Weblog since 2004 on books, films, art and travel.
Subscribe to the RSS feed.

love detective

We slept in this morning and she had to get ready in a hurry - no time for her usual attention to detail - and she ran out the door, slamming it behind her, leaving her keys swinging and jangling. I stayed in bed until I heard the downstairs door shut, then peeked through the blinds and as soon as she was out of sight, I went for the keys. She never tried to make a secret of the box or the fact it was locked or even where she kept it. But as I said at the time - "If you've nothing to hide, why hide it?

It's one of those wee red cashbox things and she keeps it in a drawer by the bed, under some pictures and books. Every key she has is on the same keyring - it took me a while to find the right one. I don't know, I suppose I've had my doubts for a while. There's been hushed phone-calls virtually every night, her friends stop talking when I come in the room and they look at each other, and I don't know, it's just a feeling. Anyway, I eventually found the right key and it fitted perfectly in. I put the box on top of the bed and opened it up...

There were these pictures of friends and ex's, letters, postcards, doodles, nothing bad - and then I found some sort of sex diary and I went to the latest entry. It explicity detailed a recent adventure up the park with a boy she said she had forgotten about...

And it got worse as it went on. The dates never made sense, there were people I had never even heard of. Eventually I had to stop reading it because I started to feel sick. So I put everything back the way I found it, shut the drawer and phoned you. See, I don't know what to do. I keep having fantasies about leaving her dictaphone under the pillow or following her when she goes to work. I've been lying about where I'm going, just in case I can bump into her.

-- Arab Strap, seen @ Rotown on their farewell "we're too old for this stuff" tour.

life forms

Far away from slides-as-art or reality-tv-as-art, the new London Kinetica Museum has an interesting exhibition called 'Life Forms'. Ranging from ingenious machines and robots to optical illusions and interactive video pieces, everything in the show is somehow, well, alive.

Kinetica Life Forms

Also includes an audio piece by the Future Sound of London.

More pix here.

tzameti

Please don't watch the trailer for 'Tzameti', the debut film of Georgian director Géla Babluani. Weirdly, the trailer (here, if you must) manages to reveal much of the surprise plot of an otherwise excellent dark thriller, best watched without too much pre-knowledge.

Tzameti - 1

'Tzameti' (Georgian for 13), shot in stark black and white, has a simple premise: Sébastien, a young immigrant worker in France, steals a letter addressed to his employer, who has just died (killed himself?) of an overdosis. The letter contains a train ticket and hotel reservation, and apparently concerns some risky job with a potentially huge reward. Sébastien decides to go in his place, and soon gets trapped in a mysterious scheme.

Tzameti - 2

The film builds up slowly, with much foreboding, and it is not until halfway through that the scheme is revealed. 'Tzameti' then turns into a bizarre and deadly game in which Sébastien finds himself to be player #13 - a game savage enough to make 'Fight Club' look like a playground scuffle. What was already nerve-wrecking in the 'The Deer Hunter' here becomes a horrible Kafkaesque nightmare...

See this film - before the Hollywood remake comes out.

an inconvenient truth

In 'An Inconvenient Truth', directed by Davis Guggenheim, former US vice-president Al Gore makes a timely and convincing argument for the threat of climate change caused by global warming. The film is based largely on a slide show presentation on global warming that Gore has been giving for a number of years. Mixed in are some anecdotes from Gore's personal life, which - though arguably superfluous - help explain his drive in educating the public on the issue.

The public Gore seeks to convince is mainly the American public, and they need some heavy-handed arguments (just look at how the poster links pollution to tornadoes, i.e. Katrina). The United States being by far the largest polluter, with the least political will to do anything about it, Gore hopes his film and the companion book will ultimately bring about a US policy change, starting at a grassroots level. So far, both the film and book have been very successful in the United States, the film becoming the third highest grossing documentary ever and the book topping bestseller lists for months.

An Inconvenient Truth

For a European audience the basic principle of global warming may be well-known by now, but the film is powerful nonetheless in its lucid presentation of scientific facts and the urgency of its warning message. The Kyoto Protocol, which Gore helped engineer as vice-president, is a good start, but it's not nearly enough. The film quotes Winston Churchill, who wrote in the 1930s:

The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place, we are entering a period of consequences.

But Gore does not present an outright doomsday scenario. He remains firmly convinced that major catastrophe can be avoided if we act now, and he emphasizes that the issue is not so much a political as a moral one, calling it "deeply unethical" to ignore the global climate crisis. At the same time, Gore reminds how the Chinese character for 'crisis' is composed of two symbols back to back: disaster and opportunity.

A longer version of this review can be found at the New Values Community.

omar khayyám

'The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám' is one of the great classics of Persian poetry. Written by mathematician, astronomer and poet Omar Khayyám (1048 - 1123), the original collection contains over a thousand quatrains (rubáiyát meaning quatrains). They have been translated and interpreted innumerable times.

Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
TO-DAY Of past Regrets and future Fears--
To-morrow?--Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years.

In English, the Rubáiyát is best known in the translation by Edward Fitzgerald, whose rendition apparently takes so much liberty as to almost be a new creation. Even so, as 19th century English poetry it has become a classic by itself. (The examples given here are his.)

'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.

In Dutch, the translations by poet Leopold are perhaps most notable. Though based on German and English translations, and probably not very faithful either, they too stand on their own as great Dutch poetry.

The extensive site of the Dutch Omar Khayyám Society (in Dutch) lists translations in many languages, most of which are available online.

While the Rose blows along the River Brink,
With old Khayyám the Ruby Vintage drink:
And when the Angel with his darker Draught
Draws up to Thee--take that, and do not shrink.