Monthly Archives: February 2012

Black History Month

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English: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre pe...

Alvin Ailey Dance troupe performing Revelations

Black History Month is like Valentine’s Day: why have a specific time dedicated to something you should appreciate every day? Each year, BHM is such a non-event to me because I never hear much about it, so often forget it. Tragic. It nearly happened again this year, but thankfully I remembered in the nick of time – and on the day which is actually a bonus! Any other year, the boat would have long sailed. But not this year. We have Leap Year.

There is so much to discuss; so many angles of a complicated and varied people that I thought only something simple would do. I decided to pick a clip from the Alvin Ailey dance company – a pas de deux called “Fix Me, Jesus”. I first saw the Alvin Ailey dance company in New York as a college student. It was my first ballet, and I’ve since tried to catch them every chance I get. “Fix Me, Jesus” is part of the Revelations suite. I love it because it’s so sinuous and elegant and it conveys so beautifully the strength and grace of a people which I think is the very essence of black history. Not just for a month, but always.

By the way, you don’t need to be a theist to appreciate the power of this piece.

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Strange Lullabies #2 – The Trinity Session by the Cowboy Junkies

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Cover of "The Trinity Session"

A balm for the night

To me, every record has a time of day, season and even day of the week.

But there are some records that represent the night so much, I can’t even listen to them unless it’s almost midnight or before the sun rises. Few records encapsulate the night as perfectly as Trinity Session by Cowboy Junkies. Margo Timmins’ voice lulls you in from the start. From the mournfully spare a cappella “Mining for Gold” until the sultry strut of “Walking After Midnight” – once you start to listen, you just can’t switch it off until the very end.

I was in high school when Trinity Session came out, and almost immediately, I thought it was one of the most beautiful records I’d ever heard. It was so alien to me. It was so quiet. Almost everything in the 1980s mainstream was about bombastic rock, power ballads or over the top pop. All of sudden, here was a group with a singer who sang so softly, you had to strain to hear her. I remember the first single was “Sweet Jane”. Everything about it was so minimal. I wasn’t yet familiar with the Velvet Underground so had no idea it was a cover. But as much as I’ve come to love Lou Reed and his former band, I still prefer the Cowboy Junkies’ version.

The highlight of Trinity Session (so named because it was recorded in a church), though, is “Blue Moon Revisited”. It’s maudlin and sexy at the same time. And I’ve always been a sucker for songs which could soundtrack an Edward Hopper painting.

Nearly 25 years later, Trinity Session is still as night-time as it ever was.

The Old Operating Theatre

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The Old Operating Theatre

I love finding crazy, weird places. Thankfully, London is full of them. One of my favorite spots is the Old Operating Theatre. The photos say it all. – @kroslen.

For the times when those pesky flies find your gangrenous limbs.

Can you imagine lying on this slab of wood with no anesthesia? By the way, the tray of hay underneath was to absorb the guts. Yes, just like at the butchers.

He's still waiting

A view from the top. Would you have wanted to be here?

A treatment for venereal disease. Seriously.

Rest in Peace, Whitney Houston

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My Love Is Your Love

My family was hooked on Whitney Houston’s voice from the moment her debut record dropped in 1985. I still remember recording myself on tape singing “Greatest Love of All” and giving it to my mother before I went to spend the summer at my dad’s house. Needless to say, my vocals didn’t compare with Whitney’s but it was the sentiment which counted I guess.

My mother was a big fan of The Bodyguard, which I have to admit is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures as well. Even if you thought her music was too “doctor’s office”, you cannot deny what a powerful instrument she had. “I Will Always Love You” is a testament to that voice. I think people who slated it were probably secretly jealous. You don’t have to be a fan to recognize the breath-taking range of those notes, especially that note. Whitney set a bar so high, even she couldn’t reach it in the end.

Here’s one of my favorite Whitney tracks which kind of says it all. Requiescat in pace, Whitney. – @kroslen

Just Seven Years to Dystopia

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Blade Runner

One of the best films ever?

It’s the year 2019, and Rick Deckard has been forced to take on one more assignment before he retires. The assignment: to hunt down and “retire” some renegade replicants who are hiding out on planet Earth.

