azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2017-08-06 05:19 pm

(no subject)

Having finished Dance of the Vampires, I have to say it's terribly rape-y. It's not just all the male gaze-y stuff about Sarah, constantly being observed naked in her bathtub by a succession of men (and, of course, the audience), or Chagal's controlling attitude to her sexuality, or even her being bitten by Krolock (which at least is consensual, even if she appears to regret it immediately afterwards). I don't like any of that, but it's harmless compared with what happens to poor Magda, who actually SINGS about how she doesn't like being raped by Chagal (kind of a bleak topic for a comic musical, as nobody involved in the productions ever appears to have said), and then when she tries to turn the tables on him, by saying to his corpse "Who's the one with the power now?" gets non-consensually bitten and discovers she just loves having sex with her rapist after all (she literally sings that - I'm not reading between the lines here). Even if I hadn't known the story was by Polanksi, I would not have been totally surprised to learn that the author went on to violently rape a thirteen year old girl. As I said, it's a very rape-y text.

Also, the make-up and body language makes Chagal look as if he's playing Shylock in a Nazi production of the Merchant of Venice and I am more than slightly surprised that no one on the creative team questioned this, given that it is, after all, an Austrian production. This, unlike the rapiness, is not Polanksi's fault - the film Chagal is much less stereotypically Jewish (and yet, weirdly, in the film the audience is assumed to be able to make the connection when Chagal scoffs at Magda's cross, saying "Have you got the wrong vampire!", while in the musical he carefully explains "That trick won't work - I'm a Jewish vampire!" Unsurprisingly, I have changed this back.)
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2017-07-30 09:42 pm

Dance of the Vampires

For the record, my two favourite Herberts.






azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2015-01-12 01:00 pm

(no subject)

This is a very good, nuanced, left-wing French perspective on Charlie Hebdo and the rise of fundamentalism in France:

http://blogs.mediapart.fr/blog/olivier-tonneau/110115/charlie-hebdo-letter-my-british-friends
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2015-01-10 05:34 pm

(no subject)

Let me open with a quote:

"I'd argue that Charlie Hebdo was already shooting at French Muslims. The editor has been saying things like "Newspapers aren't weapons of war" and "Pencils aren't weapons", which is incredibly disingenuous; words have been constructed as weapons for thousands of years. 'The pen is mightier than the sword' recognises that words are weapons; Napoleon said "Newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets"; Abraham Lincoln said Harriet Beecher Stowe started the Civil War with her book. Inciting race hatred against a group is attacking them, it is creating an environment that wants to kill them. I do think responding to paper bullets with lead bullets is Bad, but the construction where the newspaper was sitting haplessly around until some deranged gunmen burst in ignores that Charlie Hebdo was working to kill French Muslims. "
(http://kerrypolka.dreamwidth.org/1113980.html#comments. Italics mine)

All over the internet, this sort of "thoughtful" article is popping up to explain why je ne suis pas charlie and attempting to articulate why the fact that a group of cartoonists were murdered for satirising Islam doesn't mean that we should approve of their racist, offensive cartoons, which were deliberately published in order to cause harm to the already marginalised Muslim community. That they were, in fact, a bunch of privileged racist white guys who were "punching down" at "brown people", shooting at them with "paper bullets", actively "killing brown people" by increasing Islamophobia, and therefore that, though they shouldn't have been murdered, they also shouldn't have published those cartoons in the first place. This is undoubtedly a debate worth having - how far free speech should be allowed to go is, and will always be, a contentious issue, and as one person on metafilter observed, publications like Charlie Hebdo are the canary in the coalmine that show how far we can actually exercise the freedoms of speech we supposedly have.

But what is getting me increasingly het-up about these oh-so-well-intentioned occupying-the-moral-high-ground articles is that they are coming from a place of complete ignorance. The question of how far racist cartoons should or should not be published is not, in fact, a point that's even at at issue here because Charlie Hebdo was an anti-racist publication. For crying out loud, when those people were shot, they were sitting in a meeting organising an anti-racist conference. They had been dedicated anti-racists for so long that one of the murdered cartoonists, Cabu, actually gave mainstream French culture the word that is used to skewer small-minded racists (boeuf, short for beau-frère). Another, Georges Wolinksi, supported EU membership for Turkey and was described thus by Turkish journalist Ertuğrul Özkök: "He was never the enemy of any Muslim. On the contrary, he was one of the loudest voices supporting Muslim immigrants in France." Their cartoons, about whose racism so many non-Francophone commenters are busily pontificating, are not satirising Muslim immigrants, they are satirising appalling right-wing prejudices about immigrants. If Charlie Hebdo was racist, Stephen Colbert is a Republican.

