Archive for October, 2014

Picasso at the Lapin Agile – coincidence strikes again

26/10/2014

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.

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The Hawke Ascendancy

24/10/2014

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

19/10/2014

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.

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…

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

17/10/2014

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.”


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