Wednesday, March 22, 2017

C'est intéressant w/c 20 Mar 2017

As France's Towns Wither, Fears of a Decline in Frenchness (New York Times)
This article is absolutely spot on. Using the provincial town of Albi (in South West France), the writer shows that French regional towns are losing their heart and soul. As shops close, life empties itself from them. It is the same in many places. There are still shops, but they are on the outskirts, in big malls - France has the highest density of malls in Europe (or even small ones: in my home village, a supermarket opened slightly outside the city centre, where footfall has now massively declined). People don't go to independent stores, they don't go to the boucherie, or the fromagerie, or the patisserie anymore: they drive to the hypermarket - sometimes only to go and collect their online shopping (it's called going to the "drive"). And even though they brought it on by changing their behaviour, they complain things have changed and the world is changing too fast. Depressing.

42nd Street at Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Where are you ever gonna see a chorus line of 40 performers? Where? Nowhere else in the West End. So just go see this no-expenses-spared production of the musical 42nd Street.
Just the opening was enough to make my jaw drop. And when they brought out the stairs, the bright lights, the snazzy costumes, and the crazy tap dancing for the iconic finale, I was in another world. Absolutely top class.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

C'est intéressant w/c 27 Feb 2017

Together, Alone: The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness (Highline)
An article that resonated with many of my friends and tweeps this week. Society accepts us more, but do we accept ourselves? The self-inflicted trauma and judgement we grow up with is hard to shake off.

Daria 20 Years Later: Producers Behind MTV's Iconic Cartoon Look Back (Variety)
Reading this took me on a bit of nostalgia trip. When I first explained what the show meant to me to my partner, I basically said exactly what most people interviewed in this article said: that it got me through high school, that it kept me sane and that her pride in not fitting in showed me I could survive and would find a way out (cause I always assumed she'd make it out!).

A Buffy Family Tree: 'Bones', and Demons and Rabbid Fans (New York Times)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer is also 20. Another show about the horrors of high school that I loved and shaped my teenage years. Yeah, I watched a lot of TV. :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hidden Figures - review

This is a review for the book by Margot Lee Shetterly that the recent film is based on.

What do you do when you have to wait 4h for your delayed flight? You go to WH Smith, of course! This book wasn't in their top 20 Business Bestsellers - but really it should have been. All the things that can be achieved with dedication, grace, talent and intelligence! Inspiring stuff.

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But wait it's about more than those personal stories. There weren't just 3 black women working for NACA/NASA. There were hundreds. There were hundreds of bright women (of all races) who joined because all the men had left to war, basically. That was their break into their amazing careers (digression: interesting to think what would have happened for women's working life had WWII not occurred!)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

C'est intéressant w/c 13 Feb 2017

Francaises, Francais: et vous qu'est qui vous preocuppe? (Le Monde)
As we gear for a presidential election, Le Monde is meeting and interviewing lots of regular French people across the country. Tellingly, the opening question is "What worries out at the moment?" - giving you a sense of the level of optimism filling up the country! What I also noticed in the interviews is that all the people who live in the countryside are talking about their villages emptying and businesses closing, with a feeling of powerlessness. What's to be done about that?

Nazis: A Warning from History (BBC4)
The 1997 documentary series is being shown again. It includes many interviews with eyewitnesses and people who lived through the 1920s, 30s and the rise of Hitler. "You swan with the tide", said one. "In 1933, it was impossible to predict 1945", said another. It seems insane now that France annexed Germany's most productive region, the Rhur, as reparation for WWI; that the Nazis had their own paramilitary troops (the brown shirts) and the army and police didn't try and quash them; that the two most popular parties in 1930s Germany (the Nazis and Communists) aimed to destroy democracy and each other (the documentary includes recordings of songs from both groups telling how they would fight to the death to defeat the other!). We would be utterly aghast at this today. Chilling stuff.

Film: Patriots Day
I was fortunate enough to get an invite to a pre-screening of Patriots Day, the new film telling the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. It's tight, tense, with amazing set pieces (the actual explosion is shown as though you are in it, flying through the air and crashing to the ground). It's very American. It's very patriotic. But it's very well done.

Film: Moonlight
What a special film this is. I don't really know how to do it justice in words. Incredible performances - so direct and moving, beautiful frames and editing - particularly the opening that made me dizzy, and the scene in the ocean. A friend thought the characters were cliches (the good-hearted drug dealer, the crackhead mom, the bully) but the original play is partly autobiographical: these are real African-American lives and experiences, and they can't be dismissed. I'm still processing them and reflecting on them. I think what touched me most was how lonely the main character has been all his life, always on guard - we are shown some moments of connections with others, but they seem so few and far between. I found it heartbreaking.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pina Bausch - Masurca Fogo

A woman wearing lots of fur.
Goodbye! Are you from London?
How do you say leg in Portuguese? Perrrrna.
A man launching himself onto a group of other dancers.
Large video projections - of cows (the sertao?), Latin/Carribean ballroom dancers, the sea, blooming flowers.
A woman wearing balloons and telling the story of her primary school teacher everyone hated ('how pretty am I today, she would ask'). She walks around the stage giving and lighting cigarettes to men. They burst her balloons.
A couple pretending to pass dentures to one another so they can eat. Every time they chink their champagne glasses, the man's loses its bottom. They laugh.

