#happysongsaturday #2 (On Sunday!)

12 April 2015

Reader’s may have noticed something wrong with this post. It isn’t Saturday but Sunday I’m writing it. It’s not very good, having started something one week to fall down the very next week. I do not really have an excuse so will just have to try to do better next week. If I was to try one it would be something about the almost Annual Dinner of the English language theatre group I belong to here in Strasbourg, but frankly it doesn’t cut the mustard as an excuse. Incidentally a good evening was had by all.

When I posted this first last week I asked readers to send me examples of what are happy songs for them. I did not expect to get any response immediately. My hopes were that people might notice my little efforts over time and the occasional suggestion might be made. You can imagine my shock and pleasure to get two suggestions. So this week. #happysongsaturday is being driven by one of the readers.

Rob from Reading wrote to suggest Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson and in doing so said “It was re released I think around 87m 88 and I heard it on a jukebox in the Boars Head. It reminds me of sunshine and the swooning feeling you get when you meet a new love. I’m pretty sure the weather was hot. As you know I dj a bit and this always gets people up.”

#happysongsaturday

4 April 2015

There are a lot of songs about things that are not happy, the end of a relationship or similar. It seems unhappiness gets the creative juices of songwriters going better than happiness. But, there are happy songs out there. As part of a bid to change perspectives and look at happy songs rather than sad songs I currently plan to post a happy song every Saturday. I don’t know how long I will keep this up. Boredom or the inability to find happy songs may beat me. However I start tonight.

This song is one from my teenage years, perhaps just. I heard it afresh this week, I bought a copy of an album it was on and when converting the vinyl to mp3 I listened and thought how happy is that song. The Stylistics were not thought of as cool by anyone I knew at the time and no-one has suggested to me since that they were. I thought they had a number of good pop songs in the 70’s.(Though I didn’t say so to anyone at the time!) Clearly there is enough appreciation of their work for there to be a tribute act. If there are songs you think are happy and would like to see them included one Saturday leave a comment or contact this blog.

Darkness at the Edge of Town

16 March 2015

This week unintentionally seems to be something of a Bruce Springsteen fest. Yesterday morning I went to see an Italian film set in New York called Hungry Hearts. Of the few plot-lines it was the Romeo and Juliet of doomed lovers and JTO has just got the latest book by a favoured author of hers, titled ‘Dancing in the Dark‘ – by Karl Ove Knausgaard. I am typing this listening to my favourite Springsteen album which gives this post its title.

The film starts with the embarrassing situation of a couple stuck in a restaurant toilet after he has done a particularly stinky pooh. Clearly it is not a problem as they spend the night together. As I said they go on to develop a relationship and then she gets pregnant. I won’t go on as I do not want to spoil it for anyone who might want to see it. It was produced by Italian broadcaster RAI from an Italian book which was transposed to New York and given a Bruce Springsteen song as a title, whether that was deliberate or a coincidence I do not know. Here’s the song:

There was no connection between the two events but this week Mr Amazon came round on his bike and delivered the new book  from Karl Ove Knausgaard – I did not know anything about him until recently but today I received as a gift a copy of the first of the six volume series, ‘A Death in the Family’. Ironically there hangs the tale of another coincidence as today I saw a Norwegian film ‘1001 Grammes’ (trailer) which is also worth seeing, a gently developing tale about a recently divorced woman in the world of weights and measures, I did say it wasn’t an action film! For those who don’t remember the Bruce Springsteen song it was one of his biggest its in the 80’s:

Darkness at the Edge of Town‘ was the Springsteen album which got attention at the end of the seventies but has long been overshadowed by its predecessor ‘Born to Run’ which gave him a massive worldwide critical and popular hit and the tow albums led on to his massive success in the 1980’s, giving the titles to the film and the book. Here’s the title track:

2014 in review

29 December 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,200 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile – coincidence strikes again

26 October 2014

This morning I saw the new Woody Allen film, Magic in the Moonlight, which, incidentally is well worth seeing. The main character, played by imgres-3Colin Firth, is described as a man of reason who has no time for there being a supreme mind which decides what happens to us and explain how strange things happen, it’s just coincidence, as he states at one point in the film. When reading the book my last post was about, on the rise to Prime Minister of Australia of Bob Hawke, which featured the previous Labor Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, as the start of the narrative. Whilst reading the book Mr Whitlam died.

