Saturday, January 30, 2016

You've been kidnapped. You can call on the characters from one television show to make your rescue attempt. Which show do you pick?

This question has been circulating on social media, and thinking about an answer got me to remember all the TV shows I used to watch as a teenager/young adult. Surely the best rescuers would be there...

- Buffy and the gang is an obvious choice. Kick ass strength, sass and magic. I'd be free before dawn, for sure.
- the girls from Charmed! I can't even remember what all their magic powers could do... the actress from Who's The Boss could see the future, and the actress from Beverly Hills 90210 could make things move. The third sister, Piper... I have no idea. Also they had this pretty guardian angel friend, and I remember their grandmother being pretty ace.
- if they could get along, I'd give the characters from The Pretender a try. Jarod can do anything, really. They may take a bit of a while to come up and execute a plan though. But I would have all the patience in the world if I knew I'd end up in the arms of Michael T. Weiss by the end.
- I was obsessed with The X Files (even joining the French fan club and having an article published in the monthly magazine!) but Murder and Scully wouldn't be my first port of call. Only if the three groups above were busy on another mission would I contact them.
- Closer to 2016, I think the police team of Brooklyn Nine Nine would kill it. See their Halloween heist episodes for a reminder how they are a great team and can take on any challenge.

And, for a laugh... the geeks of Dawson's Creek, the jolly crew of The Nanny, the foursome of Will & Grace! Those would be hilarious.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lord of the Dance: vom vom vom

In life, what I like best is finding myself in a situation I would not have anticipated at all only a few weeks before, doing something not ordinary or that I thought I would never do.

This week, such a moment took place. I went to see Lord of the Dance at the Playhouse Theatre in the West End. People look to me for good shows, so all of them were very surprised when I told them I was going. It's a long story, but basically I befriended one of the performers and wanted to see him/her in action. His/her backstory was fascinating, s/he was living her/his dream on that stage, so I thought it was pretty cool.

Plus I found £10 tickets.

And I knew that, on some levels, the show would be terrible, so bad it would be hilarious. So the idea of being a bit drunk in the final row of the balcony (so steep! I had a bit of a headache at the beginning) watching my friend dance really appealed.

Now, my friend was great - all the dancing cast was great. So much talent on that stage, light leaps, heavy and amazingly fast footwork from the dancers, and also a really strong female singer. Sadly they were all lumbered with the least tasteful production I've ever seen on stage.

I can only list the affronts to beauty, which had me gasping throughout:

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Getting out of bed this morning

I've noticed that in the morning I need to think of something to get me out of the warmth under my duvet. I don't get out of bed for the sheer joy of living my life. I need something concrete, and often immediate.

Today though, what got me out of bed was not the thought of having a latte at Gail's Bakery on the way to work (so silky), the urge to look at overnight sales for my shows currently running in town (I know, it's sad), the anticipation of the post-gym adrenaline rush (I know, it's sad) or my plan to break my work day with lunch out of the office with a friend.

Today what made me jump out of bed and still feel its warmth as I was getting ready was the realisation that in one month I will be in Brazil! And this gave me enough strength to face the day ahead. B-A-H-I-A!

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Christmas holidays cultural diet

Lots of reading and discovering done over the Christmas holidays. Many of these come from the Bloomberg Jealousy list (a list of long form articles from other publishers that Bloomberg writers wish they had written) and the Best of Books 2015 lists that are ubiquitous at this time of the year.

The Myth of the Ethical Shopper, by Michael Hobbes (Huffington Post)
We can never really know exactly where that cheap tee-shirt we bought came from: on the maze of the world's production and logistics machine. It made me think that the only way out is to, quite simply, consume less.

Learning to speak lingerie, by Peter Hessler (New Yorker)
A fascinating article looking at recent Chinese immigrants to Egypt, who somehow end up setting up lingerie shops. Along the way, it covers cultural differences in making business, women's liberation and expectations, language barrier, local marriage customs and more.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thank you 2015!

A photo posted by b (@benjaminlalala) on
For ringing you in with an old friend, for Laos, for Rome, for Valmir & Victor, for Charlotte's baccalaureat, for vintage Michael joy, for Sintra, for getting to know Andy & Jon & Dan better, for long-awaited and surprise babies, for the fitness push, for Bristol, for the summer cycle rides, for the validation from people i shouldnt realy care about, for that meal at Bao with Nicolas, for learning to draw a little bit with my little neighbours, for Faustine's blue eyes, for singing with friends and family, for stolen kisses on empty sidewalks late at night, for Netflix, for the freedom from a certain type of worries, and for work and life plans that make me look forward to 2016!

Sunday, December 06, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 30 Nov 2015

It's been a busy few weeks, but I managed to get quite a bit of reading done., and some discovering Some highlights below.