Music used in Masurca Fogo
Bau - Raquel
K.D Lang - Smoke Rings
Amalia Rodrigues - Naufragio
Alfredo Marceneiro - Nos tempos em que eu cantava

Saturday, February 04, 2017

C'est intéressant w/c 30 Jan 2017

Emel Mathlouthi: Kelmti Horra
Kelmti Horra became one of the anthems of the Arab Spring, particularly in Tunisia, where protest singer Emel Mathlouthi is from. I just heard it this song yesterday doing some research at work. She has an incredible voice - its power reminds me of Mariza's, though hers is clearer.

I am those who are free and never fear
I am the secrets that will never die
I am the voice of those who would not give in
I am free and my word is free

Bargaining with Silicon Valley (Dissent Magazine)
Some choice quotes in here, to make you wonder what the rich dudes of Silicon Valley have in their heads:
- certainly a sense of power: "[They] are preternaturally gifted with powers of prediction. (...) Of course, predicting the future is easier when you have the money and power to determine it."
- a somehow disingenuous ignorance of what their ideas could bring about. Think about their lofty goals of transforming the future of work: "The defining feature of the gig economy isn’t really that workers accept jobs through an app on their phone: it’s that they work with no benefits, no job security, and no unions."

The article reminded me that actually this is not the future of work. It is what work used to be like, and still is for some people: "Designating employees as independent contractors is an old trick that tech companies have merely taken to new extremes. Long before Uber and company, this kind of misclassification was pervasive in the transportation industry, as well as construction, agricultural work, and many other sectors."

The final paragraph is a call to arms: "If there’s a cue that labor could take from Silicon Valley, it’s that it pays to envision a bolder future. Rather than genuflecting in hopes of being dealt a kinder fate, labor could focus on making its own destiny—one where all workers have collective bargaining rights and access to universal public benefits. That’s no more outlandish, after all, than the idea that a handful of tech magnates ought to decide what society will look like in years to come."

I joined a union this year.

Love and Black Lives, in Pictures found on a Brooklyn St (New York Times)
A beautiful dive into the life of a black couple through their photo album, from pre-WWII to the 1970s. The writer found the photo album next to a pile of rubbish on a Crown Heights street, and slowly pieced their life together by talking to neighbours, finding family members, going through archives. From the Great Migration to segregation in the armed forces, to the jitterbug and social clubs, and community life, it's a moving account of a life of great changes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book: Widow Basquiat

A major exhibition of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat is coming to London later this year (at the Barbican), and I thought I ought to learn more about this artist, because frankly I knew very little beyond the Andy Warhol association and tragic death.

In a bookstore, my eyes stopped on this memoir and, reading its jacket, I thought, who best to learn about Basquiat than from his muse (and on-and-off girlfriend), Suzanne Mallouk? The book is a mix of Suzanne's stories (told by herself), and writer Jennifer Clements's poetic prose, and is an incredible insight into the life of Basquiat, into the club scene and art world of 1980s NYC, and into his paintings.

The below are highlights, written in Jennifer Clements's style. This is a great book - art history, really, told beautifully.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

C'est intéressant w/c 16 Jan 2017

They are back - my weekly highlights. I am not sure why I stopped this list of stuff that grabbed my attention, but I know I found it useful to reflect upon and share the media/art that I consumed. So, in 2017, I aim to carry on (if only for my own record!)

TV show: Call My Agent (Netflix)
Me and my partner were not sure a TV series set in the world of Parisian elites would appeal, but this production is really entertaining. The dialogues are especially strong, full of wit and finesse. For a touch of glamour, each episode features a plot involving a famous French actress or actor, always in a knowing fashion but done very cleverly. The rivalry between two ageing legends, Line Renaud and Francoise Fabian, is hilariously played, and the angry exchanges between Nathalie Baye and her daughter Laurent Smet can only be described as "so French". A deguster!

Film: Star Wars Rogue One
I massively enjoyed that film. It is very straightforward: the heroine must go on her quest and help save her world, and she does, helped with many a character along the way. It all moves at a great pace, the CGI is fantastic. Superb escapism during these depressing times.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What a lovely weekend...

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What a lovely, lovely weekend where the beautiful present reminded me of the past in a happy way, not with sadness.

Friday was like the first episode of Queer As Folk - when I was a twink, I was way too scared to meet people in gay bars, so I never got to be Nathan, and I never thought of myself as a Stuart, but that night I was Stuart and that was fun! The Nathan I met blinded me with his smile, bravery and attitude to life: he will go far I am sure.

Saturday was like a Sex And The City episode, extended food edition, catching up with true friends and eating starters in one place, mains in another, and dessert elsewhere, cause we can do it now and that felt awesome.

 On Sunday we sang briefly in memory and celebration of little people: overfed, we lounged and kept saying 'we are going to go now', only we didnt cause it was too nice to pet the dog or chit chat for a bit longer. On the bookshelves I spotted Asterix, which took me back to Sundays with a similar feel, reading them all and playing with numerous cousins and telling my mum 'no we can't leave now we've just started to have fun' - when we'd obviously started 4h earlier.

Gracias a la vida!