Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Frankenstein Chronicles

One of my teens and myself came across this six-episode series on one of the rare occasions we came to share the same couch and remote control. In case I wasn't clear enough; she actually migrated out of her room and into our common living room on a Saturday night!
Then, she fell asleep before the end of episode one which probably explains why didn't go through with the rest. I did, though!

- A bit of a Brit version of 'The Alienist'! Vanished children, a couple of outsider detectives, a twisted plot with literary parallels.
- Victorian London! Prettier than ever! Clearly a large part of the budget has gone into the decoration.
- William Blake, Boz, Mary Shelley! I repeat : William Blake!!

- The plot was a bit slow, perhaps. Or my teenager was just exceptionally sleepy that particular Saturday night.

In short : Very watchable!

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Alienist

Though I have read the book, as usual I remembered absolutely zero about the plot - a serial-killer, lots of blood, a 19th century profiler... - except that I rather enjoyed it. 
Not as much as my history crime-buff husband did, but still.

- Stylish settings,though definitely less stylish than in 'The Frankenstein Chronicles'
You can tell 'the Alienist' budget was not of the Netflix kind. This frequently resembled 1990s music videos.
- Fun for the whole family, as it turned out! Adults and teens enjoyed every episode together! You have no idea how rare that is unless perhaps you have teenage kids yourself. 
(I choose to ignore the fact that I have submitted my offspring to ten hours of mutilated boy transvestites.)
- What is lacking in stage setting is compensated for by the storyline : Author Caleb Carr is one of the many producers. Cary Fukunaga is another.
- Yet another serial killer... zzz... This one leaves young girls alone but goes for cross-dressing boys instead. Only inches better. Plus, he dismembers. Gross and complacently provocative.

In short : The simple fact that we enjoyed it as a family is remarkable enough.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hiphop Saved My Life

As I find the host of this podcast, Romesh Ranganathan, pretty much hilarious on stage, I did expect this to be fun, although hiphop certainly hasn't saved my life as of yet.

- It IS fun! Quite often it feels like a private kind of fun I'm not really let in on, though. 
Or perhaps I'm just too old and outdated for this? Still. Fun!
 - The topics are inspiring; the two hosts probe around new British hiphop instead of settling for the latest Jay-Z and Eminem albums. Excellent opportunity to discover new artists.

- Considering the title and subject matter, this podcast contains a surprisingly small amount of music. All the more surprising as virtually all of the artists were previously unknown to me.
- "Previously unknown" is the understatement of the year... It's a bit like reading Nick Hornby's texts on music or books. I haven't a clue as to whom they are talking about. Ever. Extremely nerdy. 
Or - again - it could just be age-related? (Surely, that can't be it??)

In short : Sadly, this was a better idea in theory.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Golden - Kylie Minogue

I am very much in two minds about this woman. 
On the one hand, I find her reluctance to age physically somehow personally offensive. (Quit the fillers, people! Or at least get them done properly!)
But then at the same time, I can't help marvelling at her persistence in showing off her butt and sticking to her disco beats whichever other influences she may cross them with.
So I always give any new album of hers a shot.

- It's still Kylie! Like it or not, it still swings, it still fairly runner-friendly music and I still defy any of us middle-aged ladies who shook our permed hair to the Stock-Aitken-Waterman rhythm to truly resist this. I know I can't.

- What is it with this current fad for country influences?? Should I want country-music - though I cannot for the life of me figure out why I should - I would turn to Keith Urban or Lady Antebellum. Kylie should stick with collabs of the brilliant Nervo-Rodgers-Jake Shears kind.
- But then I do like change as a principle, so I suppose the aforementioned 'con' also contains a small percentage of 'pro'.

In short : It grows on you.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

L'Ordre du Jour - Eric Vuillard

When friendly coworkers want to lend me books I never know how to turn them down.
Especially history-teachers are hard to say no to, because somehow they always seem so awesomely knowledgeable.
Especially had to rebuff is this particular history-teacher with whom I have already discovered similar tastes in literature (although discrepancies have also been observed).
So I read this.

