Art

Here’s a health to Bunclody

Sunday, 23 October, 2016 0 Comments

Before he became a wandering minstrel, Sam Lee was a wilderness survival expert. Now, he spends time among marginal communities and uses his iPhone to save the remnants of their ballad culture, with its rich trove of stories about love, hate, wealth, poverty, parting, exile and sorrow. He collected the The Moss House in Wexford from an Irish singer called Sally Connors and it concludes his album The Fade In Time. My mother sang a version titled The Streams of Bunclody that included this verse:

“That’s why my love slights me, as you may understand
For she has a freehold and I have no land
She has a great store of riches and a fine sum of gold
And everything fitting a house to uphold.”


Emmys for The Night Manager

Monday, 19 September, 2016 0 Comments

Good to see that Susanne Bier won the Best Directing award for The Night Manager at the Emmys in Los Angeles last night. It beat out HBO’s All the Way, directed by Jay Roach; Fargo, directed by Noah Hawley and The People v. O.J. Simpson directed by Ryan Murphy. At last weekend’s Creative Arts Awards portion of the Emmys, composer Victor Reyes picked up the Outstanding Music Composition award for The Night Manager.

“It’s a very rare thing, Jonathan Pine, for me to trust a person, but you were special. You were from the first moment I saw you. Saved my son, risked your life. Should’ve known something was wrong.” — Richard Roper

“Promise to build a chap a house, he won’t believe you. Threaten to burn his place down, he’ll do what you tell him. Fact of life.” — Richard Roper


The Great Phatsby

Friday, 26 August, 2016 0 Comments

Just in time for our annual reading of F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic jazz age novel comes news that The Simpsons will hit their 600 episode milestone later this year and the series will celebrate with a 60-minute special titled “The Great Phatsby”, which will be shown in January. The story focuses on Mr Burns and his friendship with a hip-hop mogul called Jay G (a nod to Jay Gatsby and Jay-Z). The action will take place in the Springfield Hamptons with Homer providing the narration in a Nick Carraway manner.

“This was just going to be a regular episode but the table read went so well, in a fit of passion and excitement and ambition and excess, we decided to supersize it,” executive producer Matt Selman told Entertainmnent Weekly.

The Great Phatsby will also see Marge open her own boutique store and Lisa snag a rich Bae, while Empire‘s Taraji P Henson will voice a “Simpsons version of Cookie” called Praline who helps Homer, Bart and the gang take their revenge on Jay G after he takes over the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Until then, there’s the timeless original.

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that registered earthquakes ten thousand miles away.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


The triumph of Usain Bolt foreseen

Friday, 19 August, 2016 0 Comments

American artist Jacob Lawrence was one of a number of illustrators invited to design posters for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He created this image to celebrate the involvement of black athletes in the Olympics, as track and field is an area in which they have excelled. This had a particular historical significance for Lawrence because Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, where Hitler had planned to demonstrate the superiority of German “Aryan” athletes.

Munich Olympics poster


#Brexit: Michel Houellebecq makes his move

Tuesday, 21 June, 2016 0 Comments

10 September, 2001: The publishers of Michel Houellebecq’s novel Platform, Groupe Flammarion, who had been charged with hate speech in France, publicly apologized for any offense its anti-Islamic themes might have caused. The book ends with an Islamist terror attack on a resort in Thailand. On the following day, an Islamist terror attack did take place, not in Asia, but in the USA. However, the 2002 Islamist atrocity in Bali was remarkably similar to the one described in Platform.

7 January 2015: Michel Houellebecq’s novel Submission is published. It depicts a not-too-distant Europe losing the cultural civil wars and France drifting towards an Islamic takeover. As fate would have it, the publication date coincided with the Islamist massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

23 June 2016: The day Britain votes on whether to leave the European Union, Michel Houellebecq’s exhibition of his own photography opens in Paris at the Palais de Tokyo. Houellebecq is cheering for Brexit: “I’d love it. I’d love it if the English gave the starting signal for the dismantling. I hope they won’t disappoint me. I’ve been against the [European] idea from the start. It’s not democratic, it’s not good,” he says in a Financial Times profile published at the weekend.

“I really like England, I really like the fact of it having been the only country, for quite a while, to have resisted Hitler. I’d really like it to leave, to signal the independence movement.” Michel Houellebecq

The first picture in his Rester vivant exhibition shows a angry reddish dusk seen from his apartment. A line from of his one of his poems: “Il est temps de faire vos jeux” (“It’s time to place your bets”) is superimposed onto the gory sky. Another image, France #014 (1994), shows the word “Europe” carved in concrete. With Houellebecq, the timing is always significant. Place your bets.