Yes, folks, I’m talking about Blade Runner, or for those who have read the book it’s based on – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? I try not to compile films or books into lists, but if I had to, Blade Runner would definitely be a Top 10.  That’s quite a feat, considering the first couple of times I tried to watch the film, I could not get through it. But you have to watch it in the right context. It has to be night, you have to be committed and you need no distractions. If you do all these things, you will be in for a treat.

I re-watched it last night, and once again, was amazed by the sexiness of a retro-futuristic Los Angeles. I love futuristic films that take more from film noir than Star Trek. 1940s outfits and Art Deco buildings amongst flying cars and Voight-Kampff machines create an enticingly beautiful, yet cold, landscape. Brazil is another film which uses the same mix of retro and future, and more recently Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Rutger Hauer as the replicant, Roy Batty, is one of the most compelling characters in a science fiction film. Not only is he compelling to look at, but he also delivers the best lines in the film. That’s not to diminish Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard at all. He spent most of the 1980s as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, so this role was a good break from all that over the top blockbuster bombast.  Sean Young as the “human” replicant, Rachael, and William Sanderson as designer J.F. Sebastian are also stand-out roles. And finally, let’s not forget the fantastic score by Vangelis.

The most incredible thing about Blade Runner, though, is that this dystopian future takes place in 2019. That’s only seven years from now. Blade Runner came out in 1982, but the book came out in 1967. However, I still find it hard to believe that people thought the world would be so different in less than a century. But aren’t those bleak pictures of the future usually the result of some cataclysmic event which happens out of the blue? So, who knows? We might not be out of the woods just yet.

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

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On my way to yoga last week, I happened to see two different people reading Great Expectations on the tube. One appeared to be a school boy, and the other a businessman unwinding after a long day at the office. They sat at nearly opposite ends of the train. At the time, I remarked it with a barely audible “hm!” as I’ve seen coincidences before. But today being the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birthday, the remembrance of seeing two men on the train reading his book made me realize how much of his legacy we now take for granted (but maybe the recent BBC adaptation also helped).

One of the first books I remember reading on my own was A Christmas Carol, but the Dickens book I grew to enjoy the most is A Tale of Two Cities. It’s not the most humorous of his novels, but I think it’s one of the most inspiring. If you fail to be moved by the final scenes and Sydney Carton’s last lines, then you’re just not human.

Thankfully I have yet to read all of his work, so I still have lots of Dickens to look forward to.

@kroslen

Congratulations to the Giants, but I’m still bitter

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OK, you won’t get very many sports posts from me, but I just have to mention my love/hate relationship with the Super Bowl. It’s full of bad memories. While it seems the tide of support in my hometown of Buffalo has turned in favor of the New York Giants, I can’t help but hold a grudge. I’m trying to let it go.

But congratulations to the New York Giants. Yet again, it was a well-played, nail-biting match-up.

Just like….

 

A Snowy Day in London Town

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Last night and into this morning, the snow fell in London. I loved it. I got up during the night, made a cup of lemon ginger tea and watched it like a movie. It was oh, so Narnia.

Unfortunately, London can’t handle snow, so due to delayed newspaper deliveries, I had to walk miles to find an Observer (ok, I exaggerate, but you get the point). It was well worth it though, as I saw Stoke Newington in all its glory. Here are a couple of snaps I took in Clissold Park.

Only a Paper Moon

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Cover of "Paper Moon"

Cover of Paper Moon

I’m definitely no cineaste, but the films I do love, I usually watch over and over again. One of my favorite films was just on Film 4 and I was reminded how great is – Paper Moon. It came out the year of my birth which partially explains why I have such an attachment to it. Also, I’ve been obsessing a lot lately over the 1920s/30s. The Jazz Age, Art Deco, dust bowl Americana, hedonistic Paris and Berlin – you name it. I think I remember reading somewhere that there was a resurgence of interest in the 20s/30s during the late 60s/70s, as typified by films like Bonnie and Clyde, The Sting (a film I’m always surprised George Clooney and Brad Pitt haven’t remade yet, though Paul Newman and Robert Redford would be tough to beat!) and of course, Paper Moon. All fantastic films!

Anyway, I love this bit from Paper Moon. Tatum O’Neal totally deserved that Oscar at age 10!

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