Take the "infamous" Boku Haram cartoon (one of "Charlie Hebdo’s many inarguably racist caricatures of Muslims[...] depicting the schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram as welfare queens" according to Feministing. Italics mine):

Read more... )
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2011-11-26 12:01 pm

(no subject)

Is it just me, or is LJ a bit fucked today?
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2011-10-04 08:02 pm

(no subject)

Wolfgang and I had our first Swedish lesson last night. We are attending a series of 11 beginners' lessons at night school in Vienna in the hope that this will enable us to consult our guide to all the best natural anchor spots in the Stockholm archipelago (apparently it is the bible of archipelago sailors, but of course it is in Swedish, though I suppose there might conceivably be a Finnish edition available, not that that helps) without worrying whether our translation, achieved with the help of the fickordbok on the boat (it means "pocket dictionary", so get your filthy minds out of the gutter, all you German speakers) has accurately distinguished between "great place to anchor when the wind's from the west" and "terrible place to anchor when the wind's from the west". The teacher started out by asking us all if we knew any Swedish words. We knew the least in the class, but the ones we did know were all things like "north", "south", "island" and "halyard", which at least no one else knew. We have now learned how to say things like "What is your name?" and "Where are you from?", none of which will be any use at all, because all Swedes speak perfect English, and even the ancient fisherman we met out in the wilds of the outer archipelago, who clutched his head in horror when he heard we only spoke English, managed to tell us that his family had always been fishermen and that he lived in the most beautiful place in the world and that we had a beautiful boat, which is more than I will be able to do in Swedish after my eleven lessons. However, I went into kindergarten this morning and said to one little boy whose mother is Swedish "Vat hetter Du?" and he looked at me in astonishment and said, "Philip" so something must have stuck.

Swedish grammar and vocabulary seem reasonably simple so far, but Swedish spelling is a mystery. "Det" is pronounced "de" and "de" is pronounced "dom" and every third letter is pronounced sh (k is sh and sh is sh and sj is sh and j is sh and s is sh). Or not. Depending on where in the word it crops up. I can see, given my passing acquaintance with phonology, that Swedish has a thing about palatalisation before front vowels and after liquids, but this sh obsession goes far beyond that.
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2011-07-26 12:07 pm

(no subject)

I know quite a lot of Pico peole also have DW accounts, so if the LJ outage continues past today, I could host Pico here until LJ is restored. Pass the word...
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2011-04-25 07:00 am

(no subject)

We're a bit behind the times cinematically here in Austria, so last night we went to see Four Lions, which the internet informs me was released in the UK in 2010 and won a BAFTA and things. I'm glad it's finally made it here, because I haven't laughed in a cinema so much since - well, I can't remember when. It's one of these films where the entire conversation afterwards goes "And that bit when... And that bit when... and when he...." and everyone bursts into fresh gales of laughter at each memory. Riz Ahmed was fantastic as Omar, managing to give the film an emotional layer that made it more than just a black comedy, and handling the emotional moments with a delicacy of touch that stopped them tipping into sentiment (his "Simba's jihad" version of the Lion King that he tells his son as a bedtime story is both hilarious and moving). But all the actors were terrific. And there is bonus surprise!Benedict Cumberbatch.
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2011-04-14 05:42 am

(no subject)

My eldest daughter had her Latin exam yesterday. She has been complaining for a while that the passages they currently have to translate are all from the bible, and that this puts her at a disadvantage because she doesn't know any bible stories*. When I asked her how the exam had gone, she said, "Dreadful. We got that passage where Petrus sings a song about a chicken three times. What's that all about anyway?"

I can only hope the teacher is sufficiently entertained to give her a pass mark.


