RANDOM STUFF. This may turn out to be an even randomer than usual post, as it is cobbled together from little snippets I wrote throughout the month. I also insist on mentioning that the autocorrect function insists, every time, to fix stardate into startdate.
Pedro Almodóvar has been writing a diary of the COVID year too, and the second installment has been fairly incendiary, as befits a man known for giving us women on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A sidenote, here, because evidently I love them: I have always been very fond of the original, Spanish title of the film, Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios– firstly, because of the intimations of a border, as in borderline existence, you’re not crazy, just halfway there, and the fact that nerves attack, they’re vital, Latin, they come on to you like brazen revolutionaries. Parenthesis closed. In the first installment Almodóvar touches on some elements that feel familiar to me too: how introverts and/or anxious people don’t feel this routine to be much different from their normal lives, how you walk around the house with your step counter on for not much reason really, but to give yourself the semblance of daily goals, and how time at one point becomes a fluid entity. He then moves on to amazing anecdotes with Sean Connery and white orchids he’s receiving for his birthday from Lucia Bosé’s son, so all similarities abruptly stop. (No, not really: I also reminisce about freer, happier times spent with friends, and feel a special appreciation for those relationships which have survived the trials and tribulations of our lives.) There has been quite a lot of online literature on how many of us experience more vivid dreams these days and apparently, you can even programme them. The Calvert Journal pust forward the interesting postulation that Easterners are better acquainted, and therefore more comfortable, with uncertainty, though possibly this applies mostly to generations older than mine. This is also the ex-Socialist space where I can include some Yugo bands, thus sliding almost seamlessly into the music section.
MUSIC. Off we go with some rap in Quechua (you may argue that rap in a language you don’t understand loses some of its punch, but I still enjoy the exotic modulations of unfamiliar tongues) and a Catalan crooner (bless the Romance language family, I do understand quite a lof what Ferran Palau sings about.) Unbeknownst to you, you also totally need Paul Bank’s fancy sweater in your life.
One sunny Thursday afternoon I prepared for the loveliness of listening to the new Strokes, which was to be released next day while doing my Friday morning administrative chores at work- at least listening to fresh albums while doing routine tasks, a long time ritual of mine, could continue in this craziness. Then I realized next day was Good Friday, and there would be no work. On this note of disappointment, here’s a short and sweet guide to the music of The Strokes. There has been much talk of them recently, hence a lot of material on them, but this one struck me as it manages to convey that childish/youthful feeling of being special on account of the music you listen to that you only ever have in your late teens and early twenties. Speaking of the anthems of our generation, The Killers definitely penned a couple of them, and it’s good to hear that Brandon Flowers, the creator of the grammatically questionable but absurdly wonderful lines are we human or are we dancer is still at arms with the restrictive boundaries of the English language on Fire in Bone.
You know the lockdown has definitely gotten to you when you start listening to The Weeknd on repeat (Blinding Lights, obviously, with its delicious eighties workout synth vibes), thus the song has landed on what I pompously call my isolation playlist. If you don’t like my playlist (yes, unbeknownst to myself I will be a little bit offended), you may like the one Quentin Tarantino made, since he’s generally quite inspired when choosing songs or a perhaps you might fancy Jarvis Cocker’s Domestic Disco collection. And as a bonus a jazz playlist made of Haruki Murakami’s favourites, which I discovered to be a perfect backdrop for reading, especially if you want to get in the mood of a novel set somewhere between the twenties and fifties of the past century. (In my case, Blaise Cendrars’ Emmène–moi au bout du monde!...- love some convoluted punctuation in a title.) Finally, some listening suggestions from musicians, as collected by The New Yorker.
BOOKS. Everyone seems to be somewhere on the curve of taking it easy (as in, bumming on the couch) to becoming an astrophysicist baker who speaks thirteen languages during these eerie quarantine times. I have definitely read more, finally getting to books which have lingered for years (in some cases, I would hazard decades) in the infamous bedside pile. What I also amassed is a collection of reading lists which will inevitable fuel the monster of the pile, and, given they’re so many, I will probably only read one or two from each- but that’s alright, that’s the taking it easy part of the quarantine approach. So here they go: Nick Cave’s favourite books, the shortlist of the International Booker, best books of the year so far as chosen by the BBC, a similar effort by the Washington Post, a collection of books about Londoners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recommendations, and a collection of Japanese authors. Taking a step away from lists, here is a piece on how the pandemic might influence novels, and Ann Patchett tells about keeping her bookstore alive through the crisis.
