Broadly speaking, and watching from abroad which means I might have missed a lot, I'm tempted to guess the only Republicans coming out of this election year with their reputations enhanced instead of damaged are, of all the people, the ex presidents Bush (for at no point endorsing Drumpf)...and Megyn Kelly, Fox News Presenter. Or we could just narrow it down to Megyn Kelly. Who in addition to tirelessly battling the orange menace also just took on the 90s tantrum throwing manchild, Newt Gingrich, when he went up against her.

Check this out. Kudos, Ms. Kelly. Not that I agree with you on anything else, but, yeah.

Meanwhile, the Gingrich comedy hour included such gems as "“I’m sick and tired of people like you using language that’s inflammatory that’s not true!”. Spoken by Newt Gingrich. Supporting Donald Trump. I think this might rival Drumpf's own "nobody respects women more than I do", don't you?

Also, I'm having fond flashbacks to the last presidential election campaign, in 2012, when Gingrich suddenly discovered he'd always loved Bill Clinton and thought him a great president in an effort to divide the Clinton and Obama camps. I can't wait for what he'll come up next post elections. He's always known Drumpf was up to no good, and no one but he can save the Republican party?
selenak: (Holmes and Watson by Emme86)
( Oct. 24th, 2016 04:43 pm)
In which Sherlock's affection for Gregson is given a heartwarming outing, he turns out to share Norma Bates' way of thinking on at least one issue, and we get continuity on Joan's Mafia geekness, but the true question of the hour is: did Joan just hint she'd be okay with a Sherlock/Marcus/Joan threesome?

Read more... )
The Frankfurt Book Fair always ends with the Peace Award of the German Book Trade, which is handed over in the Paulskirche, St. Paul's, a secularized church which is one of the few places reliably prone to make me go sentimental in a way related to my country of origin. It's our big might have been: the place where the first German freely elected parliament took place in 1848, working on a constitution that never was, because the 1848/49 revolution was aborted and instead we got the Empire and lots of Untertanengeist (subject mentality).

Anyway, the other reason why I'm prone to feel sentimental about the Paulskirche is that listening to the winners of this award usually is thoughtprovoking and moving. This year was no exception. It went to Carolin Emcke, who as opposed to some earlier winners (Susan Sontag, David Grossman, Svetlana Alexejivich two years before she got the Nobel, etc.) probably isn't known outside of Germany, but deserves to be, because she's fabulous. Journalist (first war correspondant, then columnist for several of our major media outlets), writer, activist; at least one of her books is also published in English (Echoes of Violence. Letters from a War Reporter. Princeton University Press, Princeton / Oxford 200), so you can check it out. She's also openly gay, and while she's not the first Peace award winner to be so, she's the first who made this a part of her acceptence speech; more about this in a moment.

One main reason why she got the award is that in this time of the public discourse going down the drains and hate speech becoming more and more acceptable for main stream politicians to use, she keeps writing on against this without letting herself be goaded into bashing rethoric as well. An early example of this was the first thing I've read from her, a meditation on the RAF and how to approach terrorists, by which if you're German you don't mean the Royal Air Force but the Rote Armee Fraktion, or the Baader Mainhof Group in English; this to MS. Emcke was no abstract subject, because her godfather, Alfred Herrhausen, was killed by them, and her description of the day it happened and the day after in the essay capture the numbness of shock, the devastation, so incredibly well that you feel it all over again.

Heinrich Riethmüller, the President of the German Book Seller's Association, who'd given such a moving openining speech on Tuesday evening, quoted both the poet Rose Ausländer and the philosopher Hannah Arendt in his concluding speech, both of whom of course in their time refugees and intimately familiar of what hate and nationalism can do. (I was briefly taken out of the mood by him referring to Odysseus as "literature's first refugee" whom we wouldn't know about if Homer hadn't written , though, because it makes my inner myth lover protest. Odysseus doesn't really fit the bill, Mr. Riethmüller, because his ten years gallivanting around the Mediterranean post war in Troy happened with the knowledge that he's got a kingdom awaiting, and they mostly were due to having pissed off one of the gods, Poseidon. If you really want to make a refugee comparison to survivors of the Trojan war, I'd go for the Trojans. Yes, I like the Odyseee better than than Aenead, too, but Aeneas and his followers to fit the bill: survivors of a city destroyed by war which they can't return to, seeking a new home.) The central idea of Riehtmüller's speech, which the laudator of the event, Seyla Benhabib, then evolved was how language - and the context between violence and language, violence and lack of language, which Carolin Emcke has written about - is instrumental to any hope we might have for change.

Seyla Benhabib - who as opposed to Ms. Emcke has an English language wiki entry I can link you to - took as her opening image Paul Klee's Angelus Novus and Walter Benjamin's famous interpretation of same, and related this directly to Carolin Emcke's writing in what was to me one of the most memorable descriptions of the day: "Even if, as Benjamin says, you can't put together again what was destroyed, you can redeem/release/deliver" - she used the word "erlösen", which means all of these in German - "it by telling its story. Carolin Emcke has the gift of naming issues and narrating them in such a way that the silence in which violence, cruelty and torture cloak themselves is broken apart."

Then it was Carolin Emcke's turn. And she started with a joke which at the end of her speech she returned into, turning it into a great reallying call in anything but a joking manner: "Wow," she said, "so this is what it looks like from up here, from this perspective", going on to mention how she used to watch the ceremony in the Paulskirche and the speeches each year from childhood onwards, first from the tv and then from the audience. Then she got serious, talking about the various way identity is constructed - religious, national, even musical - at which point you could feel the audience be just a little complacent and nodding along, when the first zinger happened; the referred to an (in)famous occasion in the 1990s when Martin Walser was the award's recipient (you can read about the controversy here) and, quoth Carolin Emcke, the Jewish members of the audience like Ignaz Bubis had to sit there and listen to a speech "in which the terrible suffering of their own family was reduced from a crime against humanity to a 'moral club'". Talk about defining identity.

Next, she spoke about being queer, and this was when you felt a part of the audience sit up and another, who'd been ready to nod along to the general "nationalism and hate speech evil" message, be uneasily reminded of their own prejudices. Because yes, we've had a vice chancellor who was openly gay, but good lord, we're far from being no discrimination paradise. Carolin Emcke talked about how she was quickly disabused of the notion that falling in love with another woman was in society regarded as a private matter that only concerned her and her partner: "It is a truly weird experience that something so deeply personal should be so important to others that they claim for themselves the privilege of entering our lives and take rights and dignity from us. As if the way we love matters more to others than too ourselves, as if our love and our bodies don't belong to us but to those who oppose to pathologize them. There's a an inherent irony here: it's as if our sexuality serves less to define ourselves but them. Sometimes the obsession Islamophobes have with the headscarf appears quite similar to me. It's as if the headscarf means more to them, who never wear it, than to those who chose to."

Her detailing how sexual identity is treated culminated in this passionate appeal: "So we're allowed to write books which are taught in schools, but the way we love is supposed to described in school books according to the wishes of some parents only as something 'to be tolerated' and most certainly not as something to be respected? We're arrowed to speak in the Paulskirche, but not to marry or adopt children? Sometimes I wonder whose dignity is damaged here: ours, as we're declared to not quite belong, or the dignity of those who want to reduce our rights? Human rights aren't a zero sum game. Nobody loses theirs if they're given to everyone."

(Go figure: our right-oriented meda like the FAZ predictably reacted to this in their commentary with 'we're with you about how hate speech is bad, but did you have to mention all this queer stuff?' Reminded me of the conservative reviews of The State versus Fritz Bauer last year , which: Bauer noble, Nazis boo, but why did the movie have to keep mentioning that Bauer was gay? Which is exactly why Ms. Emcke has such a point. See, that's why I read the left wing SZ instead.)

