Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin

Steven Spielberg’s performance capture 3D film ”The Adventures of Tintin” is charming, funny, and action-packed. Too bad that it just isn’t Tintin!

Born and raised in Europe I grew up reading the classic comic book series of Tintin, created and drawn by Belgian artist Hergé. What characterises the series is its “ligne claire” style, which Hergé pioneered with Tintin. The style uses clear strong lines with a minimum of hatching and contrasts and it features strong colours and a combination of cartoonish characters against a realistic background, which gives the comic a flat aspect. The style is so essential to Tintin that without it there is no Tintin at all and sadly Spielberg has chosen to discard the style all together. This is clear from the beginning where in the 2D intro Spielberg pays homage to his own Saul Bass inspired “Catch Me If You Can” intro rather than Hergés ligne claire style. Although the Tintin intro includes elements from the comic books, it doesn’t include the right colours or the strong lines, which is very disappointing. Especially as the intro is Spielberg’s only chance of using the ligne claire style, as the film itself is so realistic due to its 3D performance capture technique that it could as well have been an “ordinary” film.

”The Adventures of Tintin” (also known as “The Secret of the Unicorn”) is based on three of the original comic books: “The Crab with the Golden Claws” (1941), “The Secret of the Unicorn” (1943), and “Red Rackham's Treasure” (1944). Despite the use of three different books as its source, the plot is good and easy to follow. It tells the story of Tintin, a young Belgian reporter, who buys a model ship named the Unicorn and suddenly finds himself pursued by the sinister Mr. Sakharine. Tintin and his fox terrier Snowy join forces with the drunk Captain Haddock and the incompetent detectives Thomson and Thompson in an adventure that leads them to Morocco and the unveiling of the secret of Red Rackham’s Treasure. So far, so good. The plots in Hergé’s comic books are usually adventures mixed with slapstick humour and elements from fantasy, science fiction and political thrillers, added satirical, political and cultural commentaries, but somehow Spielberg has managed to turn his plot into a very American, political correct action film. Annoying!

Another thing that is annoying is the way that the characters are being portrayed in the film. In fact it’s difficult to recognise some of them because they are extremely fat with HUGE noses! WHY?? The only one with a small nose is Tintin, but where Hergé’s Tintin is as blank as a canvas with hardly any personality, Spielberg’s Tintin (played by Jamie Bell) is charming, funny, passionate and…well…a human being! A genuine likeable hero as opposed to the original boring idealist. Hergé’s permanently drunk, swearing, cynical and grumpy Captain Haddock isn’t quite himself, either. Not only is he fat and huge-nosed, he has turned into a bit of a whiner in Spielberg’s version as well, a self-pitying drinker who is ashamed of his drinking and who doesn’t swear very much. He is played by Andy Serkis, whereas the detectives Thomson and Thompson are played by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Thomson and Thompson (who are not related in any way, they just look alike except for their moustaches), are the fattest of them all in Spielberg’s version (again WHY?), but at least they are as stupid as in the comic books. The same can’t be said about Tintin’s dog Snowy. In the comic books the dog is really stupid, but in the film he’s as clever a Lassie! Why?? I also wonder why “the Milanese Nightingale”, opera singer Bianca Castafiore (played by Kim Stengel), has the face of a man? And why isn’t she as voluptuous as in the comic books? But she still has a huge nose? And why is the villain Sakharine (Daniel Craig), made to look younger and nicer than the one in the comic books? But with a pretty big nose, too? I’m just wondering.

Sadly Spielberg doesn’t manage to capture the atmosphere of Hergé’s stories or the nature of his characters and with the very special aesthetics of the comic books missing too, you are left with a VERY American action movie. I truly miss the real Tintin, but when that is said, I have to admit that I really liked that film, as it is very entertaining. I do think, however, that the PG rating (in Denmark a PG–7) is wrong, not because of the drinking, swearing and killing in the film, but because of the plot. I think that you have to be at least 10-12 years old to fully understand it. And as a grown-up it’s quite annoying having to share the cinema with hundreds of seven year olds, who are screaming, talking, jumping in their seats, throwing popcorn and being generally bored by a film that is way too “adult” to keep their attention during the 107 minutes that it lasts.