*This is what happens when you don't raise your child in any particular religious tradition, and then send them to a Catholic private school at the age of 15. Apart from smuggling passages from the bible into Latin classes, it's not an overtly religious education, and the children can opt to be given religious instruction in any faith. They are not, however, allowed to choose not to attend RE classes at all.**

**Unlike the European School that my daughter went to when we were living in England, where we were told by the po-faced RE teacher at the parents' information evening, "The children have the choice between Religion and Morality." We opted for Morality.
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2011-02-19 10:00 am

Fic rec

If you like Sherlock, and especially if you like Sherlock and Harry Potter, give The Almost Empty House a try. It's very good.
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2010-11-13 09:22 am

Fic: Prtz the Perilous

This is the outcome of this year's [community profile] picowrimo project. It's a short original fic that I had had languishing half-written on my hard drive for years, until Pico came along and finished it in seven days (*plugs [community profile] picowrimo*).


Title: Prtz the Perilous
Author: Azdak
Word count: Just under 5,000

Summary: Prtz the Perilous was the greatest sorcerer Ruthenia had ever known. He was also a bit of a prick.

Read more... )
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2010-10-27 12:05 pm

War Horse

My baby sister got married this weekend, so Tashi and I went over to England for the first time in about four years (Bexy couldn't come because she had to have her appendix out, and Wolfgang stayed with her because it's miserable enough being in hospital without knowing the rest of your family is gallivanting about dancing at weddings). It was a lovely wedding, and it was lovely to see everyone again. They tied the knot in the church where my father had been a priest when he died, and after the ceremony one of my sisters and I went off into the graveyard to visit him, only to find that most of the family had had the same idea, so we took photos of all the visitors clustered round the headstone. The junior members of the party were practising their literacy skills on the gravestones nearby, so instead of saying "Cheese!" we all said "Gone but not forgotten!"

The next day we went back to London to see War Horse (I'd booked the tickets following [personal profile] grondfic's glowing recommendation) and I'm happy to report that it's everything it's cracked up to be. The play itself isn't all that good (okay, it's for kids, but it's still a bit cliched and superficial, and the storyline is stretched out so thin it's almost invisible), and the acting wasn't particularly impressive, but the production itself is absolutely magical. It's distilled essence of theatre, where the whole point is not that you put reality on stage, or even things that look like reality, but the actors assert "This thing here is actually something else" and produce the feeling of reality. It's all summed up in the horses. The horses are amazing. They don't look very like real horses - they deliberately look like puppets, with a sort of wooden frame/skeleton lined with netting that does nothing to disguise the presence of three operators, one of whom isn't even underneath the horse (I should say here that we were right in the front row, with our noses up against the stage - you probably couldn't see the mechanics quite so clearly from further back, so the illusion would have been stronger, but we had the advantage of seeing every tiny detail of how things worked).




The equine hero, Joey, in a fight with his rival Topthorne, who becomes a friend. The humans are the operators, not characters in the play.

You'd never mistake them for real horses, until they start to move. When they moved, it was impossible not to imagine that they were real. The way their chests heaved when they were frightened, the order their legs moved in, the head, the tail, the ears (there are one or two moments when everything on stage is utterly still, and then one horse moves one ear and the auditorium erupts with laughter).

The whole production is built around these two levels of artifice and truth. The set is all black, the stage itself a thick lumpy black, like mud, that disappears into darkness, from which the characters emerge, like the bird in Plato's cave, before disappearing into blackness again. Overhead is a strip of white, like a piece of paper torn from a book, or a patch of sky, and this was used to project sketches of the countryside, English and French, and scribbled dates and place names. Very occasionally, a prop appeared - a door to signify the entrance to a farm house, a cannon for the horses to pull, and in one memorable scene, a tank, made of thick strips of metal. It didn't look any more like a real tank than the horses looked like real horses, but it was terrifying. The lighting was very pure, mostly just shades of white, with the occasional use of orange for warmth, especially on Joey. In the scene where Joey gets caught on barbed wire, the light spilled out from behind him onto the audience in front, and since I was sitting over to the side I could see them clearly. One little girl, aged about seven, had her hands pressed against her mouth in an agony of empathy. You could see the barbed wire wasn't real - it was being pulled about the stage by actors in order to entangle the horse - but that didn't matter, because she could imagine it so clearly.

