Friday, June 22, 2018

Richard III - David Baldwin

Richard III was a 15th century royal one-hit wonder, in want of staying power.

Here is the Richard III crash course for you :

- One of the shortest reigns in English history, a modest two years.

- He became king after his brother and after outmaneuvering his young nephew
Probably doomed his own kingship by doing so as he antagonized a great number of people.

- He suffered from severe scoliosis so the 'hunchback' epithet was truthful.

- The jury is still out on whether he actually killed those two little 'princes in the tower' to stay on the throne or whether he merely shut them up in the said Tower.

- After losing wife and son to disease, he considered marrying his young niece Elizabeth of York, who luckily for her wed Henry Tudor instead, thus later giving birth to Henry VIII.

- The battle of Bosworth, 1485, where Henry Tudor triumphed, saw Richard become the first English king since 1066 to die in battle. 
Evidence is he fought bravely and was mistreated after his death.

- His body was found in 2012, he was reinterred in 2015 in Leicester Cathedral.


Without Richard III, there would have been no Henry VIII, no Anglican church and no Queen Elizabeth I. A short reign but crucial.


Baldwin strives to present Richard III in a less negative light than usual but honestly, it's a tough sell. 
Also, the book in itself was rather dull, as there is precious little information to go by, and Baldwin does not go for fictionalizing. 
I suggest you watch Shakespeare's play instead. Both Cumberbatch and Ian McKellen will do.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Au Fil du Siècle, 1918-2018 at the Gobelins Manufactory, Paris

For 400 years now, high quality tapestry has been manufactured at the Gobelins site.
I have only been living in the neighbourhood for a modest 20 years, but I was still a bit frustrated never to have been here before. Turns out, two works by Picasso were the deciding factor.

Pros :
- As previously mentioned : Two works by Picasso! Gorgeous, colourful Picasso tapestries!
- Plus : Le Corbusier, Miro, Matisse, Jean Lurçat, Fernand Léger... It sounds like the Pompidou permanent collection, but it was all on tapestry which somehow set them apart from the oils on canvas. Added depth to the colours, I think.
- All presented in chronological order. I'll take that over theme classification any day. 
- Unexpectedly, we all of us - not a very scientific form of measurement, I know - preferred the modern artworks on tapestry to the more classic, pre-war patterns, which should, perhaps, have been more compatible with embroidery. 
- Some unbelievably nitwitted, wonderfully corny Nazi art. No wonder they frowned at the entartete Kunst.

Cons :
- Would have loved to be able to visit the rest of the buildings and the inner courtyard, as well. 
Sadly, you need to book guided visits for those and we didn't have the time. Looked beautiful through the windows, though...


In short : An afternoon well spent!

42, avenue des Gobelins, Paris 13ème arrdt

Monday, June 18, 2018

Tintoret, Naissance d'un Génie at the Palais de Luxembourg, Paris

Contrary to the Velàzquez-exhibition a few years ago where the portraits rather compensated for the rest, at this Tintoretto-exhibition the portraits were my least favourites. 
I easily preferred the biblical scenes with their overly melodramatic settings and attitudes. The portraits I found a bit dreary, if truth be told.

No doubt due to my own bland personality, I do love me a bit of melodrama in art!

As the exhibition focuses on the first fifteen years of Tintoretto's career, visitors expecting to see his famous masterpieces are probably in for a disappointment. 
Happily ignorant about Tintoretto's art myself, I was thrilled with almost every exhibit.


In short : Brilliant! Loved it!


Cain and Abel, ca 1538

 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Tate Britain, London

Last time I was here was with a coachful of students none of which seemed particularly appreciative of the Tate. 
Possibly that was because of the renovation it was undergoing at the time, but I'm not wholly convinced.

Pros :
- Artwork displayed in chronological order. Excellently educational.
- All British painters. Viz Tate Britain.
- William Blake! In a room of his own, even if it has the size and location of a broom closet.
- A lot of WM Turner (whom I have decided I don't really like but it seems a lot of people do).
- The venue is stunningly beautiful after all those repairs!

Cons :
- Famous masterpieces are relatively few and far between. Mostly, it's Blake, Turner and the pre-rapahelites. Plus a whole heap of people I had never heard of.

In short : Blake on display!