Irlande


Nobody does Eurovision like Sweden does Eurovision

Saturday, 14 May, 2016 0 Comments

Vikings, IKEA, Absolut Vodka, ABBA, Stieg Larsson, H&M… The Swedes are good at lots of things. Then, there’s the Melodifestivalen, the national event through which Sweden’s representative for the Eurovision Song Contest is selected. Held every February and March, it unites the country during the long winter nights and offers endless opportunities for small talk during the ritual morning fika at the office.

The Swedes are especially good at hosting the Eurovision Song Contest, so we’re in for a delight from Stockholm tonight. A hint was provided in the interval of the second semi-final on Thursday evening with a show that took the audience through the history of modern dance, but with a very Swedish touch. Three humans were joined by three assembly-line robots in a medley that paid homage to ’70s disco (Bee Gee-style), a Thriller zombie routine, 50 Cent’s In Da Club and a version of Beyonce’s Single Ladies. The hosts described the performance as exploring the “contrasts that divide and the similarities we share with our metallic friends.” The Swedes share the same planet with the rest of us, but they are in a world of their own when it comes to Eurovision.


“Et tu, Brute?”

Saturday, 7 May, 2016 0 Comments

This year, the world marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare and the commemorations reflect a language that has become the global lingua franca for a creative economy that knows few geographic boundaries. Pedro Martín-Calero is an example of this globalization. He started his career as a cinematographer in Spain, but switched to directing and he now divides his time between Madrid and London, where he works with Colonel Blimp, a production company that makes a variety of media, including commercials, music videos and Shakespearian snippets.

“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!” is one of the many memorable sayings from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Pedro Martín-Calero includes a pair of fearsome canines in his very modern interpretation of Julius Caesar, Act II Scene I.


Blue Putin joke

Wednesday, 4 May, 2016 0 Comments

“Stalin appeared to Putin in a dream and told him how to rule Russia. ‘Show no mercy, comrade! Slaughter all the democrats, whack their parents, hang their children, shoot their relatives, execute their friends, exterminate their pets, and then paint your Kremlin office blue.’

‘Why blue?’ asked Putin.”

This portrait of Vladimir Putin by Reuven Kuperman is part of A Russian Tale at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The exhibition examines portrait painting by Russian-born artists of the past 120 years and includes works by masters of the Romantic, Social-Realist, Cubist and Expressionist schools, from Archipenko to Chagall to Zaritsky.

Putin


Housman in the happy field of hay

Saturday, 30 April, 2016 0 Comments

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

On this day in 1936, the poet A. E. Housman died. He’s best known for A Shropshire Lad, a lyrical cycle of poems that celebrates and mourns a rural English way of life that has disappeared. The beauty of the poems is captivating; their simplicity is deceptive and Housman’s epigrammatic observations about the fleeting nature of life and love are wistful and wise. Note: The image that accompanies poem XXIII is of the painting “Haymaking” by the Irish artist John Morris.

XXIII

In the morning, in the morning,
In the happy field of hay,
Oh they looked at one another
By the light of day.

In the blue and silver morning
On the haycock as they lay,
Oh they looked at one another
And they looked away.

A.E. Housman (26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936)

Haymaking


How Rembrandt is this?

Monday, 11 April, 2016 0 Comments

Combine the resources of ING Group, Microsoft, the Rembrandthuis, the Mauritshuis and the Delft University of Technology and you get, well, lots of things, but in this particular case the result is The Next Rembrandt.

“We examined the entire collection of Rembrandt’s work, studying the contents of his paintings pixel by pixel. To get this data, we analyzed a broad range of materials like high resolution 3D scans and digital files, which were upscaled by deep learning algorithms to maximize resolution and quality. This extensive database was then used as the foundation for creating The Next Rembrandt.”

Ron Augustus, Microsoft Services Directeur Nederland

Doubters will, no doubt, say that Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn could paint thousands of variations of his subjects and that the program which “painted” The Next Rembrandt is limited in its creative ability. True, but IBM’s Watson and Google’s AlphaGO were greeted with scepticism, initially. Data is not to be laughed at anymore, and it can be, in the case of The Next Rembrandt, rather beautiful.

The Next Rembrandt


David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016)

Monday, 11 January, 2016 0 Comments

“And I’m floating / in a most peculiar way / And the stars look very different today.” — David Bowie, Space Oddity. With his command to “Silence the pianos and with muffled drum,” and his request to “Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come,” W H Auden is appropriate for this dark day on which a great star has gone out. Rest In Peace.

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W H Auden