And that, really, is the essence of theatre. Chorus says in Henry V, "Think when we speak of horses that you see them." And we did. Every one of us saw them, through the medium of those bits of wood and netting. And we also saw the Great War, emerging for a brief moment out of the darkness of almost a hundred years of history. There are some really magnificent set pieces, including a cavalry charge in which a Captain is blown off his horse in slow motion, lifted through the air by two actors, his arms and legs stuck out like a starfish against the back-lighting. But the real vision of hell comes when a cannon is pulled onto the stage by two starving and exhausted horses. I don't think I've ever seen a theatrical moment to equal the power of that sequence. It was utterly stunning, and yet it was made by nothing but a few actors and two puppets against a white light.


Joey and Topthorne are set to work pulling the cannon after one of the draught horses has died.

I know a lot about the First World War. I don't suppose most of the children in the audience knew anything about it at all. But what we saw on stage was the feeling of the war. Not the gore and the yucky realism of cinema, but what it felt like to be there, with the wire and the mud and the machine guns, the gas and the shells and the corpses, the horror, the cruelty, the waste, but also the bravery, the camaraderie and the love. It was absolutely amazing.

Steven Spielberg is apparently going to film War Horse. I don't know how he'll do with it, but I do know one thing. It will be nothing like this production. It can't be. This is theatre, through and through. You couldn't begin to do it this way with film.
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2010-10-14 09:19 am

(no subject)

I got stuck for a while on a particular scene in the current writing project. I needed the characters to sit at a table, then move to a couch and then have sex. Sounds reasonable enough, but I simply couldn't get it to work. They would sit at the table, talk and then have sex or they would sit on the couch, talk and then have sex, but they refused to interrupt the process of having a conversation that led to sex at the table in order to go and sit on the couch for a bit.

This struck me as exactly the kind of problem I used to face directing plays. Which makes it Reason 1649 why writing is like acting/directing.

It's something of a cliché that actors are constantly asking, "What's my motivation?" One of my acting teachers used to tell a story about a famous theatre actress who was told by her director to move five paces to the left in order to say a particular line. When she asked what her motivation was for moving, he replied, "Your costume clashes with the scenery."

This particular source of conflict between actors and directors – the clash between the limited, subjective view of one particular character versus the bird's eye view of the needs of the production as a whole - is fundamental to theatre, so of course Michael Frayn couldn't leave it out of his classic Noises Off.. It's funny and it's spot on, and a shortened version is under the cut.
Read more... )
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2010-09-25 08:39 pm

(no subject)

I've been watching David Tennant's Hamlet on youtube. It's the kind of production that the word "sumptuous" was coined for, and has some wonderful performances (I was just thinking how a few years ago it would have been John Woodvine playing Claudius, when up he popped as the Player King, and I shed a little fannish tear). But try as I might, I just don't like Tennant's brand of acting. It really is "emo", as his critics say - it's not badly done, it's not even unconvincing, but it assumes that unfettered emotion is the most interesting thing about a character and that the best way to explore that emotion is to wallow in it. Of course, it makes for a great contrast with Patrick Stewart's Claudius (though I must admit that I had huge difficulty imagining this Claudius gambling and fighting and getting pissed), but in some ways it's like a throwback to Victorian melodrama. Or perhaps it's a rediscovery of melodrama, a reinvention. Perhaps Tennant is the future of British acting, the equivalent of the public outpouring of grief when Princess Diana died. Fashions in performance come and go, as they do in all art. Perhaps it's time for more wallowing.

But I really don't like it. I had to fast forward through the soliloquies.
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2010-09-23 12:19 pm
Entry tags:

MfU Fic: America

Gen, 456 words, pure fluff, mostly harmless.

For [personal profile] sarlania.

Read more... )
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2010-08-31 09:33 am

(no subject)

Over on [profile] network_command I am co-running the first ever Man from UNCLE art challenge. Personally, I have all the artistic skills of a dead (not to say decomposing) hamster, but my co-mod [personal profile] togsos is the opposite, and has produced some banners for the occasion that are so beautiful I simply have to share my two favourites with the wider world.