'The Spiritual Form of Nelson Guiding Leviathan' 
ca 1805 William Blake



Thursday, June 14, 2018

Prequelle - Ghost

They are from Sweden, like me. And I like crossovers in almost any field. 
Those are my excuses for listening to this.

Pros :
- Heavy metal + Pop tunes = An original mix, very enjoyable.
- This time also a more bombastic, ambitious, Jim Steinman rock-opera approach. Admittedly, saxophones on a metal album may not be for everyone, but I personally found it delightful.

Cons :
- If you are into Metallica rather than Meat Loaf then this is probably not for you.
- In your own interest; listen, don't watch.

In short : Bring it on!


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Suez Canal, Exhibition at Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris

Pros :
- Miniatures (albeit rather sizeable miniatures), maps, documentaries, extracts from feature films, paintings, photos, eye witness reports and more = A wide variety of exhibits on display...
- ... in chronological order, starting 2.000 BC and leading up to the inauguration of the partial doubling of the canal - the Suez Canal Area Development project - in 2015.

Cons :
- Now what would that be? The entrance fee was a bit high, perhaps? (12 euros)


In short : Instructive.

 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ye - Kanye West

I'm actually quite at a loss to explain why I persist in checking out Kanye West?
It would be easy as pie to view him merely as the Trumpish clown his public persona makes him out to be.

Pros :
- Well let's face it : The man is remarkably talented. It's a tough one to swallow but there it is.
- Introspective, reflective lyrics. Not all of it, certainly, and not very easily accessible either. But still. There it is.
- An arresting streak of darkness on this album. Depression, suicide, mental disorder.

Cons : 
- There is not much wrong with it really, except I don't really like it... Hard pressed to explain why, as you can see.

In short : Nah. Maybe next time...

 

Friday, June 8, 2018

My Next Guest... with David Letterman

Five one-hour interviews with illustrious guests :

- Barack Obama : Irresistible as ever.
- George Clooney : Surprisingly un-charismatic and very conventional.
- Malala Yousafzai : Very serious, committed and a tad boring.
- Jay-Z : Full of interesting and perceptive views.
- Tina Fey : Funny and smart and likable.
- Howard Stern : Introspective and candid, on himself and on Trump.

  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Jaded

Reviewing albums is growing increasingly problematic since even grandmas like yours truly are listening more to singles than to full-length albums. 
When relevant I therefore figured I'll just go Spotify on you and mention a particular artist I enjoy.

This British trio I highly recommend as running music! An appropriate bpm and catchy tongue-in-cheek lyrics ("you know what I'm like when I don't get to eat in the morning"). 

In short : Love it!


Monday, June 4, 2018

Love Is Dead - Chvrches


Pros :
- Crystal-clear leading soprano. 
- Catchy poptunes.
- Nostalgic 1980s New-Wave-inspired production (collaborating with Eurythmics' Dave Stewart will have that effect, I guess).

Cons :
- It's nothing innovative of course (not that I precisely blame Dave Stewart, but...) - then I guess we don't all need to be David Bowie all the time, do we?

In short : Very listenable! 

 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Dirty Computer - Janelle Monae

So Prince is dead, but Monae is getting quite ready to step into his high-heeled boots!


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Två Systrar - Åsne Seierstad

My dad's method is this : Buys you a book, reads it then gives it to you as a present.
My own take on this is : Buy the book, give it away and then borrow it back.

Pros : 
- After close scrutiny of Chechnya and Afghanistan, outstanding journalist Seierstad now takes stock of her own country. Her being her, this is brilliant even when her country happens to be whale-slaying Norway.

-  Contrary to most journalist-penned books - where social pathos is often made to compensate for lack of literary skills and/or ambition - Seierstad's are the exception that confirms the rule : Apart from being a conscientious and hardworking journalist, she is also a gifted storyteller. She may never be shortlisted for the Nobel prize but a Pulitzer should definitely be within her reach.

- The subject matter is that of of two Norwegian sisters of Somali origin and their journey through radicalism to an escape to Syria. Topical, unexplored, crucial.

- As this is literary journalism, and not fiction, the two sisters' accounts are conspicuously missing. The book, therefore, revolves around how their jihadism affects their friends and family ('The Leftovers'-style). 

- Intelligent and thought-provoking! For instance : "If you can't be 100% Norwegian, then why not be 100% Muslim?"

Cons :
- Again : 500 pages is 200 too many. Why is every book I pick up so long, these days?!