The Green Lady of Brooklyn (New York Times)
A lovely written portrait of the kind of eccentric characters one totally associates with New York. Elizabeth Sweetheart is 74, an artist, and has been wearing and living life in bright lime green. There are many funny quotes in this, but I thought one particular fact said a lot about this artist's drive and passion: "In 1964, she hitch-hiked [from Nova Scotia] to New York City to establish herself as an artist". Inspiring.

One does not 'live' at Xanadu (blog)
Talking of artists making their way to New York - my friend Helene moved there earlier this Autumn and her blog - in French - is pure joy to read. Full of references (from random music to sweets to Girls), and games of languages, it always makes me happy. I friggin' hope she gets to stay in the big apple so she can keep writing her adventures, and hopefully become her own Elizabeth Sweetheart.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

A day as only London can throw them

8-8.45: gym. aaaaah push it.
9.30-10.30: meeting in Facebook's offices (career highlight, but I wouldn't work there because they have this frozen yoghurt station which I would basically empty every day).
12-12.30: quick run through the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Royal Academy, with noticeably diverse and engaged crowds. Wanted to linger more.
12.30-15.30: work lunch where I met interesting people who live in a different sphere of life (one where people pay £20,000 a year of school fees, one where they can be a Masterchef finalist - it was Emma, for those who watched it)
16-19.30: work
20.30-22.00: recording of my future single "Let One Go", a version of Let It Go that is about a different kind of wind (written by Michael), ahead of a drag cabaret next week.
22.00:00.00: baking of cardamom biscotti for office bake off tomorrow.
22.45: snarky from partner seeing me type, delete, shape, re-shape this post, but I can only shrug my shoulder because this was a day as only London, that city of opportunities, could throw them and I feel grateful.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 19 Oct 2015

Special edition: facts and figures for our governments.

The myth of welfare's corruption influence on the poor (New York Times)
Cash transfers do not discourage work.

The snarling dud of May (The Economist)
"Theresa May, the home secretary and would-be successor to David Cameron, this week declared that “there is no case, in the national interest, for immigration of the scale we have experienced”. Wrong. In 2001-11 new immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) contributed one-third more in revenues than they drew in public spending, subsidising native Britons. This boost to the public purse will be handy."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - soundtrack

Your classic 1980s dance film - with all the plot holes, montages, outfits, and clicheed characters you'd expect from the genre (buttoned-up dad, mad friend, silent but supportive mum, nuns...).

And amazing music! Some of which is not even on Spotify - whaaaat! So I am putting them in here so it's easy for me to find those tracks again.

You've got techniqueeeeee

80s remix of Motown...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 21 Sep 2015

Video: Mr Bojangles tap dancing his way up some steps

Music: Frida's I Know There's Something Going On (Lindstrom Remix)
I love the slow groove throughout.

Meeting the Pope after a Fight for Better Pay
Because when those with no individual power come together and organise, they can change their lives for the better. An inspiring read on fighting for a better life and system for everyone.

Dance films
The kind of films I wish I could put out at work! Soon, soon, I will!
Ballerina Lauren Cuthbertson on Nowness
The "third stage" of Paris Opera Ballet

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 31 Aug 2015

Video: Flamenco in Granada in the 1960s
A Swedish documentary around the Sacromonte neighbourhood of Granada. It really shows how kids mimic the movements they see around them.

Essay: Tim Kreider - The Summer That Never Was (New York Times)
My hubby shared this with me. The longing it describes, and also the realisation that the little things are also beautiful, are very much me.

Interview: Quentin Tarantino (New York Magazine/Vulture)
Was lead to this from a Guardian article that rather misquoted what Tarantino said about "those Cate Blanchett films that dont have longevity" (or something like that). He was being more subtle than that, and I am surprised by the Guardian on that one.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 17 Aug 2015

NYTimes: Ballet Life, Unfiltered and Uploaded to Instagram
A cool article about the use of the social media photo platform by ballet dancers. I use it all the time for work, as the dancers in my company share the most interesting content themselves.

Music: Kolaj - The Touch
Song of the summer! As simple as that. I can't stop listening to it.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Katherine Anne Porter - a second helping

This paragraph in Katherine Anne Porter's short story Holiday rang so true to me. I read it during a week I was alone at home, and enjoying the solitude, and it described very exactly how I felt.

In this story, set in the 1910s or 20s (I am not sure) the narrator goes to stay with a German-American family in deep rural Texas. The family (with children, sons and daughters in laws, grand children) speaks in German so he does not understand what they talk about.

"I liked the thick warm voices, and it was good not to have to understand what they were saying. I loved that silence which means freedom from the constant pressure of other minds and other opinions and other feelings, that freedom to fold up in quiet and go back to my own center, to find out again, for it is always a rediscovery, what kind of creature it is that rules me finally, makes all the decisions no matter who thinks they make them, even Il who little by little takes everything away except the one thing I cannot live without, and who will one day say, 'Now I am all you have left - take me'. I paused there a good while listening to this muted unknown language which was silence with music in it; I could be moved and touched but not troubled by it, as by the crying of frogs or the wind in the trees".