Are they awesome, or what?
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2010-08-30 01:33 pm

Our so-called lives

I was reading an article over at [personal profile] petzipellepingo's lj about reincarnation seminars that help you to remember your previous lives. The article was less sceptical than it should have been (woo-woo is still woo-woo, even when its practitioners have an Ivy League degree), but one thing that caught my eye was the claim by someone who runs these seminars that in a previous life he had been a "good" German who had hidden a Jewish family from the Nazis. That very evening I was reading a book by a German comedian about his pilgrimage to Santiago, and by one of those odd coincidences, the chapter was about the time he had taken part in a reincarnation seminar and had remembered one of his previous lives. Lo and behold, he too had been a "good" German who had hidden a Jewish family from the Nazis. What are the odds that out of all the gazillions of trillions of lives that have preceded ours, two people on a course should coincidentally both have led lives that placed them in the same place at the same time performing the same brave, not to say heroic actions?

It seems to me that there are two plausible explanations for this (more plausible than reincarnation, anyway). One is that the holocaust is so deeply implanted in Western consciousness that given the instruction to "pick a historical period, any historical period", most of our brains will head straight to Nazi Germany (and given the normal human tendency to believe in one's own goodness, naturally we do not "remember" ourselves as running concentration camps or grassing up our neighbours to the Gestapo, even though, statistically speaking, we are far more likely to have done that). The other explanation - and, Derren Brown fan that I am, I think this is much the more likely - is that the seminar instructors are taught to plant suggestions in the participants' minds during the course of the seminar (whether they do this deliberately or just as an unexamined part of the "technique" I leave as an exercise for the reader), and that the "Good German who hid a Jewish family" suggestion has spread, meme-like, through the pool of instructors. Anyone who forks over cold hard cash in order to try to recall a previous life is, after all, part of a self-selecting group of highly suggestible individuals, and Hape Kerkeling's description of the seminar he attended reveals an embarrassment of opportunities for the planting of suggestions (he also said that four out of the five other people on the course remembered having been "victims of the Nazis", which is obviously grist to my theoretical mill).

Does anyone know of anyone/has read about anyone who has attended one of these seminars? If so, did that person also remember being victim/heroic resistor of the Nazis?
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2010-08-15 01:57 pm

(no subject)

We picked Flan up yesterday and brought him home, to the great delight of the rest of the menagerie, not to mention Lucky and Mowgli. Almost half of his neck has been shaved, which looks rather peculiar - who would have thought black labradors have white skin? - and he has a small wound in it, with stitches. He also has, amazingly, a small wound in his heart (where the probe went in) so he has to take painkillers and antibiotics, to make quite sure no enterprising bacteria set up shop there. He has an ultrasound in six weeks, and the stitches come out next Monday. Other than that, it's all over. Easy peasy!

I can't honestly say, looking at him, that he gives the impression of having had major heart surgery (it took them over an hour and a half to reach the spot and inflate the balloon), but he is a bit slower than usual. He's allowed to go for gentle walks, but other than that, he's supposed to rest. No running, said the vet sternly, looking at Tashi. No jumping (also looking at Tashi), no playing ball (Tashi again the prime suspect), and absolutely no swimming, because of the risk of infection via the neck wound. Other than that, it's life as normal. Which seems quite bizarre after all the anxiety and tension. You mean it's over? Just like that? Wow.
azdak: Face of Klimt's Music II (Default)
2010-08-13 04:24 pm

YEEEEEESSS!!!!

Just had a phone call from the surgeon. Flan's operation went well, they managed to get into the heart through the artery, so they didn't have to cut him open, and they've widened the narrow bit enough to reduce the pressure there by half, which the surgeon said is a very good outcome. He hasn't come round yet, and they want to keep him under observation till tomorrow, because it was such a long operation, but basically he can now expect to live a normal doggy life.

I am SOOOOOO relieved. As are Wolfgang and the children. Lucky will be relieved, too. She has been very unhappy all day, ever since the others came back without him, and has been hanging around with us downstairs instead of lying on her bed upstairs, as she usually does.

*wipes brow and goes to cuddle family*