Thursday, 30 September 2010

Direktøren for det hele

a film by Lars von Trier

Ravn (Peter Gantzler), the owner of an IT company, hires a jobless actor Kristoffer (Jens Albinus) to play the company’s fictitious president, “The Boss of It All”, hitherto residing in America. The trouble is, Ravn told his colleagues different things about The Boss. Desperately trying to grasp the situation, Kristoffer periodically asks for Ravn’s consultation on “neutral ground”, always different but invariably ridiculous: a garden centre (where Ravn is actually shopping for some garden statues!), merry-go-round, a cinema (screening Tarkovsky’s Зеркало), a zoo...

Of course I got intrigued by the oft-mentioned dramatist Gambini, the idol of Kristoffer. My search came to an abrupt end when I came across the interview with Lars von Trier where the director confessed that he made him up:

I was on my way back from Cannes and I saw a big truck filled with food and it said Gambini – and I thought why not.
A thoroughly Danish comedy, to which a couple of Icelanders — the Dane-hating Funnur (Friðrik Þór Friðriksson) and his deadpan interpreter (Benedikt Erlingsson) — add even more hilarity.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Autumn Leaves

by Joseph Kosma

In my previous LilyPond post, I did use the custom fret diagram for E6:

\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {e:6}

In this notation, “o” designates an open string and “p-q” stands for finger q on fret p, e.g. “2-3” means third finger on second fret. Personally, I find finger numbers unnecessarily cluttering. It is also much less time-consuming to draw the diagrams without them:

\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {e:6}

It could be that you want to customise all chord diagrams. I post here the score for Autumn Leaves with variant of chord progression by Manilov and Molotkov [1]. The score uses a few more of LilyPond tricks:
  • A muted string is indicated by x. To indicate barre on fret i, use dash/parentheses expression like "i-(;j;k;l;m;n-);". Partial barre is indicated similarly; see the chord d:5-9- (D♭5/add♭9) in the example below.
  • Sometimes you may want less bars per line than is automatically assigned. This is especially useful when you have more than two chord diagrams per bar. To create new line, insert \break where you want it.
  • To change the symbol for major seventh chord from default △ to, say, “maj7”, use
    \set majorSevenSymbol = \markup { maj7 }
  • To introduce a reminder accidental, add an exclamation mark ! after the pitch. In the example below, I did indicate A♮ by a'! in bar 13.
  • To place a volta below chords, use this snippet.
  • To introduce the closing double bar line, add \bar "|."
OK, here we go:
% ****************************************************************
% Autumn Leaves (Joseph Kosma)
% ****************************************************************
\version "2.12.3"
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {a:m7}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {bes:7.13}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {b:7}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {c:maj7}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {c:7.13}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {d:9}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {d:5-9-}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {d:m7}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {dis:dim}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {ees:m7}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {e:m6}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {e:m7}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {e:m7+}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {fis:m5-7}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {g:maj7}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {g:maj9}
\storePredefinedDiagram \chordmode {g:7.13}
theChords = \chordmode {
  \set majorSevenSymbol = \markup { maj7 }
  \partial 4 bes4:7.13 
  \repeat volta 2 {
  a2:m7 d2:9 
  g2:maj7 c2:maj7
  fis2:m5-7 b2:7 
  e2:m7+ e4:m7 bes4:7.13
  a2:m7 d2:9 
  g2:maj7 c2:maj7 
  fis2:m5-7 b2:7 
  b2:7 dis2:dim
  e2:m7+ e2:m7
  a2:m7 d2:5-9-
  g2:maj9 c2:7.13
  fis2:m5-7 b2:7 
  e4:m7 ees4:m7 d4:m7 g4:7.13
  c2:maj7 fis4:m5-7 b4:7 }
 \alternative {
  { e2:m7+ e4:m7 bes4:7.13 }
  { e1:m6 }
staffMelody = {
   \key e \minor
   \partial 4 \times 2/3 { e'8 fis'8 g'8 } 
   \repeat volta 2 {
    c''2. \times 2/3 { d'8 e'8 fis'8 }
    b'4 b'4( b'8) r8 \times 2/3 { c'8 d'8 e'8 } \break
    a'2. \times 2/3 { b8 cis'8 dis'8 } 
    g'2 (g'8) r8 \times 2/3 { e'8 fis'8 g'8 }
    c''2. \times 2/3 { d'8 e'8 fis'8 } \break
    b'4 b'4( b'8) r8 \times 2/3 { c'8 d'8 e'8 }
    a'2( a'8) fis'8 a'8 g'8 \break
    e'2( e'8) r8 dis'8 e'8
    fis'8 b8 fis'2 e'8 fis'8 \break
    g'4 g'4( g'8) g'8 fis'8 g'8
    a'2( a'8) d'8 d''8. c''16 \break
    b'2. ais'8 b'8
    c''8 c''8 a'!8 a'8 fis'4 c''4
    b'4 b'2 e'4 \break
    a'4 a'8 g'8 fis'4 g'8. b16 }
   \alternative {
  { e'2( e'8) e'8 fis'8 g'8 }
  { e'2( e'8) r8 r4 \bar "|." }
\score {
    \context ChordNames { \theChords }
    \context FretBoards { \theChords }
    \new Staff \with {
      \consists "Volta_engraver"
      \context Voice = "voiceMelody" { \staffMelody }
\layout {
    \context {
      \remove "Volta_engraver"
And the output:
  1. Манилов, В.А. и Молотков, В.А. Техника джазового аккомпанемента на шестиструнной гитаре. Киев, «Музычна Украйина», 1984, 47—48.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