The last third of her speech was devoted to a dissection of "the climate of fanaticism and violence currenctly pervading Europe", the revived dogma of "the 'homogenous' people, the 'true' religion, the 'original' tradition, a 'natural' family, and an 'authentic' nation: "No, they probably don't stand in the streets themselves and spread terror, these populists and purity fantastics, they don't throw fire bombs into refugee shelters with their own hands, don't strip Muslim women of the hijab or Jewish men of the kippa, they don't hunt Polish or Romanian Europeans, they don't attack black Germans themselves - they don't hate and hurt on their own. Sie lassen hassen. (Hard to translate exactly, because "They let hate" doesn't mean the same thing, nor does "they make hate happen".) They deliver patterns made of resentments and prejudice to the public discourse, they manufacture racist product placements, all these little vicious phrases and imagery used to stigmatize and to take away dignity, used to humiliate and attack people.

"They manufacture racist product placements" sums it up exactly. If you've noticed the repeated mention of the word "dignity", btw, this is not least because the preamble to our constitution, written with the Nazi experience directly behind us, starts with "Die Würde des Menschen ist uinantastbar" - "human dignity shall be inviolable". Against a patriotism that excludes and defines itself by being against others, Carolin Emcke suggested "Verfassungspatriotismus", patriotism defining itself by love of the contitution. I thought that was a marvellous idea, and evidently so did our head of state, President Johannes Gauck, who was in the audience and who later at the post award lunch said in a short speech of his own that he was sick of all the hate speech in the name of patriotism (no wonder, given that he and Chancellor Merkel were shouted at as "traitors" in Dresden at this year's national holiday): "Ich bin ein Verfassungspatriot." ("I am a patriot of the constitution.")

The question of what to do in these times: "Keep starting again", said Carolin Emcke. "We can always start again, both as individuals and as a society. (...) Nobody can do this alone. It needs all in a civilian population. Democratic history is created by everyone. A democratic story -" the German word for story and for history is the same, "Geschichte" - "is stold by everyone. Not solely the professional narrators. (...) Freedom isn't something you own, it's something you do. Secularization isn't something finished, it's an eternally unfinished project. Democracy is no static certainty, but a dynamic exercise of how to deal with uncertainties and cricitism. Being a free, secular, democratic society is something we need to learn. Again and again. By listening to each other. By thinking about each other. By mutual respect for the diversity and individual uniqueness. And not least by allowing each other flaws and offering forgiveness. Is this hard? Oh yes. Will there be conflict between various practices and convictions? Absolutely. Will it be difficult at times to balance different religious practices and the secular order? Definitely. But why should it be easy?
We can always start again.
What do we need for this? Not much. A bit of Haltung" -
that's another hard to translate word, as it can mean morale, poise, bearing, conduct - "a bit of laughing courage, and not least the readiness to change the direction of your gaze now and then, so that it happenes more often we all can say: 'Wow. So this is what it looks like from this perspective.'"

And with that elegant return to the beginning of her speech, Carolin Emcke ended it to everyone jumping up and applauding her for eons.
This year's Frankfurt Book Fair changed several things in the layout, and in the security measures. Where in the past, only Hall 8, where the English-speaking publishers plus the Israelis used to be, had handbag-searching at their entrance, this year all bags get searched at the general entrance. Also the English speaking publishers plus the Israelis switched to Hall 6, which is much closer to the rest of the action, but meant that the Latin-origin languages moved to Hall 5. Which was when the Italians, who were supposed to get their stand in 5.0, protested that there was no way they were going to be placed BELOW the French who are in 5.01. I don't know whether these are long term Napoleonic scars, or what, but I have it from a publisher who was told by the President of the Frankfurt Book Fair. In the end, ruffled feathers were calmed, and the Italians were content with 5.0.

These territorial squabbings notwithstanding, the opening speeches at the opening ceremony started with strong appeals to European unity and fighting against the evils of nationalism in all our countries. Then they got self critical. The second speaker was Heinrich Riethmüller, President of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, and he offered a mighty "J'Accuse" in direction of not solely Turkey but also our own government (and the rest of the Europeans) for not doing anything due to Erdogan's refugee leverage. He quoted a letter the imprisoned writer Azli Erdogan (no relation) has written, representative of over 120 currently imprisoned writers and journalists in Turkey, which was a heartwrenching appeal, and lamented "the silence of politics". The next speaker was Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, who departed from his prepared speech by immediately addressing what Riethmüller has said. "'Politics' may be silent, but I won't be. I agree with you, Herr Riethmüller. The voice of Frau Erdogan says all about Herr Erdogan. Someone who seeks to silence his opponents by persecuting them and locking them up can no longer be a democrat. I join you in calling for their immediate release." Since he said this on a public occasion to an audience of hundreds and in the presence of two heads of state - the Kings of Belgium and Holland respectively, because this year's guest(s) of honor were Flanders and the Netherlands - it was hopefully a gesture not unnoticed. The rest of his speech was pretty good, too. He linked Trump, Le Pen and our homegrown evils, the AFD, and called for "an uprising of the decent", to speak against hate speech, because this is our test, the one we didn't think would come for our generation, where we truly find out whether we've learned better than our grandparents. He also used his bookseller background to connect reading to empathy, which I'm less sure about, given that there are plenty of books around which incite hate, but anyway. There is currently some talk about whether or not Schulz will replace Gabriel as the SPD's candidate for chancellor in the next elections, but so far it's not likely he'll give up being President of the European Parliament for such a candidacy.

As mentioned, the guest of honor isn't one country this time, but two, or rather, one and the linguistically related region of another. Two of their authors, Charlotte von den Broeck for Flanders and Arnon Grünberg for the Netherlands, gave us a new format for the traditional last speech, always by a writer from the guest of honor country. Instead of a speech about their country, they gave us a poetic dialogue about shame, writing, empathy, distance. By far the most "literary" conclusion the opening evening has had for a while.

There has been no shortage of famous writers, German and international alike, at the Book Fair this year, but by far the most famous author came from another industry. No, Bob Dylan didn't make it to Frankfurt. (Though every publisher who had Dylan lyrics or biographies about him in their backlist included those at their stand.). But Bruce Springsteen did. Alas for most of us, he didn't do so in public or announced. Instead, he presented his memoirs to a select audience of ca. 60 journalists, and the rest of us only learned about it the next morning. However, it WAS a traditional reading/presentation - just two minutes for photographs, then he read an excerpt from his autobiography and answered questions. The invited journalists loved it (and were v.v.v smug the next day, let me assure you; one said that "Bruce looks more Irish the older he gets", while I tried very hard to pretend I was only jealous on [personal profile] likeadeuce's behalf.

Some famous authors I did meet and listen to: Donna Leon, whom I'd met earlier this year in February, and who, as an American living in Europe, was inevitably asked the T question, which led to this bit of dialogue:

DL: You know, I think the rest of the world should get a say in US elections as well, seeing how our decisions affect all of you. But unfortunately, nobody listens to me.
Moderator: Will you vote?
DL: I've voted already.
Moderator: We all agree that Trump is unspeakable, but is Hillary Clinton really a better choice? I've got a Republican cousin in New York who says she's just as bad, and...
DL (interrupting him, first with mock horror, then with real verve): Argh - Republican relations! No, she's not "just as bad". And by the way, I didn't vote for her because she's a woman, either. I voted for her because she's incredibly smart, she's disciplined, and she gets things done.

