' several times in the last couple of years, and each time have been struck with the density and emotional charge of the seemingly simple style. That impression stuck throughout the novel, and after the 150 well-composed pages - an excellent length! Camus knew how to kill his darlings! - I'm still in awe of his command. 
This kind of mastery in a first novel is very rare.
The plot in itself is no page-turner (As the Cure sang; "Killing an Arab") and certainly has aged since 1942. Still, I think its statement on alienation and outsidership still holds.