Three years ago I played a part in the Steve Martin play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile for imgres-4the Council of Europe linked, Tagora theatre group. It is set in Paris in 1904 and wonders what might have happened had Picasso and Einstein met at a bar in Paris, the Lapin Agile, and talked Physics and Art whilst trying to bed an attractive woman. Picasso is also supposed to be stuck in his blue period and a traveller from the future (in the guise of Elvis Presley just before images-4he went into the army) visits the bar and helps Picasso see the future, more specifically . Incidentally, having reached middle age most male friends have at one time or another had a phase of copying Elvis, usually they do the later years white jumpsuit period, I got to do an Elvis copycat act, on stage and when he was still good looking!

I wrote here about being in Leeds for the summer working. One of the dangers being back in the UK holds for me is that I have ready and easy access to newspapers, more exactly, the weekend newspapers with reviews of books. I know I could access the same things over the internet from here in France, but I don’t I only read the physical product. Reading the reviews leads me to buy books I otherwise wouldn’t have bought. My interest in the period Picasso was in Paris at the start of the last century, ignited by being in the play above,  meant that when I saw a review for the book, “9781905490868In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris 1900 – 1910” I just knew I had to read it. The argument put forward by the book is that it was the first 10 years of the 20th Century where modernism developed rather than in the jazz influenced 1920’s which the book says is when modernism is traditionally claimed to have started. I have written previously about an interest in Modern Art and from what I have learnt from my trips to galleries this year, it is certainly before the first world war that Mondrian’s and Malevich’s ideas and style had been formed before the first world war.

So I’ve just started reading the book and there’s another coincidence. The Picasso museum (They’re French they put it round the other way) in Paris reopens after being shut for five years. Four years ago I visited Paris en passant to a visit to Bristol as I wrote about here. The Picasso museum was mentioned as one of the things to visit in the Marais area of Paris. But I couldn’t visit it. I could, however, visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales in November 2011, when on a visit to Australia, where there was a fantastic exhibition “Picasso masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris” where I got the hideously expensive coffee table top book as programme and fridge magnet.(Incidentally I only took it out of it’s plastic shrink wrap to find out the details for this post.)

Two books, two coincidences. which might of itself be something of a coincidence. What am I going to read next and will anything coincidental happen? Watch this space.

The Hawke Ascendancy

24 October 2014

I bought this book after reading the praise for this and its successor in a highly contesting review of Paul Kelly’s new book in the Monthly. 6701134Previously the only thing I had read about Australian political history were books about the Whitlam coup and his life after it, Abiding Interests or the diaries of a short term Labour leader.

So this, taking the story from the coup against the elected Labour government in 1975, through the Fraser government and into the first Hawke term was an interesting read. The story it set out as the period being the fate of three people and way it was written made it a page turner. And, even though you know the outcome it is still thrilling to see if things will happen in time or be overtaken by event. It is one of the most readable history of politics books I have read and draws a very effective picture of the time and the place with the characterisation of the people also effectively drawn. An absorbing read. I also love the title, even though it was written before they existed, it still sounds like it should be one the the Bourne films!

It also became highly relevant to be reading this, about the end of his career in Parliament and how he was seen as a loser after the coup, before going on and having further careers, at the time of the death of Gough Whitlam. It is also interesting in setting out how the Hake government differed from the Whitlam one and how that resulted in its legitimacy not being challenged. Though I think one thing that helped cause Whitlam’s government to be challenged was that it had come after 23 years of Liberal and coalition government how dare these Labor people do this “It belongs to us”. I am now looking forward to the arrival of the successor about Hawke’s further government and his defenestration by Keating.

St Luke’s Summer

19 October 2014

the Flashing Blade:

25 Degrees this afternoon. On the allotment in my shorts Putin gardening. 23 degrees yesterday. St Luke has struck again and how fab it is. I’ve been told we have the end of a Caribbean hurricane on Tuesday and to expect a rain storm. Raspberries from the allotment and fabulous artisanal ice-cream, in the middle of October? Too right.