Three out of five stars: ***

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Mirror Boy

 “Spiegeljongen” (“Mirror Boy”) from 2010 is the Dutch author Floortje Zwigtman’s third and final novel about Adrian Mayfield, a young gay model and journalist living in Victorian London. Like its predecessors - ”Schijnbewegingen” and ”Tegenspel”- the novel hasn’t been published in English, only in Dutch and German, and as usual I read it in German. Here the novel is called ”Auf Leben und Tod” (“On Life and Death”).

The year is 1895 and Adrian has turned 18 years old. Because Adrian used to be a rent boy, his lover, the conservative painter Vincent Farley, has kicked him out and Adrian has lost everything; his job, his home and first and foremost his love. In London Oscar Wilde is on trial for homosexuality and the gays are panicking, some fleeing to Paris, others committing suicide and the ones like Vincent repressing their gay tendencies by seeking female company. When Adrian finds out that Vincent plans to marry the innocent Octavia Webb, he goes mad with hate and jealousy and joins forces with the decadent, transsexual Lady Kinderly in order to get his revenge. The “lady” specialises in kidnapping young children from London and selling them to brothels in Paris, so when Vincent goes to Paris to propose to Octavia, Adrian follows him together with Lady Kinderly, her male nurse Chris, her foster “daughter” Eliza (who is really a boy) and three kidnapped children. The revenge doesn’t go as planned, so back in London Adrian decides to expose Vincent’s homosexuality, thereby bringing not only Vincent but the entire Farley family down. Vincent’s brother Stuart gets in his way, though, and suddenly Adrian is the hunted, fighting for his life.

Although a lot of new characters are introduced such as Lady Kinderly and her posse, we get to meet all of the old gang in “Spiegeljongen” as well. Adrian’s family and old friends all have a part to play and so have Oscar Wilde, Lord Bosie, Aubrey Beardsley, Augustus Trops etc. and we get a closure on all of the characters, which is very fulfilling. Furthermore the trial of Oscar Wilde is always in the background of the story and Zwigtman uses it skilfully to show the hate and fear, which embraced homosexuals in Victorian London.

“Spiegeljongen” is more dramatic, darker and scarier than its predecessors, as Adrian’s hate and madness permeate the story, but still he is one of the most interesting, sympathetic and complex protagonists in modern literature with his matter-of-fact look on life and his sarcastic sense of humour. I just love that guy! The story is high-paced, thorough and well-researched and as such the novel is a worthy ending of a trilogy that – in my humble opinion – is the best I have ever read. If I have to say something negative about it, I can’t, but one thing that struck me as odd was the epilogue. Zwigtman ends the book with a “27 years later”-epilogue and although I know it’s a very popular thing to do nowadays, it is also a bit weird, especially as the narrator is no longer Adrian, but Vincent. I could have lived without it, but I guess Zwigtman wanted to make absolutely sure that her readers got the aforementioned fulfilling closure on all of her characters.

Each volume of the Adrian Mayfield trilogy is a masterpiece on its own and “Spiegeljongen” is no exception. Despite the explicit gay sex scenes, you don’t have to be gay to read it and despite it being (wrongfully!) labelled a young adult book, you don’t have to be a teenager, either. You don’t even have to be a fan of Oscar Wilde, just read it! On each of the 640 pages, Zwigtman shows her superiority as both a writer and a storyteller, and I for one wasn’t able to put the book down, but had to read it in one go. I sure hope that the entire trilogy is going to be published in English soon, because this masterpiece deserves to be read by as many people as possible. To be honest, if I had the power, I would nominate Floortje Zwigtman to the Nobel Prize in literature any day!

Five out of five stars: *****

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Terry Jones: “Furious Resonance”

 Riding trains can be boring. It can be fun, too and sometimes quite surprising. Earlier this year I was on a train bound for Birmingham, UK. As usual I was writing, minding my own business, when suddenly I heard a voice say, ”Are you writing a novel?” The owner of the voice was Terry Jones. Not THAT Terry Jones from Monty Python, but the editor, writer and former lecturer at Carlisle College Terry Jones

Terry Jones writes poetry and we made a pact then and there on the train. I was to buy his collection of poems ”Furious Resonance” that was just about to be published in the Poetry Salzburg Pamphlet series, whereas he was to buy the ones of my books that have been published in English. So far I don’t know if he has kept his promise, but I sure have kept mine and what a pleasure it was to read ”Furious Resonance”.

