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Viewing Posts in May 2010

The Last 365 Days of the Earlier Portion of My Life

Written on 31-May-2010 by neil_p

The trouble with push-button publishing is that the effort required is so small, one often forgets to push the button. I compiled this list weeks ago and have only just remembered to activate it, thereby underscoring the Hearsay blog's essentially moribund qualities, like so many blogs. Here goes with a random selection of highlights, complete with various footnotes.

FILMS
Memory Lane [1]
The First Day of the Rest of Your Life [2]
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans
Please Give
The Kids are All Right

1. Absolutely beautiful French film; my highlight of the London Film Festival. Otherwise apparently unreleased.
2. Shaky, lazy start. Uneven tone. Ultimately magnificent. One of the most moving scenes I can recall witnessing towards the end (in the ca
r). 

ART

Christen Kobke (National Gallery)
Celeste Boursier-Mougenot. The Curve (the zebra finches playing the guitars, Barbican, spring)

TV
Chemistry: A Volatile History
Doctor Who [1]
Ego: The Strange and Wonderful World of the Self-Portrait
The Lady and the Revamp
Renaissance Revolution [2]
Newsnight Special with Christopher Hitchens
Tropic of Cancer
Sherlock [3]
Amish: World's Squarest Teenagers [4]
The Genius of Design
The Private Life of Cows/Chickens/Pigs [5]
The Virtual Revolution [6]
The Trip
Mad Men [7]
Requiem for Detroit
American Dream
The Great Outdoors

1. Thank god (thank god) Doctor Who is middle-class again. There's only so many times you can see millions of Cybermen taking over a tower block in Wales; give me small-scale sinister duck ponds in the Cotswolds any day. (Incidentally, despite producing about five or six truly great episodes over five years, is there any show of recent years more underwritten and over-wrought, bloated on its self-belief, than the Russell T Davies-era Doctor Who?) I have loved Steven Moffat's writing since I was about 16, I think. I love it still. 
2. A little Matthew Collings goes a long way, but this was his most triumphant series to date.
3. I have loved Steven Moffat's writing since I was about 16, I think. I love it still.
4. Hiding behind the awful BBC Three-style title was a lovely little documentary, I kind of expected the Amish kids to be sweet, but I was even happier to see how thoughtful and witty and empathetic the secular British teenagers they stayed with were. No one's interested in nice people from different walks of life getting on, are they? No wonder they had to change the title.
5. Apparently, cows can have up to 70 friends.
6. Really thoughtful, measured analysis of where we're going with all this internet flummery, Amazingly enough, presented by Aleks from Bits, my favourite late-90s computer games review programme, which deserves to be back on! (What happened to Emily and the interchangeable Scandinavian presenters?)
7. After a hazily indulgent third series, this fourth wove a spell worthy of the smartest behavioural psychologist. I've followed the recent debate in the New York Review of Books - a beautifully crafted and persuasive demolition of the show - but I can't resist the allure. Probably the closest viewing equivalent to reading a satisfying novel.

MUSIC [1]
Sophie Zelmani - I'm the Rain
Cowboy Junkies - Remnin Park
Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep
John Grant - Queen of Denmark
Lissie - Catching a Tiger

1. Very few albums compelled me throughout the year. There was plenty on all the above I liked. I've also enjoyed the newish innocence mission and Laurie Anderson releases, even if they provided less of what I normally go to them for. I'll probably add more to this as I think of them and encounter more. 

LIVE
Nick Drake tribute (Barbican, January) / Kate McGarrigle tribute (RFH, June) / The Triffids/David McComb tribute (Barbican, April)
Natalie Merchant (Hammersmith Odeon, May) [1]
Bettye LaVette (Purcell Room, June)
John Grant (QEH, November)
The Elixir of Love (ENO, March)

1. I was cynical about this before it started, especially with the paucity of arrangements for such a big show - always a heart-sinking moment - but Natalie really pulled it off and the audience went home ecstatic. I'm happy that there was such a rapturous response to poetry set to music with accompanying slide show featuring items from various literary archives. Maybe we're not losing it after all. 

READING
This space intentionally left blank. [1]

1. If only because there are so few reads which have really entranced me this year. Three of my favourite novelists, Anne Michaels, Geoff Dyer and Lorrie Moore, all produced their newest fiction for a decade or so, and all of them, while reassuringly coming from their 1990s voices, struggled to match past efforts. I enjoyed Jake Arnott's silly The Devil's Paintbrush, but lately I've been reading lots of frivolous, bitchy memoirs, and it really wouldn't do to pick out Rachel Johnson's Diary of the Lady, or Gyles Brandreth's Something Sensational to Read in the Train as books of the year, even if they had been fervently recommended by the Stephen Frys and Danny Bakers of the world. I'd never live it down.

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