a film by Wes Anderson

By some reason, we did not go to see Fantastic Mr. Fox when it was in the movies. Now kids have borrowed the DVD in the library and I got to watch it with them. I have enjoyed it a lot. I think Roald Dahl would also approve of it. Somehow, stop-motion animation seems to be the ideal medium for the story. And the dialogue is great.
Mrs. Fox: Why is he wearing that bandit hat?
Mr. Fox: His ears were cold — he’s not with us — go back to bed!
A quick opinion poll has revealed that Kylie the opossum (voiced by Wallace Wolodarsky) is my and kids’ favourite character. Yes I know there are no opossums in the book, or in England, for that matter. So what? Maybe he is a skilled migrant.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Brother of the More Famous Jack

by Barbara Trapido

Years ago, and quite by accident, I read the first paragraph of Juggling by Barbara Trapido. I could not put it down.

The same number of years later, and now quite deliberately, I picked Trapido’s first novel in the library. To the same effect, I have to add, except that I liked it even more than Juggling. Starting with the title, and then its first chapter, and so on and so forth, it is brilliant throughout, till the very end. Which is a happy one, so really, there is no single reason not to read this book.

The art of dressing myself, without guilt, in fantastic clothes came back to me; of hanging jewels in my ears and of blowing a week’s earnings upon sea green crêpe without being answerable to Roger Goldman for the excess. On the rebound from Roger’s puritanism, I had a lot of men. I do not much like voyeurism among other people’s heavy breathing, so I will only tell you that with not one of them did I descend to the floor of a bike shed and that nearly all of them were married. Unmarried men in southern Europe have mothers. Strong, frank matriarchs, who nose one out as a subversive within minutes, who make perfectly clear the reality that their sons will not make injudicious, long-term attachments with bookish, unconventional, Protestant women: women who have no reputable dowry and insufficient deference for the art of home-made fettuccine.
Brother of the More Famous Jack

Friday, 24 September 2010

SBB Anthology 1974—2004

by SBB

I don’t think there ever will be such thing as “complete SBB recordings on CD”, for the legendary Polish prog-rock band was truly a prolific one. Even so, this fabulous box set is the most comprehensive account of the first 30 years of SBB’s recording history one can get. And luckily, I’ve got it as a birthday gift: #346 of a limited edition of 1000 hand-numbered copies. Contrary to the description, there are not one but twenty-two CDs, plus a booklet containing brief history of SBB by Józef Skrzek and Michał Wilczyński (in Polish and English). Here’s the complete CD list:

  1. SBB
  2. Nowy Horyzont
  3. Pamięć
  4. Ze słowem biegnę do Ciebie
  5. Wołanie o brzęk szkła
  6. Jerzyk
  7. Follow My Dream
  8. Amiga Album
  9. Welcome
  10. Memento z banalnym tryptykiem
  11. Live 1993
  12. Live in America ’94
  13. Absolutely Live ’98
  14. W filharmonii: Akt 1
  15. W filharmonii: Akt 2
  16. Goodbye/The Golden Harp
  17. Karlstad — Live ’75
  18. Budai Ifjusagi Park — Live ’77
  19. Nastroje
  20. Göttingen, Alte Ziegelei ’77
  21. Sikorki
  22. Wicher w polu dmie

The CDs are in cute cardboard sleeves, most of which look almost exactly as the original vinyl sleeves. The difference is, there is quite a lot of bonus material. For instance, Wołanie o brzęk szkła LP (the only SBB vinyl I ever owned) contained two 20-minute tracks, each taking a side; CD5 has almost 40 minutes of extra music. The last two CDs, Sikorki and Wicher w polu dmie, never existed as LPs and contain previously unreleased tracks recorded in 1973—1975, with guest appearances of Tomasz Stańko (trumpet), Tomasz Szukalski (soprano and tenor saxes), Jan Błędowski (violin) and Andrzej Przybielski (trumpet). Highly recommended.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Rio ne répond plus

a film by Michel Hazanavicius

A marvellous spoof spy movie featuring France’s best agent, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, aka OSS 117 (Jean Dujardin).