That told him. Then there was Ian Kershaw, of British historian fame, presenting his book about what he called "the 30 years war of the 20th century", i.e. The time between 1914 and 1949. The original English title is "To hell and back", I hear, but the German one is simply "Höllensturz" (no "back" optimism), and of course Kershaw's moderator gloomily asked whether we're falling into hell again right now. Kershaw didn't want to commit to this exactly, pointing out that in the 30s, two thirds of Europe was ruled by various dictators, whereas now, most countries have had decades of experience of democracy behind him, imperfect as they are/were, but he wasn't exactly vibrating with optimism about the future, either. Interestingly, he thinks the European project peaked in the late 70s, not the 80s or early 90s, which would have been my choice, but didn't elaborate, as most of the conversation was obviously about the decades his book covers, in which "everyone always made the worst of all possible choices". When the moderator congratulated Kershaw for his fluent writing style, Kershaw said: "Well, I've always had a very low boredom threshhold as a reader, and so as a writer I try not to challenge my readers to feel they need to explore theirs."

Turkey didn't stop being an urgent subject, never more than when Can Dündar, the editor of the now defunct Cumhürryet, spoke; he urged us all not to treat Erdogan as the sole voice of Turkey, to remember and support all the other voices Erdogan is trying to erase. He also pointed out the not-newness of Erdogan's behavior, quoting something Erdogan had said when Mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s - "Democracy is the train which will carry us to our destination; then we won't need it anymore". Deniz Hüzel, a correspondant who'd actually been in Istanbul during the night of the attempted coup, described his experience and chilling it was, too.

In terms of "books I'm putting on the 'to check out later, they sound intriguing' list": German translation of the correspondance between Paul Cezanne and Emile Zola, published apropos the movie "Cezanne et moi" (which I've watched and found frustrating because to me it was as if it kept being on the verge of something better, more interesting, and then didn't manage), German translation of Mary Beard's "SPQR", and a new biography covering the young Erich Honecker. Which I hadn't thought would interest me, but I caught the presentation of the book almost by accident, and Martin Sabrow, who wrote it, made "Erich Honecker. Das Leben davor." (The Life Before) sound fascinating. He talked about how it had been his goal neither to redeem or deconstruct Honecker, but to look at his youth not least because it had been rewritten quite differently once Honecker rose to the top, but also in terms of how it relates to the era; Sabrow was a good out loud narrator (which not all authors are) as he wryly told his anecdotes about young Erich Honecker, undercover Communist resistance member, managing to escape the Gestapo in an action movie worthy chase only to be arrested the very next day because he'd forgotten he had given the driver of the taxi he'd jumped out of when noticing the cops were on his trail his intended destination, which was near where he was hiding. He also drew a connection between Honecker's stubborn refusal to face realities in the late 1980s and that arrest in 1935 followed by ten years of prison (in Nazi Germany): "A deep distrust towards one's own people. Remember, he starts out wanting to free them, but then he's arrested and does he get applauded? No, of course not. He's reviled and spat at while everyone he sees cheers the Nazis. And that's when you start the mental division between "the true people", who need to be led by the (Communist) party, and the unreliable mob."

This resonated not least because of current day events, and the painful awareness that "deep distrust" isn't just something crusty old ideologues who have their people fenced in by walls and shooting orders feel. I've felt it myself.

Now for some visual impressions from the fair:

Below the cut )

Tomorrow the book fair ends with the presentation of the Peace Award of the German Book Trade. Stay tuned.
selenak: (Elizabeth - shadows in shadows by Poison)
( Oct. 18th, 2016 01:53 pm)
As has been pointed out to me after I posted my recent book review, the tv series Versailles is now available, and thus I could finish marathoning it (all ten episodes) just before leaving for the annual Frankfurt Book Fair.

So, as historical series go: on a scale from cheerfully ahistorical teen soap a la Reign to show beloved by critics, historians and viewers alike a la John Adams, Versailles is... Somewhere on a level with The Tudors (though it has more authentic looking costumes). Which is to say: mixes the occasional clever historical detail/interpretation with lots more blatantly invented stuff and historical nonsense, firm emphasis on the soap opera and the sex, but no such howlers as worshipping pagans and religiously tolerant Mary Stuart in Reign. The original characters don't carry cheerfully anachronistic names, either.

Spoilery musings follow )
selenak: (Obsession by Eirena)
( Oct. 17th, 2016 10:17 am)
In which Holmes meets Another Mr. Sloane, and Watson does seem to get the arc I was hoping for after the premiere.

Read more... )
One of the many reasons why I'm curious about the tv show Versailles and hope it will show up either in dvd form or on Netflix in my part of the worlds is that the audience favourite is Philippe d'Orleans, aka Monsieur, brother to Louis XIV. This surprised me, to put it mildly, until I realised that a) played by Alexander "Mordred" Vlahos, and b) openly gay male relation of powerful person striving to be with his (male) true love = audience favourite, of course.

The reason why I was at first surprised at first is that Monsieur has had a terrible press, as far as historical novels I've read are concerned, and a not much better one in non-fiction I've read. (The only positive film depiction of him I can recall is as a minor supporting character in Alan Rickman's last movie, A Little Chaos, where there's a lovely little scene between the middle aged royal brothers as played by Alan Rickman as Louis and Stanley Tucci as Philippe.) Not because he was gay, though of course one can never discount homophobia in older sources, but because he was a terrible husband, and that is the context in which I mostly encountered him. When I say "terrible", I don't mean "cheating because arranged marriage and gay", I mean "using his social power over his wives to humiliate them on a regular basis, strip wife I. of all her friends in their household, act incredibly jealous of every man (including her brothers and nephew) who comes near her while simultanously making it clear he despises her and loves only his favourite" and "unable to stand the idea of the children loving either wife I or wife II better, tries to get the kids to hate their mothers at various points".

Wife II was Liselotte von der Pfalz, aka Charlotte Elisabeth of the Palatine, whose thousands of letters to her German relations through the decades of her life at Versailles provide a tremendously entertaining glimpse at the era and the people. Wife I , the first Madame, was Henriette Anne, aka Minette, Charles II.'s favourite sister. I'd read Liselotte's letters before (where Monsieur mellows down somewhat as they grow old together, and the last three years of their marriage are downright harmonious, and also the only ones she later describes as happy), but I hadn't read Minette's, other than what gets quoted in Antonia Fraser's biographies of Charles II. and of Louis XIV. This I've now rectified:

Ruth Norrington (editor): My Dearest Minette: Charles II to the Duchess of Orleans.

Despite the subtitle, it collects all of Minette's stille existing letters as well and isn't a one sided correspondance. Technical notes on the editing: Ruth Norrington provides context not with footnotes but with explaining texts in between letters, which is sometimes very helpful even if you're familiar with the era (like yours truly, though not an expert), and sometimes feels redundant, as when she's essentially just repeating what then gets said in the next letter. She's also unabashedly partisan in her descriptions: both Charles and Minette often get described as "charming" and "delightful", the Chevalier de Lorraine (Philippe's favourite boyfriend) hardly shows up without the moniker "evil". (To be fair, I haven't yet found any one, either in memoirs or letters, who had anything good to say about the Chevalier aside from his looks, and he comes across as both obnoxious and vile, as when he's boasting of having gotten rid of Minette's governess and confessor and being powerful enough to get Philippe to divorce her as welll; not surprisingly, this was when Minette and the English ambassador did their level by lobbying with Louis XIV to get rid of the Chevalier instead.) Occassionally, you wish that Norrington when stating something as fact that's actually still hotly debated would at least indicate with a footnote that hers is not the only interpretation out there, as with the question as to whether or not Charles II. actually meant to convert to Catholicism in the Treaty of Dover. Norrington taking it as granted that Charles meant to and totally would have announced it, too, had Minette not died made me raise my eyebrows in scepticism because given what actually happened (Charles pocketing the money Louis XIV provided him with for that promised conversion but not actually converting & announcing it until he was on his death bed, which is how he technically fulfilled the terms of the Treaty but certainly not the spirit) and given Charles II.'s life long pragmatism and dislike of dogma and clear awareness that the country wouldn't stomach a Catholic monarch ("I'll not go on my travels again"), I very much doubt that had Minette lived, he'd have done anything else than what he did. (I.e always arguing that he'd love to, sure, but the political situation right now won't allow it, in the meantime, how about some more cash?)