Originally posted on The Flashing Blade:

According to the Oxford Dictionaries website St Luke’s Summer is “a period of fine weather around 18 October (the saint’s feast day).” That is certainly what we’ve been having recently here in Strasbourg. Today the weather was sunny and the temperature reached 23°, it has been warm for the end of the week and it is forecast to last into the beginning of next week. It is wonderful seeing the sun so late in the year, people are sat outside cafes and you can go out without a coat, although being France, every French person is still wearing a scarf although there is no need.

Getting up in the dark is no fun but seeing the dawn break is a consolation, as can be seen from the first photo above. The second picture has the Protestant Seminary on the right and the church of St Thomas, sometimes known as…

View original 147 more words

How we beat Margaret Thatcher – What the 1980’s were really like

17 October 2014

This post follows a discussion at lunch and two films which are being shown at the moment. One, Pride, which seems to have been on release since I returned from working in the UK in the middle of September, I saw it on 21 st September as I thought it might not be on much longer. (My local UGC cinema says it is on for the 5th week which would fit. Trailer below).

The other film is one which has just started at the cinema this week and is called “White Bird” here in France but is known as “White Bird in a Blizzard” elsewhere. (Trailer below)

Both films are set in the 1980’s but there the similarity ends. Whilst Pride is about the efforts of members of the gay community to provide support and solidarity to members of the mining community during a long struggle against a right of centre government in the UK in the 1980’s, White Bird is a kind of coming of age of a teenager film set in the USA set against the backdrop of the disappearance of a girl’s mother.

I tried not to like Pride. I am fed up with heartwarming tales of overcoming the nastiness of the Margaret Thatcher government and imgres-1people on the left coming out victorious. At the time it didn’t feel that we ever won. It is a retelling of history that everyone was against the government of Margaret Thatcher. They weren’t. She won three elections. She beat the Miners. She introduced Section 28 which fostered a climate that was anti-Gay, Lesbian and Transgender people as a time when the start of AIDs and HIV meant we should be working together. As an example of the climate that was fostered at the time, ten years after the film I was an elected councillor in Reading and was one of a number on a committee that gave out grants to voluntary bodies. The local Gay and Lesbian helpline had applied for a grant of less than £1,000 to provide a telephone helpline to people in the area. Not a large amount for a committee that gave out much larger annual grants like that of over £150,000 to the local Council for Race Equality. The Tory spokesperson (Now an MP for the area, pictured right)images-3 on the committee, in line with their then ideology, challenged the grant on the basis it was illegal in view of Section 28. Section 28 outlawed the promotion of homosexuality to school children. How does awarding a grant to phone helpline comprise promotion to schoolchildren? Anyway, people were so scared of the prevaling climate that we had to get legal advice and face down the Tory attempt, supported by some people for questionable motives in the Labour Party. (One of whom went on to be a Labour MP, pictured leftimgres-2.) So, I was minded to dislike the attempt at re-writing history. However, it such a well-made film and heartwarming story that it is not possible not to like and enjoy the film.

Leaving the film the colleague who had seen the film with JTO commented that it isn’t really possible for a film to capture just how bad things were for people on the left in the 1980’s. Especially I guess for something that is being made for entertainment.

When I went to see White Bird I hadn’t really known what it was about apart from it being about a teenage girl’s loss of her mother. I hadn’t knowingly seen any other films by the same director. I must also confess that part of the reason I went is that I’ve had something of a thing about Eva Green since seeing her in Casino Royale and particularly liked what I saw of her in Sin City II.

The correctness of the reflection of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was also the subject of our discussion of the the ‘White Bird’. The soundtrack was written by Robin Guthrie, at the time a member of the Cocteau Twins and sometimes of This Mortal Coil, whose songs open the film and are the third of the 16 songs to feature. I liked the type of music that featured in the film at the time. (In fact I made a spotify playlist of the songs here.) Most of the 16 songs I own on vinyl. The thing about the 16 songs is that they are being played in the film, whether, for example, on a walkman, at an ‘alternative’ disco or just when hanging out. Some of them were from before the time the film was set, but then we all play songs from the past. The music is what an American 17 year old high school student and 21 year old university undergraduate might have listened to at that time. In late 1988 what became know as ‘Madchester‘ bloomed and brought with it clothes different from those of the early 1980’s, baggy trousers and tops. By 1991 though in the UK the music and clothes would have been different. But did those things cross the pond? Would someone who liked UK alternative music in 1988 developed and gone with the changes which took place in the UK too, or stayed frozen with what they liked in 1988. It was something I found unconvincing in the film. Although I enjoyed it.