Monday, July 20, 2015

Royal College of Art Graduate Exhibition 2015

My office is right opposite the Royal College of Art's Kensington campus so I went down to the recent graduate exhibitions they held there. The work put out by the students in Global Innovation Design (MA) was amazing and made me feel optimistic about the future. Here are the five ideas I felt compelled to write down.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Katherine Anne Porter

In one of those lucky moments where one's mind is unsure of what it wants but is so open to suggestions it knows it will find it, I stumbled upon a collection of short stories by American writer Katherine Anne Porter at the library.

I like short stories and I like female writers who work in that form: Lydia Davies, Loorie Moore, Alice Munroe, Tove Jansson etc. so it all felt very serendipitous. And the book was in that fantastic Penguin Classics series, with its black and white covers and great overall look that make you pass for a hipster at a local swish cafe on Saturday mornings.

Porter was born in 1890, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1965, and wrote one novel (Ship of Fools - apparently it is famous but I'd never heard of it until researching this post) and 27 stories. From the first story in this book, Maria Concepcion, I was taken. Characters were defined sharply , the sense of place and time was evoked powerfully, and the ending opened the story up completely. As I was reading it,it was like the story grew and grew , encompassing so much more.

In The Jilting of Granny Weatherall, Porter writes about the slow death of Ms Weatherall from the point of view of the dying woman (The Death of Ivan Ilyich will come to mind, obviously). We go in and out of Granny's consciousness and reality. At one point she listens to her doctor, and the next she is off on the trail of an old memory. One returns often - that of the jilting of the title. I don't think I'll give too much away by writing down the almost perfect ending:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

On the value of dance in schools

On Friday I went to City Hall for the launch of the Dance element of the London Curriculum (a set of resources relating curriculum subjects to our city and enabling teachers to use London and all it has to offer in their classes). The sun was shining bright, there were short speeches, well-behaved kids and we got to learn a call-and-response African dance.

One speech was truly inspiring. It was made by Jamie Brownhill, headteacher of Central Foundation Boys School in Old Street. He talked about a dance project run at his school by Sadler's Wells (a dance venue) and Wayne McGregor Random Dance (a dance company). On Monday mornings (not the best time slot, he admitted, but he thought it set up the kids for the week and was probably their most valuable learning session of that week), a group of GCSE Drama boys would have two hours of dance with members of Random dance, and worked towards putting on a short performance on the Sadler's Wells stage. They also got to attend a couple of shows at the theatre.

Mr Brownhill was evangelic about the value of the project to his students and his school and listed the following benefits of the project:
- the students developed their creativity, by doing something they would have never done otherwise
- they saw the value of working as a team, and got the sense of what it is to achieve something together as a group
- they developed a better understanding of the similarities and differences between cultures, by learning different styles of dance and working with international artists
- the project was an opportunity for students to see excellence, by working in world-class dancers and seeing world-class shows at Sadler's Wells, and experience what it takes to achieve it, by performing on that stage
- because they had a clear final objective (to perform on a big stage), they got a clear pay off for their hard work and commitment. He hoped that, when later in life they may face a challenge, they would think back to this time as an example of what they can achieve and overcome.

His final plea was not just that such projects should happen in all schools. It was that, when implemented, they be compulsory. "If, at the start, I'd asked those boys to voluntary join this class, only 2 or 3 would have done it, if that. But at the end, when I asked all of them if they wanted to do it again, they all said yes! It is essential that all students engage with those opportunities, and not a self-selected group".

My write-up of his speech doesn't do justice to Mr Brownhill's warmth and enthusiasm: give him a TED talk slot instead.

More about the project on the Central Foundation school website.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

C'est intéressant w/c 6 Jul 2015

Interesting, intriguing, exciting, amusing, enraging, fascinating things I recommend.

A World Without Work (The Atlantic)
I have moments when I freak out about the future, mainly how I will earn a living. I often wonder what will be left for people to do once all the cashiers are automated and especially self-driving cars become reality and who knows what else. This article goes into the importance of work for self-worth and social cohesion and re-assured me a little bit. Maybe the end result won't be widespread poverty but actually fulfillment, as we'll learn to spend less and have more time to find our calling.

Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds (Vanity Fair)
I have felt bad for the Greek people ever since the crisis hit: they've had it rough. But then I read this 2010 article, that goes through the unbelievable level of clientelism, corruption and tax evasion that plagued the country in the preceding years. I am sorry for those that stayed honest during that time, while others filled their pockets. It's a long read, but worth it. This piece about an hospital in the third largest Greek town, Patras, covers the same topic, really. A friend of mine just came back from holidaying in Greece and told me she paid less at the restaurant because she didn't need a receipt: habits are hard to change!