Despite her open dislike for Philippe ("a vainglourious narcisisst and bully"), Norrington actually provides a more interesting interpretation for his jealousy re: Minette than I've seen so far, which makes it about more than ego, by pointing out that Philippe's relationship with his brother was other than the one with the Chevalier the central one in his life, and both the supposed Louis/Minette affair early on (whether or not they actually had sex or just engaged in an intense flirtation, it was serious and public enough to make both their mothers remonstrate with them) and the fact that Louis took Minette later seriously as a politician in a way he never did Philppe (who wasn't privy to the secret negotiations between Louis, Minette and Charles about the Treaty of Dover, presumably because he wasn't trusted to keep it secret) were interfering with that relationship. Hence Phiippe retaliating by using his status as Minette's husband to delay her journey to England as much as he could, then forbid her to stay longer than three days etc.

Another technical observation: as Norrington says, most of Charles' letters are written in English, not least because he wanted Minette, who'd lived in France since she was two years old, to practise the language, while all of Minette's letters but one were written in French and thus are translated in the present volume, and come across as a bit more formal due to this fact. The one exception is a letter not directed at Charles but at Sir Thomas Clifford, written just a few days before her death, and its conclusion gets across what people, not just Norrington, mean when they talk about Minette's charm:

This is the ferste letter I Have ever write in english. you will eselay see it bi the stile and tograf. prai see in the same time that i expose mi self to be thought a foulle in looking to make you know how much I am your frind.

re: the correspondance in general in terms of content, even given the more emotional language of the time, it's very affectionate on both parts, with the siblings clearly adoring each other, which doesn't mean they always agree. Minette doesn't hesitate to chide her older brother when she thinks he's in the wrong, as when he made his mistress, Barbara Palmer, Lady Castlemain, a lady of the bedchamber to his wife Catherine of Braganza over the later's understandable anger and hurt:

But to speak seriously, I beg you to tell me how the Queen has taken this. Here people say that she is in the deepest distress and to speak frankly I think she has only too good reason for her grief.

(After this, Charles made a point of mentioning spending time with his wife in his letters to Minette, though he's a bit defensive on the subject of his mistresses: If you were as well acquainted with a little fantastical gentleman called Cupide as I am, you would neither wonder, nor take ill, any sudden changes which do happen in the affaires of his conducting.) They also confide some pretty intimate details to each other; in a sadly lost letter Minette seems to have told Charles that on her wedding night she had her period and hence there was no sex until a few nights later (and then it wasn't , because he references both when telling her that Catherine, too, had had her period on their wedding night:

"(A)and though I am not as furious as Monsieur was but I am content to let those pass over before I go to bed to my wife, yet I hope I shall entertain her at least better the first night than he did you.

The letters are usually a mixture of family and friends gossip, state affairs - Charles talked politicis to Minette long before the Treaty of Dover was in anyone's min; he basically treated her as the inofficial English ambassador to France, which was a good thing because his first two official ambassadors were lousy at the job - and the occasional interesting oddity, like the meteor which fascinated Charles. He more often than not ends his letters by remarking he's off to the theatre. His irreverent sense of humor also often comes through, as in this reply to Minette's swearing that her newborn daughter resembles her uncle:

I hope it is but a compliment to me, when you say my niece is so like me, for I never thought my face as even so much as intended for a beauty.

("Oddsfish", he famously said on another occasion, "I am an ugly fellow." You wouldn't have caught Louis XIV. allowing anyone to think that.)

As for religion: "I am of those bigotts," writes Charles to Minette, "who thinke that malice is a much greater sinn than a poor frailety of nature." Minette, otoh, was a passionate Catholic, with one of her main childhood memories being when her mother, Henrietta Maria, threw out her brother Henry (who was to die young, not long after Charles was crowned) for not converting. But she doesn't talk dogma often in her letters (even the Treaty of Dover letters are mainly concerned with possible political percussions of Charles converting).

An interlude with contemporary resonances comes when early in the Dutch-English war Minette to her horror hears about French sailors getting tortured by the crew of an English frigate (France at this point was peripherally involved in the war, though with opposite alliances to those it would have later): It is also reported that your people have made some Frenchmen prisoners, and tortured them cruelly, to make them confess they were going to Holland, but I maintain that this cannot be true, or at least that it is done without your approval, and that so generous a soul as yours would never allow such treatment of your enemies, far less of Frenchmen who are your friends. Write me word, I beg, of what has happened and whether, if this is true, you have taken care it should not happen again, since nothing is more worthy of you than to use your power to make yourself at once beloved and feared, and to provent all the horrors which too often accompany war.

Sadly, Charles found the story to be true, but promised Minette the perpetrators would be punished: "I do assure you I am extreamly troubled at it, there shall be very seveare justice done."

Having read the biography of Charles' oldest illegitimate son, James, the Duke of Monmouth, recently, I was struck by how many loving (and funny) references to him there are in the letters (he visited Versailles repeatedly, which Monsieur took offense to; one of his conditions for finally letting Minette visit England was that she was not to meet Monmouth on that occasion, which Charles promptly ignored). He's invariably referenced as "James", which made me wonder what they called his uncle James, the Duke of York, when talking about him, other than "brother", which is the designation from the letters. Anyway, some typical Monmouth references: "Your kindnesse to him obliges me as much as tis possible, for I do confesse I love him very well", "I (...) only desire you to have the same goodnesse for James you had the last time, and to chide him soundly when he does not that he should do. He intendes to put on a perriwig againe, when he comes to Paris, but I beleeve you will thinke him better farr, as I do, with his short haire, and so I am intierly yours".

The letters Charles sent by way of his son are also more detailed than the ones by courtier couriers (which could presumably be intercepted). When Minette's marriage goes from bad to worse, the siblings at first alludes to it only indirectly and discreetly, but then there's one letter which discusses it in detail:

I take the occasion of this bearer to say some thinges t you which I would not send by the post, and to tell you that I am ver glad that Monsieur beings to be ashamed of his ridiculous fancyes; you ought undoutedly to oversee what is past, so that, for the future, he will leave being of those fantasticall humours, and I thinke the less eclairecissement there is upon such kind of matters, the better for his friend the Chevalier. I thinke you have taken a very good resolution not to live so with him, but that, when there offers a good occasion, you may ease your selfe of such a rival, and by the character I have of him, there is hopes he will find out the occasion himselfe, which, for Monsieur's sake, I wish may be quickly.

That turned out to be wishful thinking on both Charles' and Minette's part. Instead, it was the Chevalier who got rid of Minette's allies in the Orleans household. Because the correspondance between Charles and Minette from the last year of her life is not preserved, it's paradoxically a good thing the Chevalier caused the governess of Minette's children to be replaced, because Minette then kept up a correspondance with her old governess and confidant, Madame de Saint-Chaumont, and Ruth Norrington includes these letters near the end of her book. At this point, the English ambassador (not one of the two incompetent ones mentioned earlier, but the first good one, Montagu), had already written an alarmed letter to Charles about how bad things truly were, Charles had remonstrated with Louis, and the Chevalier finally overreached himself when Philippe asked for the income from two abbeys being given to him, which Louis refused to do, which caused the Chevalier to speak out against the King. Cue banishment to Italy, for which Philippe blamed Minette, at first refusing to let her travel to England at all, hoping to blackmail both Kings into letting the Chevalier return. Writes Minette to her governess:

The King has worked hard to bring him to reason, but all in vain, for his only object in treatin gme so ill is to force me to ask favours for the CHevalier, and I am determined not to give in to blows. This state of things does not admit of any reconciliation, and Monsieur now refuses to come near me, and hardly ever speaks to me, which, in all the quarrels we hae had, has never happened before. But the gift of some traditional revenues from the King has now osftened his anger a little, and I hope that by Easter, all may yet be well. (...)

Fat chance. For:

I have indeed wished to see the King my brother, but there has been no question of the Chevalier's return in all Monsieurs opposition to my journey. Only he still declares he cannot love me, unless his favourite is allowed to form a third in our union. Since then, I have made him understand that, however much I might desire the Chevalier's return, it would be impossible to obtain it, and he has given up the idea, but, by making a noise about my journey to England, he hopes to show that he is master, and can treat me as ill in the Chevalier's absence as in his presence. This being his policy, he began to speak openly of our quarrels, refused to enter my room, and pretended to show that he could revenge himself for having been left in ignorance of these affairs, and make me suffer for what he calls the faults of the two Kings.

Charles tried to help by offering to give the Chevalier an honored place at his court in England, but again, no such luck. (Otoh he refused to invite Philippe himself along with Minette, using the excuse of protocol - the King of France's brother couldn't visit England without the King of England's brother visiting France, and since his brother the Duke of York was absolutely needed elsewhere. Writes Minette to her friend the governess:

This refusal has renewed Monsieur's irritation. He complains that all the honour will be mine, and consents to my journey with a very bad grace. At present, his chief friends are M. de Marsan, the Marquis de Villeroy and the Chevalier de Beuvron. The Marquis d'Effiat is the only one of the troop who is perhaps a little less of a rogue, but he is not clever enough to manage Monsieur, and the three others do all they can to make me miserable until the Chevalier returns. Although Monsieur is somewhat softened, he still tells me there is only one way in which I can show my love for him. Such a remedy, you know, would be followed by certain death!

This line took on an entire new meaning when after her return from England Minette died after drinking some chicory water. She believed herself poisoned; Philippe said if that was what she suspected, they should give some of the water to the dog to test it (in one version of the story, he also offered to drink himself), and today historians largely think Minette died of natural causes, but either way, she died in horrible agony which lasted for hours. She had asked for the banished (thanks to the Chevalier) Bossuet to give her the last rights, and he was sent for, but before he arrived, the bigoted M. Feuillet even added spiritual agony to the physical one. When she cried out "My God, will not these fearful pains be over soon", he said "What, Madame, you are forgetting yourself; you have offended God twenty-six years, and your penitence has but lasted six hours; rather say with St. Augustine, cut, tear, destroy, let my heart ache, let all my limbs thrill with anguish, let dung flow in the marrow of my bones, let worms revel in my breast!"

Minette even in this state still had the gift of irony she shared with her brother Charles, and replied: "Yes, sir, I hope so; in case God were to restore me to health, and I were so wretched as not to practise them, I entreat you to remind me of them."

When the English ambassador asked her, in English, whether she had been poisoned, Feuillet interrupted and warned her not to think of recriminations but the plight of her soul. Minette told the ambassador: "If this is true you must never let the King, my brother, know of it. Spare him the grief at all events and do not let him take revenge on the King here for he is at least not guilty."

"The King here", Louis, later told the second Madame, Liselotte, that Minette had been poisoned but not by his brother, otherwise he'd never have let Philippe marry again. Otoh he also ordered an autopsy of Minette's corpse, where the doctors found no traces of poison. Charles when the news reached him had no doubt she was poisoned. He cried out "Monsieur is a villain! at the unfortunate messenger", retreated in his bedchamber and didn't leave for five days. All in all, it had taken Minette eight hours to die, and only at the end when Bossuet had arrived and replaced the odious Feuillet was she comforted. To read about it makes for a harrowing ending to what is mostly a very endearing book about a brother-sister relationship.
Which is a not-really-memoir, a collection of autobiographical stories, several of which have been earlier published, here arranged not in linear order but thematically, in a way. Le Carré puts himself in the observer role in most of the stories, which are focused on the various people, famous or not, he encounters. For all that he's a superb raconteur about them, he keeps his own emotions about the people he describes mostly in check; understatement is the name of the game. The big exception, and unsurprisingly the chapter that got the most attention in reviews when this book was published, comes near the end, in the tale of his dastardly conman of a father, Ronnie, a born life ruiner (and occasional beater, but the devastating damage Ronnie does both to marks and to his family is usually non-physical in nature), and his absent mother Olive, who left him and his brother with Ronnie when our author was five and whom when reencountering her as an adult he never quite managed to form a relationship with, not least due to her habit of addressing him as Ronnie. Lé Carré is far too self aware not to realise the connection between spying, being a conman, and being a writer, and thus warns the reader early on, re: veracity of the stories he's about to tell:

““I’m a liar . . .Born to lying, bred to it, trained to it by an industry that lies for a living, practised in it as novelist. As a maker of fictions, I invent versions of myself, never the real thing, if it exists.”

Ronnie and Olive remind me a lot of Charles Dickens' parents, for all that Dickens and Le Carré aren't really much alike as writers; the parallel extends to adult Dickens' senior embarassing his son by writing out cheques in his name till Charles had to publish an advertisement in the papers to say he wasn't countenancing this, while Ronnie uses his son's novelist successs in a similar manner (and even signs the novels), to the novelist sons putting their fathers in more bearable form in novels while in rl living in an uneasy tension between trying to avoid their fathers and being unable to let them go. While carrying a less obvious but as deep-seated grudge against their mothers due to what they see as an utter lack of affection. Le Carré's terse description of Olive as the mother without a scent (he can't remember what she smelled like because she never hugged him) says it all.

But the Ronnie (and Olive) chapter comes, as mentioned, near the end of the book; Le Carré knew of course it was the most emotional and the climax. Earlier, we're treated wrily and drolly to such gems as lunch with Rupert Murdoch (who wanted to know who killed Robert Maxwell) being his over the top tycoon self, Alec Guinness, whom Le Carré befriended due to Smiley, being as gentlemanly and enigmatic as you want him to have been, with the occasional one liner to his fellow actors when they go over the top, Yassir Arafat putting on a show (in more senses than one) while Le Carré is busy roleplaying himself as Charlie, the herone of Litlte Drummer Girl, and so forth. Of particular interest to me and a red thread through the book is Le Carré's life long fascination with all things German. He was stationed in Bonn in the 50s, is fluent in the language (and says these days he can't focus on a book for longer than an hour, except if it's in German), keeps coming back here and provides German locations as guest spots in many of his novels. His descriptions of the many, many old Nazis on all levels of the administration in the 50s and 60s is dead-on, I'm afraid. (Just recently, our justice department published a study on how many former Nazis were there in the post war justice system until the 70s. Over 77 percent, I kid you not. Even allowing for the usual argument (which is: well, non-Nazi German lawyers and judges were hard to come by in the 1950s; not untrue, but there were the emigrés, who found it harder, not easier, than the Nazis to get those kind of jobs if they were willing to return, plus there was no encouragement of the younger, less tainted generation), that's devastatingly high. As for the reformed spy network, you probably had to search for a non-former Nazi with a flashlight. Le Carré's description of Gehlen, who founded it and got the US licence for it is wickedly on point. He also can't resist some sarcasm re: the US and British attitude, which was as he sums up that as a Nazi, you were per definition not a Communist, and so okay in the Cold War era CIA's book. (Ignoring that Gehlen was a fantasist and that having a dark past makes you easily availablef or blackmail,with the end result that according to Le Carré 90 % of the German agents working in Eastern Europe were really working for the Stasi. Which I'm completely ready to believe. Competence isn't something the BND was ever famous for, even after the Nazis died out. In an account of a more recent German episode, he maks me cringe because that one concerns the German citizen tortured at Guantanamo, and I remember the (non-)reaction from our governments all too well.

Like Le Carré's novels, The Pigeon Tunnel features far more men than women, though the occasional memorable woman makes it through, like Yvonne, the original for Tessa in The Constant Gardener. Someone I'd like to have read about more is his younger half sister Charlotte Cornwell, who inspired Charlie in The Little Drummer Girl and who, since she's an actress, he wanted to play the character in the movie version, which didn't happen. (Not a fan of Diane Keaton he.) Unfortunately with the exception of saying this about Charlie, he doesn't talk about her, or his other siblings really, other than saying his brother Tony was basically his only source of affection in his childhood (Ronnie and Olive weren't). Various ladies with the designation "my wife" are spotted at the edges of these stories, but as I said, for the most part, Le Carré manages to remain deepy private in this collection, taking the not unreasonable position that describing all these other people is where his and the readers' interests allign.

All in all: highly readable, and no, you don't have to be into his novels to enjoy it.
Courtesy of Amazon Prime, I finally watched the last best picture winner Spotlight, which I had missed in the theatres. In case you have as well: it deals with the Boston Globe's investigation and uncovering of the systematic abuse going on by Catholic priests in the Boston area. (Not that the abuse was limited there, I hasten to add, but that was what the investigation was about.)

In many ways, this felt like an old-fashioned movie to me, and not just because of the obvious parallels to the most famous of "reporters uncover corruption" movies, All the President's Men. There's the technical aspect - the story is set 2001, the internet is around, but hasn't yet taken over the news cycle (for example, when the story finally breaks, the letters to Cardinal Law proving he knew about various abuse cases for decades are put online, but that's an addendum to the story, not a main thing), the reporters are making notes on paper a la Woodward & Bernstein while interviewing sources, and an editor is confident enough to allow his team months of investigation before breaking the story, instead of going for NOW NOW NOW. Indeed, it's pointed out that going after just one or two particular priests would allow the cases to be dismissed as "a few bad apples" and that systematic abuse can only be proven if you allow for a long term investigation.

But it's also an old fashioned (in the best sense) movie because it doesn't try to create artificial suspense by, say, inserting sensational action movie moments (Vatican death squads sent after our heroes the night of the publication? The movie industry would be entirely capable of it, but thankfully this movie's creators abstained). Nor does it set up romances or relationship drama. (Several of the reporters are married or in steady relationship; this is acknowledged in a few lines of dialogue, but no more.) It relies on the enormity of the story it tells, and puts the narrative emphasis on it. We follow the reporters through the story, various of the victims get narrative room so they become individualized and not "just" names as they tell their stories (I should probably add there are no flashbacks to the acts when the victims were children - the quiet and not so quiet agony of the adults is allowed to say it all).

Perhaps the most unusual touch is that the movie painfully avoids glorifying its investigative team. Not only because it depicts the initial reluctance to tackle the story (which happens because a new editor, not from Boston, not a Catholic, asks for some follow up to one particular case), but also because our heroes realise that they could have written this story far earlier, and that several of them were guilty of looking the other way/ignoring/burying it as well. At one point, a character says "if it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to abuse one", which is a red thread through the story - the culpability of various institutions, not solely one, and a lot of people on all levels.

There are a lot of great character actors at work here, and several of them play anti type - Michael Keaton as Walter "Robby" Robinson, for example, very low key instead of the extroverts I've seen him play so far, Live Schreiber as Marty (the outsider editor) Baron ditto in a different way (deeply uncomfortable yet quietly determined), whereas Mark Ruffalo as gabby reporter Mike Rezendes gets the movie's sole big loud explosion into horrified rage. Stanley Tucci as the victims' lawyer is brilliant, and Rachel McAdams as the team's sole female reporter also gets the role of role of the person losing her faith over this, and while not getting the big loud outburst is as effective in her low key reactions, never more so than when to her surprise the priest she's tracked down starts to talk and insists that what he did was just fooling around, not rape, and that he knows the difference because he's been raped himself. It's McAdams' face that sells you on all the layers and enormity of this moment.

Like All the President's Men, the movie ends with the reporters continuing their work, and refuses to give the audience a neat wrapping up. Yes, the story breaks, and more victims come forward, and Cardinal Law resigns, but he's also then just transferred, as he transferred the guilty, and the damage will never heal. I've seen criticism that there are no great cinematic shots and that this could have been a tv movie; it certainly plays out powerfully on my Ipad. I'd argue that its visual low key-ness contributes to its emotional power. Definitely a must.
The world is a scary, scary place right now. By which I'm not referring to the orange menace, though the fact that he got this far and continues to spread his poison is horrible. But frankly, what scares me more is how in so many countries, including my own, so called mainstream politicians are adopting the vocabulary of right wing thugs while said thugs are on the rise. UKIP is pretty much superfluous in Britain right now since the current Tory P.M. puts scorn on the term "citizen of the world" in an almost literal quote from the 1930s Nazi papers (I'm painfully aware of Godwin's law, believe me, but she truly did - and that was a pretty famous quote at that), and wants to "shame" British firms employing foreigners by publishing lists, Orban in Hungary has just destroyed the last independent paper, comes fresh from a xenophobic campain that would feel right at home in the 30s and, just to show he wants to emulate his buddy Putin in everything, dishes out insults at LGTB people in his spare moments (asking Hungarians whether they want a family with mother and father or "people who can't tell whether they are men or women"). Poland is ruled by similar right wing nuttery, and like Hungary, it was elected by popular vote. In France, you have Marine Le Pen and the National Front who to me is more frightening than Drumpf because she could truly become President the way it looks right now. As for my own country: see above: re: mainstream conservatives falling over themselves trying to emulate the AFD thugs. Two weeks or so ago the general secretary of the CSU said that his nightmare was "a football playing altar boy from Senegal" because "we'll never be rid of him". (See: he didn't even use the "non working, Islamic menace" type of cliché. Instead, he conjured a completely integrated asylum seeker.) If you believe he had to step down or that there were in any way negative consequences for him from within his own party, think again. On October 3rd, holiday of German unity, our chancellor and president were in Dresden precisely because Dresden has become such a hottub for right extremists, as a counter gesture. There were hundreds of people screaming the Nazi word "Volksverräter" (people's traitor) at them. The Saxonian police wished them (the demonstrators) "a successful day".

All of this, far more than Drumpf by himself (who makes me throw up), makes me live in a constant state of dread.

Briefly on non-rl news, which are a welcome distraction: Yuletide assignment: that was fast! Not something I've done before, not what I expected, but not a problem, either, I can do it, and will enjoy doing it (which is why I had offered the fandom in question to begin with).
Third volume, collecting issues 16-19 of Gillen's Vader comic. This one, despite the connection to the ongoing storyline (i.e. Vader after being demoted post A New Hope working his way back to the not quite top of the Empire past rivals and Palpatine playing mind games), feels like a self contained adventure, which has its plus side (there's a clear beginning and end of the story this volume tells) and its downside (no Aphra! She's off stage, err, page, for the entire volume!).

The ostensible charge Vader's been given by the Emperor is to deal with an ore producing planet in revolt (though the revolt happens more for inner scheming than for freedom fighting reasons). The true interest of the story lies in new character Trios, at the start youngest daughter of the Shu-Torin ruler and deemed expendable by same, and by the end something spoilery ), her learning arc, and her interaction with Vader. If R2 and CPO have their evil (and hilarious) counterparts, and Aphra echoes in various ways both Han and Ahsoka in a dark manner, Trios strikes me as a dark counterpart to Padme (Leia, too, but mostly Padme). Specifically Phantom Menace era Padme Amidala. And when I say "dark", I don't mean in a Mirrorverse way, i.e Trios isn't evil. It's just that the narrative she's in isn't one that favors heroic defiance, the force user sent to her isn't Qui-Gon but Darth Vader, and there isn't really a good option for her to take. Spoilery talk again. )

I complained in my review of the last volume that the Vader-Leia encounter felt so unsatisfying while acknowledging that given continuity, there isn't much Gillen can do. Avatar/counterpoint characters seem to be a good solution here, since Trios works both as a might have been for young Queen Amidala, had she lived in the Empire not the Republic, and for Leia, if Tarkin hadn't blown up Alderan but used it as extended leverage. (Though of course Leia IS in a narrative where heroic defiance is always rewarded.) Incidentally, just to clarify and avoid possible misunderstandings, when I say Trios is a Padme counterpart, I don't mean it romantically. There is never even the slightest sense of that. The one compliment Vader pays Trios early on is a paternal one (he says her father should be proud of her), and it's later revealed to have been part of his (Imperial) agenda (when it's paralleled to what Trios does by the end of the story). Otoh the fact that here is a brunette royal, hailing from a formal culture fond of elaborate getups and rituals, defying the odds in a desperate situation can't have been lost on him.

In terms of Gillen's ongoing storylines: Spoilers are speculating. )

In conclusion: a good installment, but now I want Aphra to return to the on page storyline more than ever!
New official trailer (after the teaser trailer from a few weeks ago) for Black Sails, season 4!

Completely trivial observation du jour: at last, Billy has joined the bearded brigade. When exactly did "growing a beard" become a tv marker of "getting more ruthless" (see also: Breaking Bad?) It wasn't back when Riker did it on TNG. :) Also, Max looks great on horseback.

More seriously: can't wait! And then I shall dearly miss this show once it's over, but it feels just right in terms of the story they're telling to have this be the final season. After all, if you pitch your main character versus the British Empire in 1715, then you do limit your options as to how long this can go on without suspension of disbelief snapping entirely.

Meanwhile, checking out the summary of requests and offers for Yuletide so far, I see there are plenty of sign-ups for Black Sails, which augurs well for at least some stories getting written.
selenak: (Omar by Monanotlisa)
( Oct. 7th, 2016 01:21 pm)
I liked, but didn't love it. (Though I dearly wish I could have done, for the obvious reason.) Partly for tangible reasons - which I'll get to in the spoilery section of the review -, and partly for reasons that are all about it emotional resonance, which has nothing to do with objective criteria. Of the Marvel tv shows, Jessica Jones and Agent Carter, different as they are from each other, grab me on a deeply personal level, Daredevil and Luke Cage do not. (And I still haven't gotten around to Agents of SHIELD.)

What's great about Luke Cage: definitely the Marvel show with the best sense of place, says the non-American tourist who's been to Harlem all but two times. Even with that qualification, though: for all that Daredevil has both Matt and Wilson Fisk go on and on about "my city" re: Hell's Kitchen, I never got a sense from the show of what Hell's Kitchen is like as opposed to other sections of tv and movie New York. In Luke Cage, Harlem is definitely a character, and main locations such as Pop's Barber shop or Cottonmouth's night club aren't ornamental but crucial to the plot, and part of several people's characterisation.

Also, this is a good ensemble show; it builds up its characters, gives them important relationships with each other, not solely with the hero. And not to delay stating the obvious any longer, all but two or so of the minor supporting characters are black, and so, articles about the show tell me, are the writers, which is still unusual enough to be noted in the publicity for the show, apparantly. There is no attempt to pander to the audience by inserting one of those supposed audience surrogate white characters into the narrative, and the show is the better for it.

And one more general observation: it's an unabashedly geeky show, with Luke as well as several other characters often depicted reading and discussing novels as well as movies. (Even in the last scene of the season finale.) I love that about it.

With all those virtues, what's keeping me from loving the show?

Well, there's... )

None of this means, btw, that Mike Colter isn't appealing in the central role - he makes Luke quietly charismatic with a sense of humor, and I'd take him over Matt Murdoch any day. And did I mention he's into debating favourite books and movies?

So all in all, flaws not withstanding, it was a show I enjoyed watching. But not one that leaves me with the urge to rewatch, if I had the time, or with the need for more.
selenak: (Holmes and Watson by Emme86)
( Oct. 4th, 2016 08:03 am)
Previously, on Elementary: loved the first season, had mixed feelings about the second one, loved the third season, had mixed feelings about the fourth one, am hoping for the reverse of the Star Trek even numbered movies curse and thus a good fifth season.

As season openers go, this was a low key but good one; no cliffhanger situation from the previous season to resolve for our heroes. Instead, it mixed the case of the week with good character stuff for Joan and the Holmes-Watson partnership, and introduced what looks like a new recurring character.

It gets spoilery from here. )
Back in Munich, I finally had the chance to watch this. A good thing, too, doing it today, because some of the news were stomach-turning. (If you're German and have watched them, you know what I mean. If not, you don't want to know.) I needed cheering up.

Which this film, subtitled "The Touring Years", did. No, it's not an in-depth documentary about the Beatles in totem, or does much in terms of analysis, but then it doesn't pretend to be. It skips, dips and glides on the waves of the ocean that's the phenomenon, and is incredibly charming and a fannish love declaration.

What it does do: give a great sense of both the utter sense of joy the Beatles were able to evoke in their audience at their best, and the increasing madness/claustrophobia/freak show feeling that was a big reason why they stopped touring in 1966. In addition to old interview snippets from George and John and now ones with Paul and Ringo, you get the usual suspects dead and living (even those who rarely went on the record in front of the camera, like Neil Aspinall), plus a couple of very prominent fans who were teenagers then and fully in the grip of Beatlemania, like Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, Eddie Izzard and Richard "Four Weddings and a Funeral" Curtis. I found it both amusing and touching that Richard Curtis declared his entire career was in a way an attempt to recapture what the Beatles were to his teenage self, friends who know each other really well effortlessly bantering with one or two glasses down already. (Richard Curtis movie characters: all Beatles avatars. You know, it works for me.)

(Ron Howard, btw, is really good with using not just the songs but the banter from various studio outtakes and live performances, so it's not just Curtis et all explaining this as a quintessential part of the Beatles allure but the audience sees/hears it as well.)

Being the avid fan I am, I had seen much of the footage before, but never on the big screen, or with this sound quality, and I fell in love all over again. With the music, but also with the great chemistry and connection they had with each other (I hear you, Richard Curtis). The movie has two endings, since there's a remastered version of the Shea Stadium documentary attached, but the documentary proper ends thusly: decision to stop touring -> off we go to the studio to make Sgt. Pepper -> artistic triumph - > short "and then there were five more albums, but they only played live together one more time" credit explanation -> excerpt from the rooftop concert from "Let it Be", to be specific, "Don't Let Me Down/I've Got a Feeling", which is the final scene of Ron Howard's documentary. This could have been a bit of a gamble, considering we go from moptop Beatles concert excerpts to the 1969 look and music, and it's a bit of a shock how much older they look only three years later if you're not familiar, BUT the gamble pays off because lo and behold, there it is again, that joy of performance, that clicking with each other and the audience. (That, btw, is the marvel of the Let It Be movie this excerpt is from, too - misery misery misery and suddenly! Joy!) It's a great way to wrap things up, and as a bonus through the credits, we get more banter (from the Christmas Record for the fan club from 1963 when fame was still new and wild), going full circle from end to beginning.