So, the 1980’s reflected in films has become a story we tell about the time. Plucky, heartwarming leftists overcome nasty, brutish rightists and win, er when they don’t. A teenager who likes UK music and clothes in 1988 doesn’t notice any change in UK music and clothes by 1991 when there has been a massive change. Anyway all that depends upon my memory and how reliable is that?

I end with a quote from Remembering and Forgetting Milan Kundera by Aaron Retica published in the New York Times on April 18, 2011:

“It isn’t simply that “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” as the novel’s most famous line has it. Kundera was showing us not only how one major event sweeps away another, but just how hard it is to remember at all, how disorienting to our own point of view and sense of time it is to try to follow what is going on around us. I get paid to do it and I can barely manage, and events often seem to me to happen in the wrong order, like spasms from an earlier history we thought we’d left behind or from a future we weren’t expecting so soon.”

Artbitch

24 September 2014

I’m not a regular visitor to art galleries, if I go once a year that is unusual. Unless I go somewhere like Amsterdam when I go and see the  Van Goghs. 14127_425053509347_4360261_nThis year I have been to three different galleries. What changed?

I don’t know how long I have been a fan of the paintings of Mondrian. I fell for the simplicity of three primary colours, three non colours, blocks and lines. It was seeing one, in the flesh to speak, in the 1980’s that showed me that the real ones have so much more, the intention, vivacity and life, totally the opposite to the cold austere painting you would expect. I went specially to find a studio in west London to get the T-Shirt, using the design, I am pictured wearing in 1986. I have written in the past about Strasbourg’s modern art ‘Sistine Chapel’ and Springtime for Mondrian.

It just so happened that this year there were two Mondrian exhibitions. None for ages, remarks about buses etc.
mill-in-the-evening-1905The first was an exhibition of Mondrian and Colour at the Turner Gallery in Margate in early August. It went back way before the abstract works he’s best known for to the time when he was a landscape painter in Holland painting pictures of the river near to his house like the one on the right. Trees, farms windmills and other normal landscape subjects. Then, he was influenced by the-red-millcubism and pointillism after spending time in Paris and the impact of painters like Braque and Picasso on his style. Stuck in Holland by the outbreak of the First World War during a visit home his style developed to what we know today. It was fascinating to follow the development from standard Dutch landscape painter through to the painter of the abstract grid shaped blocks of colours he is known for.

The second exhibition was at the Tate Liverpool and was ‘Mondrian and his Studios’ complete with the recreation of one of his studios in Paris. The exhibition had photos from various of his studios showing that he tended to convert the places he lived in into his art, painting them the same colours and having his paintings on the walls. It was possible to walk around in the recreated studio to get an impression of what it would be like for him to be working, in amongst his art works and big blocks of colour. mondriansparisstudioI’ve taken the picture from the Tate website showing people looking around in the studio. What I learnt from this exhibition was that he worked on variations to the lines, the blocks of colour and edge of the painting so that the variation in different paintings is not just about the different arrangement of the blocks of colour. It’s interesting to speculate on the impact the place he lived had upon his broadway-boogie-woogiedevelopment with the cityscape of Paris, with the buildings giving the straight lines and block shapes. He was always a fan of music and in his last painting we can see the impact the move to New York had upon him, as the Mondrian sites says, “boogie-woogie obviously had a profound impact on him. Nevertheless, the most important factor in the origin of this painting, and of the “mutation” in his art, must have been the experience of the daily rhythm of New York itself, the pulsating movement that animates Broadway, especially at night, and, in thorough keeping with the old principles of De Stijl, creates a harmony out of the opposition of contraries.”

images-1Two Mondrian exhibitions but I thought you said you had been three times this year? Yes and the third was to a Tate gallery too but this time to the Tate Modern for the exhibition of Malevich. I didn’t really know anything about Kazimir Malevich before and it was not my intention to visit the exhibition before my 11 week visit to the UK. However the Margate exhibition had said that he was a big influence on Mondrian so after that I had to go. I went on my last day in the UK before returning to Strasbourg