It says on the back of the book that the collection ”explores how the spaces of the past and the present, the personal and the political, the conscious and the unconscious, and the living and the dead re-sound across cultures and languages in sympathy or protest with each other.” Big words, but true as “Furious Resonance” is a remarkable collection of poetry. The twenty-four poems make you think, laugh and listen, because Terry Jones has a way with words. His way of using the English (and German and Xhosa!) language is unique, because this is an intelligent poet with something on his heart and mind and an own voice to express it.

Jones’ poetry flows easily. Notice for instance the almost hypnotical cadence of the long poem “Sun” which prevails despite the huge differences in voice and verse in the four parts of the poem. Or what about the imagery of the poem “Sleep-Talking”? An everyday observation made into art. My own favourite is, however, “Preservations”, an unsettling poem about the burning of dictionaries.

“Furious Resonance” is one of the best collections of poems I have read within recent years and to think; if I hadn’t been on that train going to Birmingham that day in May, I would probably never have read it! So the next time someone asks my why I don’t have a driver’s license, my answer is going to be: because I like good poetry!

Terry Jones: “Furious Resonance”, Poetry Salzburg Pamphlet Series (PSPS) 5, 2011
ISBN 978-3-901993-35-0
Four out of five stars: ****

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Harry Potter Festival 2011

 The 9th Harry Potter Festival took place here in Odense, Denmark on October 20-22, 2011. During the first seven years of the festival kids were able to attend Hogwarts, where they took classes in Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Potions, History of Magic, Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures, the subjects being taught by McGonagall, Snape, Hagrid and the rest of the staff. Last year Hogwarts was closed because J. K. Rowling came to town and she needed the building for reading to children and having lunch with the notabilities of Odense. As Hogwarts is the core of the festival, we naturally expected Hogwarts to open again this year, but we were sorely disappointed. It seems that Odense City and Odense Library that finance the festival have decided to close Hogwarts for good and try other things instead. Bad decision, if you ask me!
 Thursday the festival took off with a ride on the Hogwarts Express. Kids aged 8 to 12 turned up in their school uniforms on platform 9 ¾ on Odense Station at 5.17 p.m. Here they boarded the old steam engine and at 5.43 p.m. they were off. My daughter was on the train and she wasn’t impressed. The kids were seated in three coaches, McGonagall, Mad-Eye Moody and Hagrid looking after them. After a thirty minutes ride, they got off at a small station and on a nearby parking lot they watched a short fire show, young people juggling and performing tricks with fire. Then it was back to the Hogwarts Expres for the return trip. The kids were handed apples and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and at some point the lights disappeared and the train came to a stand-still. The kids were told that they were under attack by Dementors, but shortly after the lights came back and the train started moving again. According to my daughter the trip wasn’t worth the money (£7.50 for a 75 minutes ride).
 On day two of the Harry Potter Festival, Odense City opened what they called Diagon Alley in the city centre. This was a new feature. In town we have an old alley called “Vintapper Straede” (Tapster Alley) so obviously it had to be made into Diagon Alley. The problem was, however, that Odense City clearly hadn’t read the books! The only thing Diagon Alley-related in the alley was Gringotts Wizarding Bank whereas the rest of the alley consisted of workshops where you could make your own owl, halloween pumpkin, wicker baskets etc. You could play chess, draw pictures or learn magic tricks at a Weasley Workshop and there was a fortune teller and someone doing face paint, too, but nothing that had to do with Diagon Alley. Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Salon was there as well as Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop (in fact they shared the same building), but as far as I know they are not situated in Diagon Alley, but in Hogsmeade! Furthermore Madame Puddifoot’s Tea Salon was far from romantic; in fact it was just an empty shop with a few plastic tables and chairs. Very disappointing. Oh well, at least Gringotts was amazing. The goblins were really scary this year!
 