- Thorough historical expertise genuinely impresses me. Hence my inherent esteem for history-teachers.
- Elegant if self-important prose.
- Mercifully short! 150 pages long and the tiniest little sliver of a book I have seen in a long time.
- A World War II-overdose brought on by my husband's boundless passion for this conflict makes me nauseous at the mere thought of Nazi Germany. Not Vuillard's fault, though.
- For all its elegance, the prose is self-important to the point of being insufferably conceited. 

In short : Not for me, thank you.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel

I read the first part of this trilogy a while ago and liked it well enough. 
When I ran into part two in a charity shop last summer, it was clearly Meant To Be, so I bought it.

- Tudor history! Well-rearched stuff on the downfall of Anne Boleyn (wife nr 2) and the ascension of Jane Seymour (nr 3), while Thomas Cromwell is holding on for dear life to his position as the King's Secretary.
- Elegant writing. Though perhaps no Nobel Prize contestant, Mantel is not just a historian who writes; she is actually a writer.

- I am at a loss to determine what precisely is the matter with this book. 
Suffice to say there IS something missing. A sense of humour? (Of a more outspoken kind than Cromwell's tongue in cheek observations, I mean.) Affection for the characters? 
I really couldn't tell for sure. It's just a bit plain boring, at times?

In short : Not as much fun as it should have been.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Dear Melancholy - The Weeknd

My Dear Ms Gomez,

Finding new music to run to at my age - or is it our day and age that should be blamed? - is anything but uncomplicated.

In this matter, your ex-boyfriend The Weeknd is normally a safe card, which is why I was pleased to hear he had released a new album.

However, if these songs are anything to go by, you seem to have smashed his poor little heart into smithereens. 
Now, why would you do that?

Admittedly, I lack inside information (please feel free to email me) but he seems like a nice enough guy. I'm naturally reluctant to compare him to any other ex-boyfriend of yours, but it is very hard not to.

Specifically, I don't find it fair on the rest of us to have him waste perfectly good talent on this sort of soppy mess.

In the future, I'd be very grateful if you would please consider your respective audiences before making any rash decisions. 

Thank you in advance,



Sunday, April 15, 2018

Monstre de Peinture - Christophe Domino

Here is a piece of friendly advice for those of you who, like me, wish to improve your general culture without too much of an effort at boring books : Toilet-learning.
Just like you have a bedside-book, you keep a toiletside book and you take it in, a nibble at the time. Works splendidly! This one I just finished.

- Bacon's art! I have no idea why I seem to enjoy so much of the kind of art that gives my children nightmares? Perhaps I'm compensating for my smooth and docile exterior? 
In any case, Bacon's tortured bodies definitely strike a chord in me. It is an advantage, therefore, that this little book should contain so many of his artworks and so beautifully reproduced (the many triptychs feature as fold-outs, for instance).

- Whenever possible I try to blame clumsy writing on the translation. That is a lot harder when, as in this case, I read it in the original language. I can't bear this very French type of word-spewing pseudo-academica. You'd think the author was paid by the word.
- Absurdly, seeing the great amount of words used, the texts don't really say much, either about Bacon nor his work. The interviews and articles featured on the final pages were actually a lot more informative.

In short : Read something else on Bacon instead.

Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962

Friday, April 13, 2018

Jack Whitehall At Large

Having already - despite his bratty appearance - appreciated Whitehall in 'Travels With My Father' and 'Fresh Meat', I confess I had good hopes of a couple of laughs here. 

- Whitehall came through, fortunately, and delivered a fair amount of fun in his ramblings on drinking, his American manager, Frozen, Robert Pattinson, flying and dickpics, among others. 

- He is no Louis CK. But then hopefully that also means he does not masturbate in front of people (which might compensate for Whitehall's lesser genius). 

In short : It was OK.