Obituary of Tama the cat, Japanese station master
I love how some obituaries manage to make you smile and in love with life, even though they are about someone who just died. Quirks and other charming details bubble up to the surface of often eventful lives. this obit is about a cat, believed to bring luck, who reversed the fortunes of the railway company that owned the station where she had decided to live. They dressed her up at the station master, they turned her into a cartoon slapped on merchandise, they even made the station look like the face of a feline. So bonkers it made me sad I never got to meet her.

A cosmic and atomic voyage

Monday, June 29, 2015

Netflix double feature picture show: The Purge, GBF

So last night I ended up having a film night on my own, watching two films I'd never get my partner to agree to slumber in front of: The Purge and GBF (Gay Best Friend).

I was in the mood for a bit of suspense and thrill, and The Purge fitted that bill without reaching Saw-like levels of twistedness (which I can't hack at all ;-). In the 2020s, America is a happy place where crime is low, mainly because for 12 hours every 21 March (7pm-7am), pretty much all crimes are allowed. The reason is that, this way, people get out their anger and the weak are weeded out. Great premise, right? Sadly the writer kept it tight (to one family). Too tight really - I think so much more could have been wrought out of the idea of anything being allowed. On that night, who can you trust? who might shaft you? what have you done during the year to avoid pissing people off and becoming a potential victim? you dont want to take part in it but why do you still condone it? what could you do to make it stop? Also it wasn't completely consistent: if you have the money for a fancy security system, why wouldn't you just go on holidays out of the country? Also there is only so many times you can pull the rope of the hero about to be killed but s/he gets rescued at the last minute by someone else hidden in a corner.

GBF is a high school comedy with your typical set of characters ending with an eventful prom. It's pretty witty, but I found it hard to go past the cheap production values - the lighting in particular sometimes made it look like a South American soap opera. Funny highlights were Jojo presiding an LGBT society without an actual LGBT person in it (until our hero is outed), a very sharp black girl (maybe a bit of cliche but she was sassy...) and Megan Mullally playing an embarrassing mum (after finding out her son is gay, she plans a gay movie night-in: they watch Brokeback Mountain. Her live commentary of the tent scene is priceless).

Both get 3 stars.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why Sintra (Portugal) is worth more than a day trip

I was lucky enough to spend a week in the pretty town and landscape of Sintra, a 35-40 min train journey west of Lisbon. (price: 2.15 euros each way! so cheap). Many tourists rock up for a day tour and leave, and I even got raised eyebrows from locals when I told them we were here for longer. "You are here until Friday!!??" said the woman behind the counter at the panaderia opposite the main square with incredulity. Even our super nice air bnb host, Daniel, had emailed us after we made our booking to check we indeed wanted to stay this long: "you'll have done Sintra in 2-3 days max".

Well actually, I wish I'd stayed longer! Here's why - with a few pics by me and the friends I was with.

The place has about 7 palaces to visit, with large gardens/estates (we only did 3). As a playground to the Portuguese aristocracy from the 1500s onwards, it's got gothic gardens (a tower carved inside the rock at Quinta da Regaleira), lots of exotic plants (some Sequoia redwoods can be found in the Palacio da Pena ground), stunningly designed rooms (the blazons room with its ceiling painted with the emblems of the Portuguese royal family and many others, at Sintra Palace) and more. The Moorish Castle is from even earlier. I found it hard to edit down my pics for instagram!

A photo posted by b (@studioincovent) on

C'est intéressant w/c 22 Jun 2015

Interesting, intriguing, exciting, amusing, enraging, fascinating things I recommend.

Long form - Alanis in Chain (Solaya Roberts, Hazzlit)
Alanis Morissette before Jagged Little Pill. Good read. This made me think of a couple of tracks from the album after Jagged Little Pill (ie the not as bestselling one): Unsent (no chorus, extracts from letters to lovers) and So Pure (with its video of Alanis Morissette dancing in a range of style - has she thought about taking part in Dancing with the Stars? She's do well I reckon)

Opinion piece - The real benefit cheats are the employers who are milking the system (Deborah Orr, The Guardian)
Lots of interesting facts for your next dinner party with your right wing friends. Only £8bn worth of benefits go to the unemployed, while an estimated £76bn go to people who are working. Why? In part because some employers don't pay a living wage or offer contracts with enough hours, so the government has to supplement the employees' income somehow. Does it sound right that Tesco has cost the Treasure £364m in pay-rate supplements in the last year? Maybe if employers paid better, the government would have to spend less on benefits, and would be able to cut taxes: all in all everyone would win!

Creative Review July issue
My big boss is on the cover of one of the best mags on creative culture. Amazing! Go, ballet, go!