In the evening Odense City and the library had organised a Harry Potter Concert. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go, but friends of mine who went were duly impressed. Like last year during Rowling’s visit, Odense Symphony Orchestra played Harry Potter music while characters from the books entertained the audience. This year the music consisted of John Williams’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Suite”, Nicholas Hooper’s “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Suite” and Patrick Doyle and John Williams’ “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire Suite”. The suites were arranged by Jerry Brubaker and directed by Per-Otto Johansson and consisted of 23 pieces of music all in all. My own personal favourite, Nicholas Hooper’s “Fireworks”, was not among them, which I found quite odd as apart from “Hedwig’s Theme” it is the most popular and most recognisable of the Harry Potter music. The concert lasted from 5.01 p.m. to 6.31 p.m.
 Saturday was the big finale, the Harry Potter Market, where the city centre turned into a cross between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade for four hours, starting at 11.01 a.m. As usual Professor Snape gave potion lessons in his dungeons in the old town monastery and Professor Sprout taught kids how to pot young mandrakes in Herbology class, the kids wearing earmuffs as the plants were screaming awfully! Of course Professor Sprout had to give lessons in Diagon Alley as Hogwarts was closed. In the nearby park you were able to play Quidditch, and in the town square you could visit different shops such as Gringotts Wizarding Bank, Ollivander’s, The Daily Prophet, Eeylops Owl Emporium, Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, Quality Quidditch Supplies and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. As usual only George was there. We have never had a Fred. The Leaky Cauldron was open as well, but this year I think they had joined forces with Honeydukes, as they were selling candy, too!
 Like last year Hagrid’s hut behind Hogwarts was occupied by a fortune teller while Hagrid was away, doing guided tours on the Hogwarts Express. And like last year The Weird Sisters gave a string of concerts while St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies took care of the ones who had done “The Hippogriff” a little too enthusiastically. You could also visit the Mirror of Erised, duel Death Eaters or join a lookalike contest. As something new you were able to participate in a Harry Potter clue hunt using GPS, but not many did that as you had to hand in your mobile phone as security!
 Usually our Mayor plays the part of Dumbledore and the international footballer Thomas Helveg is Madam Hooch while the rest of the Harry Potter characters are played by professional actors, magicians, opera singers and of course loads of volunteers. This year most of “the usual suspects” were gone, though, only Snape, Hagrid and Voldemort being the same as usual, whereas new people played the rest of the characters. Some had just switched characters, for instance the guy who used to be Krum was now Mad-Eye Moody. Of new characters this year were Dobby and Bellatrix Lestrange, Bellatrix being extremely good. Her psychotic laughter could be heard all over the city centre, sending chills down people’s spines!
 The Harry Potter Market is always a huge success as it is fun, action packed and cheap. For £2 (that’s about $3.75) you get 500 galleons in Gringotts and that is all that you need in order to try out everything, eat at The Leaky Cauldron and buy wands, brooms etc. More than 4,000 people visit the market each year and this success is now threatening the squash the festival. The Harry Potter shops are simply too small and the volunteers too few, so visitors spend most of their time standing in line, waiting to be served, which is very frustrating, especially to the kids. I hope Odense City and the library are going to have the courage to think big before the 10 year anniversary next year as I’m sure the festival is going to draw even more people then. It would be fairly easy to use even more of the city centre area and to involve more volunteers and please, please re-open Hogwarts! Let’s make this festival the best of its kind next year!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pottermore

Pottermore is a Sony sponsored website by J. K. Rowling that is supposed to let people experience the world of Harry Potter. As I’m one of the lucky few (1 million!!) with early admission to Pottermore, I’ve been on for about six weeks now and I’ve come to know the website pretty well. I know it’s only the Beta version so far, so a lot of things are probably going to change and hopefully they will, as there is way too little to see and do on the site as it is right now.

The Pottermore website is interactive, which basically means that you can move through the seventeen chapters of “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone”. It is called “a virtual reading experience”, but you don’t have to read the books to be on Pottermore. You won’t understand much of what is going on, though, if you haven’t read the books in advance and sometimes you can’t even move on without knowing certain details from the books.

On the website each chapter is divided into two or more interactive “moments” where you are able to get background information on characters, places and objects, in fact it says that the site is going to provide “over 18,000 words of additional content including background details and settings”. I guess most people don’t realise that 18,000 words are less than ten pages, so it isn’t very much, but I must admit that what I’ve read so far has been funny and enlightening.

On Pottermore you are also able to locate and collect different objects, books and galleons that will be added to your trunk or bank account. You’ll get your own bank account at Gringotts as well as a wand at Olivander’s and you’ll get sorted when you reach Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I’m a Ravenclaw, of course. Always have been, always will be, no matter how or where I’m sorted. At Hogwarts you are supposed to be able to brew potions and participate in duels, too, but the duel page is down and more often than not the potion page freezes. Tough luck.

The visual side of Pottermore is really nice although the choice of keeping everything dark and shadowy is a bit strange and alienating. You don’t really see any of the characters, so you feel pretty much alone in this artificial universe. The website is 3 dimensional, making it possible to get deep into the layers of the “moments” but there is not enough to do as each “moment” only has two or three things to read and/or collect and that is way too little. I managed to get through the entire first book within an hour! The shopping at Diagon Alley and the sorting at Hogwarts were far the best “moments” because you could spent more time there than in any other “moments”. Still, I don’t feel that Pottermore really caters to the many HP fans and the lack of sound, be it music or background noises, is a big mistake. It just feels…empty.

While on Pottermore you compete with the other houses for the House Cup by gaining points. You gain points from brewing potions, winning duels and finding hidden objects, but as the duels page is down and the potion page freezes, I’m only able get points by finding objects. There are about 41 hidden in the first book and each one gets you 1 point, so how some of my fellow Ravenclaw students have got 8,000 points already, I don’t know. I still haven’t reached 40!

Pottermore is supposed to be a place where Harry Potter fans meet, play, chat and hang out. You can add friends to your account – if you know their Pottermore usernames, that is. You don’t choose your username yourself, so you have to live with whatever the website chooses for you. I have one that makes me sound like a very old, wicked reptile, but at least it isn’t as ridiculous as some of the other names, I’ve encountered. Anyway, it’s difficult to add friends as you’re not supposed to tell your username to anyone, so in the end you add friends randomly. At least the 14 friends I have on Pottermore are total strangers who have probably added me for the same reason that I have added them: to have someone to duel with whenever the duel page is back! I’ve never chatted with any of them for sure.

Well, all in all Pottermore could become an interesting website once we are out of the Beta period. I hope to see a lot of improvement to the site by the end of October 2011 when registration will open to everyone. Hopefully the next book “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” will then be accessible, too, as frankly, six weeks of “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone” is getting on my nerves! By the time that registration opens to everyone I’m sure that Pottermore is going to launch the part of the website that reveals its true purpose: to sell e-book and audiobook versions of the seven Harry Potter novels. We haven’t seen that in the Beta version, but don’t be fooled. Selling books is what Pottermore is all about. Happy buying!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gurls

I was watching telly with my daughter the other day. She’s a pre-teen and into crap TV such as “The X Factor”, “Survivor”, “Teen Mom” etc. Recently she has started watching a show called “My Mom and Me”. She is watching the Danish version and the other day the show was about a mother and her teenage daughter having a mother-daughter day out. And what did they do on that day? They took the train to Copenhagen to have their breasts enlarged! Not only that, but Mom had bought porn magazines for her and her young teenage daughter to look through on the train in order for them to figure out which size breasts they wanted. When I saw that, something snapped inside me. I’m not prude, on the contrary, but the sight of a mother teaching her daughter to pick porn stars as her role models and that happiness lies in a pair of fake boobs was appalling to me. When I pointed it out to my daughter, she just shrugged her shoulders and said, ”That’s how it is today, Mum. All the girls want fake boobs to look good for the boys."
That appalled me even more and when I mentioned that life ought to be about more than just look good for the boys, my daughter rolled her eyes and said, ”You’re so old-fashioned, Mum. Maybe it was different when you were young, but nowadays all that matters is how you look and you HAVE to look like a porn star to be liked.”
Well, of course I know that women have always been judged by their looks, but we have to look like porn stars now? Really? I began to do a bit of research into the ways that youngsters see themselves and each other and to my horror I found that daughter is right.