It’s 1967 (I love that year) and de la Bath is sent to Brazil where he is about to meet a former Nazi, Professor Von Zimmel (Rüdiger Vogler). In Rio, our good-looking but clueless hero is assailed, in turn, by Chinese communists, perpetually laughing CIA man Bill Trumendous (Ken Samuels), Mossad agents and assorted Nazi henchmen. The movie masterfully piles cliché upon cliché and its glorious “on location” cinematography is straight from 1960s.

If this was an English-language film, we’d hear everyone speaking English with outrageous French accents. As it happens, the movie is already French, so we are treated to The Girl from Ipanema sung with German accent instead. The other highlights include a hilariously slow hospital chase and the final showdown involving Christ the Redeemer. Not particularly high-brow but good entertainment all the same.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Death of Bunny Munro

by Nick Cave

As much as I respect Nick Cave’s music and poetry, I can’t honestly say this book was worth reading. It is not badly written, simply I couldn’t care less about Bunny Munro, that’s all. He is neither a hero nor an anti-hero; just a “sad, ridiculous little man” obsessed with celebrity pussies. And don’t be fooled by raving reviews. True, The Death of Bunny Munro has “explicit themes and language”, but surprising, profound or funny it ain’t.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Le premier jour du reste de ta vie

a film by Rémi Bezançon

When it was last time that I watched an English-language film as heartwarming as this one? A long time ago, that’s when.

Le premier jour du reste de ta vie consists of five episodes (which actually cover more than five days) from the life of a French family; each family member leads an episode. That more or less summarises the plot. I won’t tell you anything else except: this is an excellent film. Watch it!

The picture quality of this DVD is outstanding — ironically, this discovery was thanks to a bad scratch on a (borrowed) disc which caused it to freeze a couple of times.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Ernie Ball Titanium Reinforced Slinky

by Ernie Ball

Finally! A little less than a year since I’ve bought them, I’ve put these “titanium reinforced” strings on my electric guitar and... so far I’m very pleased with the feel and sound.


Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Book of Proper Names

by Amélie Nothomb

If I didn’t spell it out before, I think now it’s about time: I can’t stand classical ballet. Like foot binding, it is a form of violence against women disguised as “culture”. The difference is, foot binding is prohibited now, while the ballet is alive and, dare I say, kicking.

Reading The Book of Proper Names did not improve my opinion of this perverted art form. The novel, just like Loving Sabotage, is too outrageous to be untruthful. What I did not quite expect was that it turned out to be a biography of a real person, French chanteuse RoBERT. (Of course, the French title Robert des noms propres is a wordplay.) Once again Nothomb takes us on a seriously head-spinning ride through one girl’s childhood. And if it ends a bit too abruptly, well, this is all part of the game.

Being ten years old is the best thing that can happen to a human being. Especially a little dancer with all her art at her disposal.

Ten is the most sunlit point in childhood. There is no sign of adolescence visible on the horizon: nothing but mature childhood, already rich in long experience, without that feeling of loss that assaults you from the first hints of puberty onwards. At ten, you aren’t necessarily happy, but you are certainly alive, more alive than anyone else.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Past, Present & Futures

by The Chick Corea New Trio

As far as I know, Past, Present & Futures is the only album recorded by The Chick Corea New Trio, with Avishai Cohen on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums. Which is a shame really. The opener, Fingerprints, makes it pretty obvious that this is the best piano trio Corea ever had, period. All the compositions are originals written by Corea especially for the trio, except for Jitterbug Waltz by Fats Waller, played here with great humour. Two beautiful songs are dedicated to Corea’s mother, Anna’s Tango (in Corea’s words, “created as the compliment to Armando’s Rhumba”) and a jazz waltz Dignity. My favourite on this album is another jazz waltz, Nostalgia (“this song sort of wrote itself one afternoon”).

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Housekeeper and the Professor

by Yoko Ogawa

Imagine the Professor, a retired mathematician suffering anterograde amnesia; and the Housekeeper, a young single mum with a ten-year-old son, whose job is to look after the Professor. He does not remember her from one day to the next. In fact, his memory lasts exactly eighty minutes.