He too started off painting landscapes but then influenced by what was happening in Paris with cubism and futurism in Italy his painting developed into a more abstract form like ‘the Scyther’ pictured. He developed further and in 1913 painted the imgresBlack Square which was what gained him fame. This time too there was a recreation (pictured) but this time it was of an exhibition from December 1915, ‘The Last exhibit of Futurist Painting 0.10′ of which only a photo remains. The original exhibit contained pictures from other members of the group Malevich was working with at the time although the recreation focused solely on his work. As in the original exhibit the Black Square is positioned in the corner high up. This is the position of an icon in Orthodox homes which has imagesbeen suggested emphasising the ‘spiritual qualities’ of the painting or that it might have been a ‘provocative blasphemy’. He went on to paint other Suprematist works but  returned to figurative painting although the influence of the abstraction and Suprematism were still obvious in them as can be seen in the painting.

images-2The title for this piece comes from a musical reference as so many do. It is from the Brazilian group CSS and is the title of one of their songs. I saw them play at the venue around the corner  and they were very good live. If you get the chance to see them then do.

Top of the pubs in Leeds

11 September 2014

I’ve spent the summer in Leeds teaching English for Academic Purposes to students from around the world. As well as seeing the Tour de France in it’s Yorkshire incarnation, as I wrote about earlier, I have had the opportunity to do a number of things. During this time I have been working though and this week we have been working particularly on a project related to supermarkets. Students have a question related to it, we give them information, they find information and then give a presentation on the matter with their take on the answer to the question. They then get assessed on their presentation which accounts for some percentage of their marks for the course.

2014-09-05 11.34.27Friday, as last year, myself and another teacher took the students to the local Morrisons.(Pictured left) Not, as they had done so often, as consumers buying, but to analyse the way the shop worked. Afterwards for feedback we went to a local pub. Quite often, after shopping at the same supermarket, as it is my closest I too have gone to the same pub for a rest before heading back up the hill with my gatherings. It turned out that a number of the students had not been to a pub in England before, so it was useful for that. Whilst there one student  asked me what was my favourite pub in Leeds and, not having thought about it before, I answered the Whitelock’s Ale House. Now that I have had time to think  about it my answer would have been different, so here are my top three and a highly commended.

P11301721.  Brewery Tap. It’s not a traditional pub having only been open four years. Inside the decor is very wood, it sells a range of always good beers and the staff are always friendly and helpful without being invasive. It has an upstairs and roof-garden (Pictured right) and when there at the weekend to research this piece it was nice to go outside, in between the showers. P1130170There is a mixture of regular clientelle and, being close to the station, people newly arrived in Leeds or groups of friends meeting up after arriving in Leeds separately. I was able to drown my sorrows with a fellow blue after City’s defeat against Stoke. It is a comfortable place to go for a drink whether with friends or on your own.

P11301642. Whitelcok’s Ale House. I found this pub last year. There are a number of pubs like this where the street they were built upon no longer exists apart from the alley giving access to them from either the main shopping street, Briggate or another street. In this case it is almost hidden away by the back entrance to Marks and Spencer (Pictured left). P1130173When you go down the alley you turn left then right and you come out into Turk’s Head Yard and there it is , facing the back of shops. It means there is a nice area to sit outside in the summer and not raining. It too does good beer and food and well worth taking time out from shopping to visit.

P11301743. The Pack Horse. As one of two pubs that are close enough to be my local it’s not one I visit a lot. It was towards the end of my first contract in Leeds that I discovered this real old boozer. The beer is good and it has a great jukebox. As I am in Leeds outside term time I have not experienced it when the students are around I should imagine it is full with them as it is across the road from the University.

P1130163Honourable mention. The New Conservatory. Describes itself as a Cafe-bar which gives a clue that it is not really a boozer but a place where you can go for a coffee, something to drink or some food. In a basement on different levels including an area made out like a library and another with a pool table, it has a nice atmosphere as a place you can meet someone. I hadn’t visited it until I had a visit this summer from JTO, who found it and it seemed to quickly become a favourite of hers.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 43 other followers

%d bloggers like this: