One of my biggest regrets in life is not having heard Leonard Cohen, who would have turned 84 on September 21, play live. I know there are far bigger regrets to be had, and perhaps I should count myself fortunate that I fret over something, I wanted to write trivial here and then immediately froze with my fingers hovering over the keyboard. Because Leonard Cohen was everything but trivial. I am not one to cry easily, but I sometimes shed a tear over one of his songs, maybe a version of that oft heard Hallelujah, that people keep singing at talent shows and dance ice skating routines to, and yet it doesn’t become trivial either, it’s the very opposite of it, the perfect song, even more so when he sang it with an aging voice. His voice had never been a classically beautiful one, but it kept changing ever so slightly, reflecting the stages of his life, it was a voice that was never really young in the first place, since his career took of only in his thirties. It was always a wise voice though, and it staid so to the very end, his last collection of writings is now published in a book. His last record, You Want It Darker was the tremendously brave and graceful confession of a man facing his imminent mortality and so are many of the poems in this collection. And from the many articles published and re-published on his birthday, here’s one about his insights into inspiration and creation.
A considerably less serious regret of mine is not having the physical constitution of dancer, which I blame on genetics, both giving me wrong limbs and lack of ambition, so I could have done this:
Come to think of it, I might be better off running, which believe it or not is kinder on the nails, and I have both the right kind of limbs and the ambition for it. I also have other gifts, for example, killing potted plants, because in spite of my best efforts my office kalanchoe is dying. There’s also an array if things I totally need to work on, like writing better sentences. In my case, that generally means shorter. Maybe one day I will succeed. To do just that.
Summer holidays being sadly over, I may have had less time for online long reads, but found so many pictures, for example a lovely collection of dogs resembling their owners, a great series of Brexit related photo essays, here’s the one centred around the Irish border, a series of decidedly Blade Runner-esque shots of Tokyo after dark , totally gratuitous llamas with balloons, parallel portraits from North and South Korea (it’s intriguing to see which contexts are most similar, and which are most different), an exploration into Romania’s relationship to churches, which as we’ve seen recently can sometimes get ridiculously out of hand, and these multiple exposures of Istanbul.
When it comes to paper based reading, I did however swim through the ocean of The End, the 1153 page finale to Karl-Ove Knausgaard’s hexalogy about himself, in which I got so immersed I feel I know the man better than some friends and nickname him KOK, to avoid spelling out the longish name (Norwegian men’s names are always doubled, aren’t they) in notes. I’ll write a bit more about that in the soon to be unleashed books diary, until then, here’s a Guardian review I postponed reading lest there be spoilers, like what kind of meal does a miserable KOK prepare on page 564, and two thought-provoking articles connected to the fourth most discussed (after KOK, his dad and his wife) person in the book: Adolf Hitler, one in English, and another one in French.
Somehow returning to the long list of my failures, we find mathematics, strangely forever associated with the smell of slightly over-fried stew wafting in the staircase of my math teacher’s block of flats as I was silently trudging upstairs, homeworkless, for the extra classes that I still count as some of the most excruciating hours of my life, a full measure of my impotence, inadequacy and overall failure as a human being. Enter Eugenia Cheng, who writes about mathematics for dummies like me and talks about mathematics for dummies like me and more often than not she makes total sense- when she doesn’t, it’s a case of me, not her. I also wish she was around when we were told that girls are great at humanities but suck at math, with role mother I might have dared understand a couple of more complicated equations.
In a month when there was a lot of talk about that women’s US open final and Serena being pissed off unfairly overshadowed Naomi Osaka’s achievements I preferred staying out of trouble and just liking Novak Djokovic, cause very few people seem to and that makes me feel special, plus I also listened a lot to Mitski, whose strange brand of unconventional ballads slowly but surely crept up on me, and she is is incidentally also half Japanese and half something else, which in her case is American.
Speaking of music, I never thought I’d be be completely sold on a flamenco performer, but then again Rosalia isn’t quite what you’d first have in mind thinking of the genre, it is however perfectly understandable that I’d be delighted by this KEXP performance by The Horrors, here you may revel in a long and illuminating read about the one and only Robyn, plus another long and illuminating read about the one and only Robyn, and then there is this little bit on the music of Sharp Objects and like this we make a smooth passage into the world of film, where you must definitely check out the amazing Barry Keoghan.
In a sort of travel and architecture section, a great piece about Réunion, during which it dawned on me that vanilla is actually an orchid (epiphanies of the stupid reloaded),the story of a Modernist experiment in Bucharest, a reason to go to Vienna in autumn, a Polish man decided to go home, an article in Romanian about the fading and rotting beauties of Băile Herculane, once a spa town favoured by Habsburg royalty, and one in Serbian about Belgrade’s last functioning mosque, worth checking out even if you don’t speak the language for a quick glimpse into how mosques and churches are built in very similar ways.
We reach the bits and bobs section with an important article about Levi’s t-shirts, the omnipresence of which, along the slightly less frequent NASA ones has been a mark of this summer, an entertaining read about respect in football, a town that loves bad puns which are of course the best kind of puns, an unavoidable Bored Panda collections, this time with predictable but hilarious, and for me totally relatable, introvert jokes, the compulsory Star Trek referencing, and tow great videos, one by Jain and the other one by Estonian Erki Pärnoja, who will be playing in Budapest during the BUSH festival