In short : To quote my dad "It's long but it's good".


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

KOD - J Cole

Spotify insisted I give this a try, so I caved and did.

PROS :
- Intelligent lyrics, though hard to make out.
- A weird type of beat that grew slowly on me but seemed wholly illogical at first.

CONS :
- Useless as running music. I wish this kind of rapper would collaborate with Kygo or Matoma or even Skrillex (shoutout to Kendrick! Again!). That would create some killer running music!

In short : Sure.



Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Good Place s1


PROS :
- An original pitch! Bitchy blonde dies and surprisingly finds herself in heaven ("The Good Place") after an unfortunate mix-up with a homonymous humanitarian.
- A commendable endeavour at colorblind casting has been made! 
As a result, the show sometimes brings to mind a 1980s Benetton-ad, or - hey, wait - is it the real world I'm thinking of? 
All the girls are still pretty, though. The main characters are wasp. Room for improvement.
- The plot takes rather an unexpected turn after a couple of episodes! Excellent finale.

  CONS: 
- Although the dialogue is strikingly caustic at times, it's not exactly side-splitting, rolling-down-the-aisles hilarious. 
It's entertaining enough, no more than that.


In short : Sure, why not?


Friday, May 25, 2018

That 70s Show s1

Finding a series to view with a teenager to at least some mutual enjoyment can be as challenging as it can be useful (say, for instance, during a long bus trip). 

Having watched this when it was first released (a couple of years ago, right?) I was unsure both of whether I'd still like it and whether my daughter would.
Luckily, we both did. Made for an agreeable bus trip.



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote - T. Gilliam (2018)

Whenever my hubby suggests a film where there is more dialogue than explosions, I'm in.

Pros :
- Terry Gilliam is a talented director. The savoir-faire is evident.
- Lavish setting, sumptuous costumes; very visually appealing.
- Highly ambitious script - meta-literature, meta-cinematography, meta-realism... Elaborate!
 
Cons :
- Neither me nor my better half was able to work out precisely what went wrong with this film. 
All of the above should have it work like a charm. Why it doesn't I have no idea, but it doesn't.

In short : I was bored stiff after a half-hour. Things did not improve.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Star Wars Episode XXVI, The Last Jedi - R. Johnson 2017

Here we go again. Apparently. (The reason why I went there again remains even more obscure than the Supreme Leader's bedroom.)

Pros :
It's Star Wars, innit?! Everything's familiar, more or less!

Cons :
It's Star Wars, AGAIN?! Let this franchise go and create something new, for X sake. Preferabley something that doesn't go on for 2 1/2 hours.


In short : Why did I put myself through this?



Saturday, May 19, 2018

Black Panther, the Album - Kendrick Lamar

Faithful readers will have guessed I did not approach this album via the movie. (Still no superhero-fan.)
Nor did I, really, approach it at all; the music is too slow to have on while running (which is when I mostly listen to music) and albums in full are a dying species in today's music industry. 

And still, somehow, one song after the other from this "music from and inspired by"-album has found its way into my playlists. What IS it with Kendrick Lamar? Why is he so irresistible? (And do you think he would consider marriage?)


Thursday, May 17, 2018

This American Life

Although I loved, loved, loved podcasts 'Serial s1' (s2 not so much) and 'S-Town' and both of those come from the team behind 'This American Life', I only got around to listening to this very recently. 
The upside of this late start is that I now have lots of episodes to catch up on!

Pros :
- Extraordinary stories of ordinary people, set forth by people so gifted at story-telling I'm thinking they should all be writers.

Cons :
- Try as I might, I can't find anything negative about this show? Love it!

In short : Love it!


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Merry Wives of Windsor - William Shakespeare

As far as I am aware, I am the only one in my circle who reads Shakespeare regularly, just for fun. Not sure why. 
True, they are conceived to be seen (or heard, according to the Elizabethans) yet although the text only conveys a part of the experience it is still a very nice part. 
And it's different from "hearing a play" as reading allows you to focus more on the words.

Pros :
- This is one merry play, indeed! Puns, double-entendres, dialects, metaphors and general wordplay in abundance. Shakespeare at the height of his art!

Cons :
- David Crane, the editor of this Cambridge UP edition, is clearly not an adept of the recent studies' on Shakespeare's filthy language. None of that is mentioned neither in the notes nor in his introduction, which is a pity as there is loads of sexual innuendo in the text. Loads!!