There are lots of tributes to Brian Epstein and George Martin (to whom the movie is dedicated), and the credits also single out the late Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans and Derek Taylor for special thaniks (and justly so, given Neil and Mal were the roadies/condidantes since Liverpool and Derek Taylor had to manage the PR madness through the touring years), but one particular name dropping was my favourite: when Paul, referring to how by 1966, they all needed some non-Beatles space and passion in their lives, mentions George found Indian music "and I got involved with a gallery owner, Robert Fraser" - cue photo, thanks, Ron Howard, because there aren't many available other than the famous drug raid one with Mick Jagger. (The Paul and Robert Fraser relationship being something of a special interest of mine.)

Like I said, the movie skips and dips, which means you get due mention of the fact they were stoned throughout "Help!" (obviously), but no more than that, and other than George's comment about ye early Hamburg days ("being 17 in the naughtiest city of the world"), no mention of the part of being a touring musician that includes lots of sex. Otoh you do get an unexpected brief excursion into the 1965 US civil rights state when the fact the Beatles refused to play to segregated audiences (which became an issue in Jackson, Mississippi) comes up. I thought Ron Howard was playing it just right; he doesn't claim they did something major for the cause here, but lets the story speak for itself, by using interviews not from years later but made at the time (by Larry Sanders, in which they all unequivocally say that segregation is nuts, we also see their original contract for the tour which indeed has s a clause saying that the artists won't play in front of segregated audiences ), then lets a black fan describe what it was like.

As mentioned, after the film proper is over, you get the Shea Stadium documentary remix, cut down to thirty minutes (the original documentary of Shea Stadium was 50 minutes and included footage of the other groups playing that night and some interviews), which, seen uninterrupted, not only provides a great sense of what it was like but in fact allows you to do what neither the audience nor the Beatles could at the time due to the scream level - hear the music. (Earlier in Howard's coumentary, Ringo says he could not hear anything and had to focus on John's and Paul's backsides and the rhythm to goes where in the song they were.) Like Elvis Costello said, it's amazing that it sounds as great as it does under these insane conditions - and when two young 'uns behind me expressed (impressed) amazement that the Beatles would finish said concert with "I'm Down" and make that song hilarious instead of depressing, I felt that pang/gratification you do when hearing people experience something you're fannish about for the first time. (Yes, self, there are lots of people who don't know they used to finish their acts with Paul doing one of his Little Richard-like numbers. Resist the temptation to turn around and provide a know-it-all-explanation!) Which is one of the reasons why I'm glad this new movie exists - not just for nostalgia but to introduce newbies to the Beatles. The best kind of fan service.
selenak: (Sternennacht - Lefaym)
( Sep. 30th, 2016 07:21 pm)
Dear Yuletide Writer,

thank you so much for writing a story for me! I’m greatly looking forward to it, and hope you’ll enjoy writing it. We share at least one fandom, and hopefully some of my ideas will be of interest to you.
General likes/dislikes: Generally, I’m fond of canon settings. By which I mean: I don’t want to read about the characters in a coffee shop AU, or a high school AU, or in a story where no one evolved beyond their pilot characterization and the plot went totally differently from there.

This isn’t an absolute demand. I’ve come across A U s which I have truly loved, and some had pretty cracky premises. So if you are truly inspired to write about, say, Lily Frankenstein’s adventures in space, fine, go for it. “If possible, canon era setting” is a guideline, no more.

On the other hand: no A/B/O, please. Can’t stand it. Also, no character bashing. By which I don’t mean characters can’t have negative opinions about other characters. But there is a difference between that and story intent. To choose a Black Sails example: Jack Rackham having no good things to say about Eleanor Guthrie post s3 would be in character and more than likely. Flint, otoh, passing judgment on Eleanor on one particular act given what he did to Mr. Gates would be hypocritical, and if the entire story is devoted to all the characters hating on Eleanor and Eleanor getting humiliated by the narrative, we’re definitely in bashing territory, and I want nothing to do with it.

Slash, het, bi, poly: I’m fine with it all, and you can write non-generic sex scenes, more power to you, I’m envious (I tend to go for the discreet cut between scenes not because I’m against explicit writing but because I’m not good at it), but I’d prefer it if the story consists of more than just an extended sex scene.

On to fandom specifics.

Penny Dreadful )

The Americans )

Black Sails )

The Last Kingdom )
selenak: (Seven by Cheesygirl)
( Sep. 28th, 2016 05:52 pm)
Back home with the APs, busy unpacking, washing, and soon, ironing; still, I've just had a first look at the Yuletide fandoms and characters tag list, and am pretty excited, since in addition to the requests I knew I'd make some more will be possible, due to other people kindly nominating the fandoms in question. Also, I'll be able to offer plenty. Currently I'm composing one list of fandoms I can offer to write in without caveats, and another for possible treats which I could write in, but only if a prompt pushes a button (and if there's enough time, of course).

(I also noticed someone nominated Sunset Boulevard and specifically Norma and Max, which made me smile, since I've written that story some years ago.)

While hiking through the Southern Tyrolian mountains I couldn't get online often, but I did notice the announcement that Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor himself, will be joining the cast of Sense8 next season. This makes me wildly curious as to which character JMS has written for him. (And the W's, naturally, but JMS is the one whom I know actually watched Classic Who for sure, so.) Also, are there any DW/Sense 8 crossovers in existence? Given Freema A. playing an important role in s1, there probably are, but I haven't checked out the fanfiction for ages.
Like (almost) every year, I spent the last week (and half of this one) with my APs in Southern Tyrolia, aka paradise on earth.

I mean:

Unser Tal photo 20160925_130949_zpsd9vosj0q.jpg

More under the cut )
selenak: (Allison by Spankulert)
( Sep. 19th, 2016 10:05 pm)
Briefly, as I am travelling:

Emmys: I'm thrilled Tatiana Maslany has finally won. She deserves this. I mean, I was rooting for one of the actresses on this particular occasion, but Tatiana Maslany does so amazing things on this show and in all these roles that she can win any time and I'm satisfied.

Otoh "Battle of the Bastards" winning best written episode over ANY episode of The Americans, season 4, is just baffling. (Yes, Sansa's scene at the end is great, and the overall direction is good, but the script otherwise? Ah well. Spectacle over character drama, I suppose.)

Politics: dire dire dire dire everywhere, including my own country. For some reason, the Washington Post coming up with a journalistic first of the most cynical type is my current personal least favourite, though. They published Snowden's original revelations together with the New York Times and won another Pulitzer for it, and now they're asking for him not to be pardoned but to go to prison. Somewhere, Nixon is cackling. And Ben Bradlee is turning in his grave.

Trying to cheer myself up: since it's "talk like a pirate" day, I give you Black Sails' version of Anne Bonny, in the s2 finale:

I can't be your wife, Jack. But you and I are gonna be partners till they put us in the fucking ground. "

(The Anne and Jack relationship: forever great.)

Also, going back a bit in (my) fannish time, here's the pirate king herself, Elizabeth Swann (sidenote: why I've never been tempted to watch any Pirates of the Caribbean movies post the third one - for me, that saga was Elizabeth's story, and the trilogy told it, completely), rallying a fleet: Hoist the Colours!


selenak: (Default)


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