When I was a kid, girls wanted to be astronauts, doctors, designers, artists or at least schoolteachers. Then came a time where everybody wanted to be singers or actresses, but nowadays girls don’t even want to be supermodels anymore. No, their role models are strippers and porn stars and the girls on reality shows like “Paradise Hotel” who have sex on TV.
The generation of women before me fought for equal rights and my generation continued the fight, but the generations after me have never really cared. They have been raised under the illusion that men and women are equal with equal rights and equal pay and somewhere in this fake equality, the gender roles have suddenly been emphasised in order to differentiate between men and women.
The young women of today don’t preach equality, they preach differentiation, but they do it on men’s conditions. Although many of these women are well-educated, they advocate a view on women where women are seen as horny, unrestrained creatures who don’t deserve any respect, consideration, let alone love, as all they are good for is a quick roll in the hay. You don’t believe me? Well, then go to the nearest night club!

In any night club whether it is in Denmark, England or the United States, you’ll find today’s young women dressed like whores. They wear very skimpy outfits, very high heels, tons of make-up and no knickers, just like street whores, and not only that. They behave like whores as well. Girls turning barsexual for the boys is pretty common, the girls kissing, groping and masturbating each other on the dance floor in order to attract the attention of boys. It’s sickening and it doesn’t stop here. According to recent statistics many girls as young as 14 are not only having “ordinary” sex on a regular basis, they also have “advanced” sex such as anal sex, group sex and SM. The only explanation, that the experts are able to give, is that TV, commercials and the entertainment industry as such are teaching girls to act like this. In the media girls and women are portrayed as being content, in fact even happy with a status as objects, not subjects, in a male dominated world and experts think that young girls copy this behaviour in order to fit in. We are back not just to the 1950s, but to a place that is even further back in time, or maybe we have reached a place where we have never been before?
Even before the women’s lib movement women had at least some respect if as nothing else then as mothers, but today the respect is gone and girls are reduced to boobs and cunts and nothing else. Never before in modern society has it been that widespread accepted to regard and treat women as non-human creatures only put in the world in order to please men sexually.

The problem is that nobody seems to do anything about it, neither men nor women. Of course some men have always wanted women to be just sexy whores with nymphomaniac tendencies, but some men wanted strong women, too. They don’t anymore or maybe the ones who do have disappeared, in any case the entire media industry has gained the view that women are boobs and cunts only. In adverts for products as diverse as Nando’s, Axe or the Danish CULT Shaker, women are portrayed as beautiful, dumb, naked creatures who only have one thing on their minds: to fuck. Pardon my French, but it’s the most precise word for it. The worst thing is that young girls are buying this image, heck some girls like Katy Perry or the Pussycat Dolls even promote it, but then again, with a name like Pussycat Dolls, what did you expect? Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? No, thanks!
As for Katy Perry and her California Gurls, if all you are good for is getting sand in your stilettos while melting guys’ popsicles with your hot, sun-kissed skin, I’m afraid you’re not that unforgettable. You’re just poor role models teaching young girls that they have to play it dumb and spread their legs to everyone if they want success. Is that anything to be proud of? I don’t think so.

This morning I heard on the radio that in one third of all Danish relationships women earn more money than their men. Because of that, many women get divorced, so Denmark has a lot of well-educated, single women, whereas the single men are mostly unskilled workers. The MALE expert then came to the conclusion that women become unhappy if men don’t provide for them! At first I thought, what? Have I missed something? How did he come to that conclusion? But no, I hadn’t missed anything, and the expert explained, that women, who have a higher education than their husbands, divorce them in order to find a well-educated man, but as all the well-educated men are already taken, the women are doomed to live alone, thereby being unhappy. Had the women refrained from getting an education and a well-paid job and instead let men provide for them, they wouldn’t be living in misery. Oh, my God! And this is 2011!
That male expert didn’t mention at all that maybe women are happy with having good jobs and earning good money. Maybe it’s the men who divorce the women, as most men don’t want women who are either smarter or earn more or both. Because that’s how it is. It bruises the male ego if a woman is smarter or richer, so she gets dumps. I know it. I’ve been there several times and so have most of my girlfriends. But what about our egos? Are we just to be poor, stupid, uneducated sex objects? Yes, the expert said. Then we’ll be happy because the only thing that makes a woman truly happy is to have a man who takes care of her. Bullshit, I say! I love men, I fall in love with men, but this is too far out. Unfortunately it’s also what is passed on in today’s society as “expert knowledge” and the young girls believe in it as no one tells them differently.