In short : Great play, mediocre edition.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Le Moustache Café, Paris 13th arrdt

So for some reason, I am drawn to cat places although you'd think I have my share of cat's hair at home. 

Pros :
- Very near my apartment! Great advantage!
- Brand new, so very clean and quiet and fresh - none of the smell and clouds of cat's hair we experienced at the Bastille place.
- The cats seem placid and congenial. They are a bit guarded but peaceable enough.

Cons :
- Can't see any? Children are not allowed in on their own, which angers my teenager but is probably agreeable to the cats inside.
- Feeding the cats is not allowed; as a consequence, they are less likely to come and sit with you. Although this may be bad for the café business, it's clearly better for the cats themselves.


In short : If you enjoy the concept, then yes.

 

Friday, May 11, 2018

She's All That - R. Iscove 1999

Fourteen-year-old + myself + Netflix. Sometimes this is what happens.

Pros :
- It does have a certain charm. I have never really understood why Freddie Prinze Jr hasn't turned into some classy sort of Ewan McGregor-star? Dashingly handsome.
- Oh the 1990s! Pagers, MTV Real World, breakdancing, Usher, razor-thin eyebrows, spaghetti straps...
- The epitome of the American high-school movie : It ticks off every box you can possibly imagine, and with such gusto that it's almost a caricature.

Cons :
- Watching a remake of Pygmalion/My Fair Lady and wish for innovation or even politically correctness is unreasonable, so I won't go into the action. 
Suffice to say there is ample food for thought on gender roles and the evolution of society here. 


In short : Kinda cute. 

 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Time Travellers's Guide to Elizabethan England - Ian Mortimer

I don't exactly remember where I got this, but as it is precisely the sort of book I tend to buy at museum gift shops - incidentally, excellent places for bookshopping! - I reckon this comes from some English museum I visited last summer.

Pros :
- Interesting! Tudor England is my favourite place and time in history, what with Shakespeare and the intricacies of a highly entertaining royal family.
- History as seldom taught : The new social kind, highlighting not the goings-on of kings and adventurers, but the everyday lives of what is known as ordinary people. Mortimer explains what people wore, ate and believed; how they read time and what they did for entertainment. Among others. I learnt a lot!
- "Accessible and entertaining" to quote the unequivocal Sunday Times cover blurb.

Cons :
- Now, what would that be? Perhaps the surplus of details in matters I am less interested in, such as bridges or the landscape.
- Still wondering about one thing : Homosexuality being a capital crime, how did Shakespeare get away with those fairly explicit sonnets of his??


In short : Great read!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Burn - Little Boots

Ever since her 2009 pop masterpiece 'Remedy' I have felt compelled to keep up with Hesketh's new releases. 
Cause that sort of pop genius is bound to crop up again sooner or later, isn't it?

Pros : 
- She is ambitious and good at what she does. If you enjoy dreamy dance electronica, then this is top of its game.

Cons :
- I don't enjoy dreamy dance electronica. I wan't 'Remedy'!


In short : Maybe next time?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

De Fördrivna - Negar Naseh

 
As an expat, it's easy to lose touch with your once-home country. Lucky for me, therefore, one of my Swedish friends has taken it upon her to keep me up to date on Swedish literature. 
At least, most of the time, I consider myself lucky for it. Some of the stuff she gives me I would most definitely never have got for myself.
Still, you have to read presents, don't you? It's sort of a moral obligation.

PROS :
- Although I know many new parents who simply adore that baby-bubble you are in during those first confusing months, I know I was a lot happier when life eventually took on a more structured form. The perpetual sleep deprivation and worrying about everything had me in a state which I rarely see depicted in books. Good point, then, for Naseh's portrayal of these two unhappy, bitter, distracted young parents who don't really know what hit them when the baby came.
- The parallel between their restricted baby-universe and the migrant crisis adds intensity.
- Naseh's prose is OK. It may not quite match her ambitions, but it's OK.

CONS :
- The situation becomes so negative after a while I felt like shooting myself in the head. All those black flies, the drinking, the smoking, the heat, their snapping at each other, arguing over baby care and household chores... Half would have been enough.


In short : If you regret the lack of recent Ingmar Bergman-films, then this is for you.