FILMS AND SERIES. This is where I am faring much worse than I expected- on the series front I am still unable and unwilling to commit to anything longer than 30 minutes and/or six episodes, but I did go with the flow for once and thoroughly enjoyed Unorthodox ( a great interview with the Yiddish language coach Eli Rosen here)- a much postponed read, Harold Jacobson’s The Finkler Question came in handy, as I excitedly recognized some Yiddish phrases that were used in the novel as well. Other than that, I can only account for some episodes of What We Do In The Shadows– adjectives fail me a little when describing it, but it’s essentially the follow up to the film with the same title and tells the bloodcurlingly amusing adventures of three old world vampires (plus their mate, an energy vampire) stuck in modern New York. In spite of all recent competition, Seinfeld will probably never be dethroned as my favourite sitcom (I’ve actually amassed a large collection of quarantine compatible Seinfeld memes, such as this one) and here is a pretty fine analysis of the timeless appeal of a show about nothing:
(I also ordered a babka these days, a cinnamon babka from Konyha, and I do not share Elaine’s view that it’s a lesser babka, quite to the contrary, I totally agree with Jerry that cinnamon takes a back seat to no babka.)
The one significant rewatch of the month has been Happy Together– the idea of which sprung from an odd source, namely a Netflix documentary mini-series about Boca Juniors– it’s the type which is perhaps overly reverent to its subject matter, so is probably best suited for fans of either the club or Argentine football in general, but it reminded me of the glorious street football scenes from Happy Together and just how great Wong Kar-wai is at visually transmitting the way things feel.
Obviously, FOOTBALL and the Clásico that had it all: mesmerising passing, the Xavi-Iniesta-Messi trio at its vintage best, the birth of the manita, the Camp Nou a boiling cauldron, biblical rain, Mourinho, ‘The Special One’ (but known in Barcelona simply as ‘El Traductor’) back to seek vengeance, Guardiola on the verge of a contained nervous breakdown, Cristiano with a full nervous breakdown, group fights that look like classical paintings, the compulsory Sergio Ramos red and a granny with a plastic bag on her head eating a delicious looking baguette sandwich. Above all, these were innocent times when the Clásico didn’t feel like something that happens every fortnight and risks ending in drab 0-0 draws, it was a Clásico that mattered. Hopefully, after we all take a breather from the madness, it will soon matter again.
This break from actual football made me realise that there are many games that I love, but seem to remember only in bits, so I dug into some extensive highlight watching, such as Germany-Brazil 7-1 (for two of my unorthodox footballing views: respect for Germany’s relentless machine-like precision and dislike of Brasil’s overflowing fluorishes), Spain-Netherlands 1-5 (the diving header, of course, but what about Robben’s amazing goal), Uruguay- Ghana 4-2 on penalties (more unorthodox views: if I were there on the line, I would have done exactly what Suárez did, plus I am terribly irked by everyone thinking it was such a glorious thing to support Ghana just because an African World Cup deserved an African semi-finalist) , the miracle of Istanbul, obviously, Czech Republic-Netherlands 3-2 (such a glorious Czech team, foiled by Dellas’ silver goal in the semifinal), Croatia-Turkey 1-3 on penalties (talk about never ever giving up on a game), Romania- Argentina 3-2 (aka my favourite World Cup game ever). Keeping on with the great games theme, an article about the 2011 women’s World Cup final (incidentally the first women’s football tournament I watched from beginning to end) and some more Suárez swooning.
BITS AND BOBS, a very mixed bunch, as usual: my favourite effort in the reproducing art at home challenge, Hungarian photographers of the Spanish civil war, unavoidably sakura as this was April after all, empty citiscapes from around the world (with Alexanderplatz always reminding me of Moszkva square), a great photo reportage about the medical professionals tackling the coronavirus crisis in Italy, trends impacted by coronavirus (the long of the short of it is, ammo and bidets are hot stuff these days), a bird identifier (tailored on the UK, but it works for most European non-Brexiting fowls too), and if you still don’t have enough of corona news, Mentalfloss have a regularly updated digest.
Finally, some fairly tolerable flower photography from this past month, and the usual crap phone photography collection. (At least I don’t shoot my coffees every morning, because every morning they look the same.)