This is a story of a wonderful friendship between the three, brought together by the paradox of memory, Euler’s formula and baseball.

A word of warning: in contrast to the math, the baseball terminology in this book is left largely unexplained.

Another word of warning: you may well want to cry in the end.
“I’m going to call you Root,” he said. “The square root sign is a generous symbol, it gives shelter to all the numbers.” And he quickly took off the note on his sleeve, and made the addition: “The new housekeeper... and her son, ten years old, . ”

At first I made us name tags, thinking that if the Professor weren’t the only one with notes clipped to him he might feel less anxious. I told my son to change his school name tag for one I made that read “”. The experiment proved less successful than I’d hoped. No matter how much time passed, I was always the young woman who made painfully slow progress with numbers, and my son would be the boy who simply appeared, and was embraced.
The Housekeeper and the Professor
P.S. The Housekeeper and the Professor is the first book of Yoko Ogawa I’ve ever read. I just learned that L’annulaire (The Ring Finger), the French movie that I saw couple of years ago, is based on her novel of the same name.

Monday, 6 September 2010

La mujer sin cabeza

a film by Lucrecia Martel

I don’t really know what to make of this film. Here’s the plot: driving along the country road, Verónica (María Onetto) gets distracted and hits a dog. Or at least as much we are shown. Also, she bangs her head. By some reason, she becomes convinced that she has killed a person. Days later, she says that to her husband. A week or two after, can’t say more precisely, all traces of the possible accident (e.g. the record of her visit to the hospital where she has her head examined) are erased. The end.

Much like some of Antonioni’s films, it is beautifully shot but it leaves you frustrated. Unlike the very same Antonioni’s films, The Headless Woman is not the one I want to watch again.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Highway Rider

by Brad Mehldau

As it was mentioned before, I can give a miss to “jazz with strings”. The same goes to jazz with a symphony orchestra, etc. For the last time: there is absolutely no need to bring in dozens of classical musicians, unless one wants to get rid of the improvisation altogether.

Also, every now and then I come across the exceptions to the above. Such as Brad Mehldau’s latest offering. Now the album title sounds like that of a Western movie. Ditto the names of songs, with The Falcon Will Fly Again, Now You Must Climb Alone and We’ll Cross the River Together being patently ridiculous. One almost expects to read “The music from the original soundtrack” on the sleeve. But don’t let this put you off. Most importantly, the music itself sounds like the soundtrack to some yet-to-be-made film. (Not a Western, which is a relief.) And a pretty damn good soundtrack. The chamber orchestra conducted by Dan Coleman is rather reserved, almost minimalistic, leaving plenty of space for the Brad Mehldau Trio, featuring Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard, and the guest musicians Joshua Redman and Matt Chamberlain.

Undeniably a concept album, Highway Rider has to be enjoyed in its entirety. All two CDs in a row, that is. But if I had to choose one track, it would be Capriccio.

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Character of Rain

by Amélie Nothomb

How does it feel, to be born a god; to acquire the memory at two and a half years; to fall from grace at the age of three? Read The Character of Rain and you’ll know. This is a prequel to Loving Sabotage, every bit as brilliant and enjoyable as the latter. Kudos to the translator, Timothy Bent. Isn’t it great that he gave the English version its own beautiful name rather than literal translation of the French title, Métaphysique des tubes? The character in question, , appears at the beginning of each chapter. (In Japanese, is pronounced ame — the only reference in the book to the heroine’s name, which is, of course, Amélie.)

There has always been a large group of imbeciles opposing sensuality to intelligence. They inhabit a vicious circle: they deny themselves any extravagance to exalt their intellect, and the result is they diminish their intellect. They grow more and more dull, which leads them to become more and more convinced they are brilliant. There is no greater purpose for stupidity than to believe itself brilliant.
There are people who boast of having done without some luxury for twenty-five years. There are fools who glory in never having listened to music, or read a book, or seen a movie. There are those who seek praise for their chastity. Such vanity is necessary. It provides them with the only pleasure they get from being alive.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Strange Pilgrims

by Gabriel García Márquez

In early 1990s, I saw the Cuban/Mexican film El verano de la señora Forbes based on a short story from this collection. I thought the film was good, but reading Miss Forbes’s Summer of Happiness made me understand that only some of the possibilities suggested by the short story were realised in the movie.

In hands of a great master, each of twelve stories here could be made into a full-blown novel (or a movie, for that matter). But it takes a true genius to make and leave them short.