Here is what I would like on Netflix, though : A comedy special with Romesh Ranganathan.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Plantu at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris 13th arrdt

Being a regular reader of Le Monde + a teacher + a political left-winger (the two last items are fairly indistinguishable, I'll grant you that) an exhibition of Plantu's caustic cartoons was bound to catch my eye.

- It's Plantu! It's political, it's clever, it's disrespectful without being discourteous.
- The BNF venue is situated right next to where I live. There is no denying the comfort to be found in geographical proximity!
- Free admission.

- It was the tiniest of all the tiny exhibitions I have ever visited. Dense and interesting! But tiny!

In short : Don't cross countries for this one. But if you live nearby, definitely come!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Oss Är Allt - Hurula

Possibly, in the Hurula case, the clear-sighted objectivity you normally find on this blog might be a bit lopsided : He IS after all a homie of mine. (We share geographical origins.) Still!

- Classic garage rock with a touch of poetry always has its peculiar charm, doesn't it?

CONS :  
- So renewal is not Hurula's game, apparently. That is a pity, because it is mine. But I suppose we can't all be Prince, now, can we?

In short : Bring it on!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Welcome to Rapture - Logic

- A tad melodramatic - just what I tend to enjoy in music! - and mixed up with gangsta-rap feel! An excellent combination.

- Too few BPM to use for running-music (I realize it's a bit shallow as a criteria but...).

In short : Pretty brilliant.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Att Vara Kvinna - Maria Lang

Faithful to the Norwegian tradition of påskekrim (reading a detective novel during Easter) (yes Scandinavian traditions can be quite quirky!) I settled in next to my cat and dug into my Easter chocolates with this old vintage gem on my lap.

- 1960s fictive police investigations are particularly charming, and even more so in the hands of Maria Lang, forerunner to Sweden's modern and by comparison rather bleak crimewriters.  
- Women are delicate and graceful, men are dashing and clever and everyone is dapper and polite. Oh the good old times!
- Despite multiple re-reads I still couldn't remember who the killer was. 
That may say more about me than about the book, but there it is.
- Classic, standard, archetype, conventional whodunit.

NO :
- What's not to like, honestly??

In short : A treat!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Always Ascending - Franz Ferdinand

So, Scottish indie pop-rock! Pleasant, clever, idiosyncratic. 
A tad slow in bpm to make truly perfect running-music but otherwise really quite listenable.

In short : OK!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Poor Women in Shakespeare - Fiona McNeill

For all its faults, this remains the best souvenir I brought back from last summer's pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon!

The fact that poor women are relatively absent from Shakespeare's plays has not kept McNeill from writing a very interesting - although ineptly-named - book. 
In so far as they are at all present in Shakespeare, with the exception of 'Measure by Measure', it is mostly as facilitators of the plot : They were mobile, and so were put to use to link geographical places to one another.

Other 17th century plays, however, look more closely at these "spinsters" so McNeill draws on these to bolster her findings. As I knew very few of these plays, however, I tended to read this more as a history (or herstory) book than as literary analysis.

As such, I learnt for instance that :

- Poor women lacked a stable identity (i.e. profession and/or marital status) and their "shifting" was heavily connoted with illicit sexual activity
Add to this the prevailing contemporary idea of poverty - idleness, to be cured by manual labor and physical punishment - and you will see why this group of people was so worrying to the London establishment.

- Fun fact : It was apparently quite common for a woman to need the help of an expert in deciding whether she was pregnant. Far more frequently than now, women were surprised by childbirth, as they lacked understanding of their own bodies. 
(Which makes sense when you know that the female anatomy was believed to be identical with the male, except projected inwards.) 
Rather than lifting her shirt, a jury of matrons squeezed milk out of breasts and considered changed appetites as evidence for pregnancy.

- From the very beginning, 1619, "plantation" meant female inmates from Bridewell House of correction were shipped over to Jamestown in the New World to help planting new Virginia citizens. 
I had no idea this had gone on elsewhere than in Australia, but it seems the idea was also extended to Ireland.

In short : I learnt a lot!