Monday, 27 February 2017

Simon Johnson in Las Palmas

I’ve never been to St Paul’s Cathedral. Next time I’m in London I should drop in, knowing that Simon Johnson plays organ there. In the meantime, Timur and I went to see him in the Auditorio Alfredo Kraus. I was quite impressed by Johnson’s understated virtuosity and by the sheer diversity of the program. For me, A fancie by William Byrd, Bach’s Liebster Jesu, and Elegy by George Thalben-Ball were the highlights.

The acoustics and the organ here must be not as great as in St Paul’s, I’ll give you that. On the other hand, I can see the Atlantic ocean directly from the auditorium. I prefer that to whatever cathedral. With tickets as cheap (a bargain at €7), you’d expect the place to be packed, but no. In Canarias, there are other priorities, especially during the Carnival.

Simon Johnson, organ
Auditorio Alfredo Kraus, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Sunday, 26 February 2017, 12:30

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

You Took the Last Bus Home

by Brian Bilston

Why, could you ask, should anyone want to buy a book by the “Poet Laurie Ate of Twitter” when one can easily get his poetry on, well, Twitter?

Because, you know, not everybody is on Twitter. For example, I. Not a fan. Especially of those who tweet. Bulltweet first, think later, if ever. There are notable exceptions. Brian Bilston is one. Maybe the only. Doesn’t he deserve a reward? Yes he does. Buy his book then, you won’t regret it. I assure you, it works beautifully even in a WiFi-free zone.

Bilston creates poetry everywhere and out of everything: Scrabble boards, flowcharts, Excel spreadsheets, Venn diagrams, curricula vitae, ex-partner’s post-it-notes... He draws inspiration from the Periodic Table and Fibonacci sequence, autocorrect and every song on the radio, unknown twats and celebrity twats, Jeremy Clarkson and Piers Morgan, “inspirational” quotes, commas, and Oxford commas; also, semicolons. Look out for acrostic and anagrams, palindromes and puns, missing letters and Schrödinger’s cat. My favourites are the lists, such as Haiky Horoscopes (Aquarius is a holy truth), Why I Have Never Read War and Peace: Ten Excuses (all legitimate), Thirty Rules for Midlife Rebellion and, of course, The Day That Twitter Went Down. So, shut up and buy the book already.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

El piano oriental

by Zeina Abirached
Un piano oriental... Esa extraña yuxtaposición de dos visiones del mundo que nada parece poder unir, su música doble, el sonido ligero del contoneo imperceptible de una nota en medio de una frase, los llevo dentro de mí. Ser un piano oriental es abrir una ventana en París y esperar ver el mar tras los edificios haussmanianos más allá, incluso.

It called to me from the very same comic book stand in the library that is responsible for all of my graphic novel reading. Drawn in bold black and white, it reminded me of Persepolis although even a quick leaf through was enough to reveal the stylistic differences.

There are two intertwined storylines in El piano oriental. One is the story of Abdallah Kamanja, inspired by the real-life Abdallah Chahine, a Lebanese musician and inventor of the titular “oriental piano”. Another is the autobiographical one, of a girl growing between Beirut and Paris. The leitmotif, underpinned by the author’s ingenious use of text as a graphical device, is that of bilinguality: East meets West, quarter-tones meet semitones, Arabic meets French... A beautiful book.

As far as I know, Le piano oriental was also published in Spanish, German and Italian but not English (yet).
Here you can see some pages of the book in English translation by Edward Gauvin.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Batman: La Lego Película

a film by Chris McKay

Here in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, we have our own Lego Batman ad, designed to promote the local public transport. It shows Batman saying “Solo cojo la guagua cuando Alfred está lavando el batmóvil”.

Yesterday, Timur and I went to see the movie. (Naturally, we took the bus.) It is fast-paced and roaringly funny. Also, quite inventive. I mean, Godzilla accidentally destroying Barad-dûr — why didn’t Peter Jackson think of anything as brilliant?

I prefer watching films in their original language whenever possible, but I have to admit that I loved this particular Spanish dub. (Spanish Spanish, that is. As far as I can see from the trailers, it is very different from the Latin American version.) But now I am curious. For instance, Batman addresses Robin as “my son”, then explains that it means “‘mi hijoen inglés”. How did that go in English, I wonder.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Racine carrée

by Stromae

I first heard (about) Stromae just a few weeks ago, thanks to this web article. I bought Racine carrée on the strength of three videos: quite literally formidable Formidable; Papaoutai, with its fantastic (break)dance routine; and Carmen, an animation directed by Sylvain Chomet (Les Triplettes de Belleville, L’Illusionniste). I have to warn you that, after watching this latter clip, you’ll never listen to Habanera with the same ears again and most probably will delete your Twitter account. The rest of the album is not bad either. I discovered to my surprise that the kora player on Bâtard is none other than Noumoucounda Cissoko. C’est formidable.

Monday, 6 February 2017


a film by Paul Verhoeven

Raving reviews notwithstanding, I didn’t watch Black Book when it was first screened in England. All these (ten) years, it remained on my “to watch” list — in other words, every time I saw it in the library, I’d always find some excuse not to borrow it. A few days ago, they were showing it on Spanish TV, and I sat down and watched it from start to finish, without ever falling asleep.

Not exactly my first choice to watch after The Big Bang Theory, but man, what a film. Not only has it got everything the good war movie should have (and I don’t even like war movies that much), it’s got it all perfect: tight plot, attention to detail, life, death, sex, love, betrayal, a sympathetic Hauptsturmführer, a traitorous Resistance member, subdued colours, rather overdramatic 1950s-style music, plus some very 21st-century acting, and not only by Carice van Houten. By the end of the movie, I thought my Dutch and German have improved to the level I didn’t need Spanish subtitles any longer, until I realised they switched to English for a while.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


by King Crimson

Yes, musicians are also people. They die every year. 2016 though seemed to be especially brutal in this respect. Among many others, it claimed the lives of both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, leaving Carl Palmer the only surviving member of ELP. Another prog-rock hero, John Wetton, passed away yesterday.

I was lucky to see both Wetton and Palmer performing with Asia in Moscow, in what still was called Soviet Union. It was a fantastic show throughout but the most beautiful part had nothing to do with Asia. Half-way through the concert, the fellow musicians left Wetton alone on stage to sing Book of Saturday and Starless.

Red was the first KC album I ever heard. It happened at the relatively late stage of my development, in the mid-1980s. Although I love all KC albums of the 1970s, I still regard Red as their finest. Frankly, after Starless, there was — there is — nothing left to say. So to disband after releasing Red probably was the only option at the time.

While Fripp & Co. continue to remix, remaster and repackage their material, I am quite happy with my 30th Anniversary Edition, which is a huge improvement on that noisy cassette tape I first heard it.

(Cross, Fripp, Wetton, Bruford, Palmer-James)
Sundown dazzling day
Gold through my eyes
But my eyes turned within only see
Starless and bible black

Old friend charity
Cruel twisted smile
And the smile signals emptiness for me
Starless and bible black

Ice blue silver sky
Fades into grey
To a grey hope that all yearns to be
Starless and bible black