So I beg you; please, don’t let this go on. Please, tell your daughter, sister, niece that her happiness doesn’t depend on pleasing boys. Tell her that being sexy and being bright doesn’t rule each other out. Tell her that it is okay to earn more money than the boys and that she is worth just as much as any boy no matter what she looks like. Let her know that she has the right to stand up for herself and create the life that she wants instead of just being a sex provider in the life of a man. Let her know that playing the dumb nympho never solves any problems. And let your sons, brothers, nephews know that they have to treat girls with respect, consideration and politeness, no matter who they are and what they look like. Amen!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

OFF11

 
August is festival-time here in Odense, Denmark. Not only do we have the annual Flower Festival, we also have Odense International Film Festival, a festival that concentrates on short films, animation and documentaries. OFF11 took place on August 22-27.

First of all I have to congratulate the powers behind OFF. This was the 26th time that the festival took place and finally, FINALLY, it had solved its major problems. Up until now the festival has suffered from too little room and insufficient technical equipment. In earlier years screenings were often cancelled due to problems with screening films in the proper formats and more often than not it was impossible to see the films anyway, as there was no room for the many people from all over the world, who attended this free festival. These problems had been fixed this year. The equipment actually worked and instead of screening each film two times, most of them were screened three times so everybody had a chance to see them. Unfortunately the many screenings of each film meant, that OFF11 didn’t have as many films as previous OFF festivals.

Most of the films at OFF compete for different awards. This year the International Grand Prix was won by the short film “Little Children, Big Words” made by Lisa James-Larsson, Sweden. The National Grand Prix was won by Danish Malou Reymann’s short film “13” and best animation by Swedish Jonas Odell’s “Tussilago”. The Audience Award went to the Danish documentary “Asger” by Signe Markvard and The Youth Jury Award to the Danish short film “To All My Friends” by Behrouz Bigdeli. I must say that I was astonished by these choices.

First of all I found it very odd that all the awards went to either Danish or Swedish films. It seemed VERY “clannish” when you think of the fact that the majority of films were non-Scandinavian. I guess it has something to do with all the jurors being Danish except for one, namely the Spanish Montserrat Guiu Valls, Managing Director of the Huesca International Film Festival. I think the festival ought to bring back huge international directors as jurors like in the early years.

Secondly I was…well, sad to see that all the winners – like last year – were so damn political correct! Among the winners there was no room for all the crazy, funny, strange and innovative films that used to be the trademark of OFF. These kinds of films were still around on the festival, but they didn’t stand a change of winning and I think that’s wrong. The main idea with OFF has always been to show the unexpected, the new and the creative, so why did the winners have to be so predictable and even boring? To me it seemed like the festival had lost part of its soul.

My own personal favourites didn’t stand many chances to win this year. Had it been up to me the French short film “The Piano Tuner” by Olivier Treiner would have won the International Grand Prix. The story of the piano tuner who pretends to be blind was surprising, funny and scary. For the National Grand Prix my winner would have been the Danish “Meeting My Father Kasper Hojhat” by Lea Glob, a very personal and witty documentary on how the director tries to construct the life of her father (a bank robber and magician who committed suicide after fourteen years in prison). Best animation for me was the Canadian “Sunday” by Patrick Doyon, because let’s face it, Canadians are simply the best when it comes to animation. My personal Youth Jury Award would have gone to the Polish “Mission To Mars”, a frightening short film telling the story of a Polish urban legend, and my Audience Award would have gone to the Spanish short film “The Screamers” by Roberto Pérez Toledo. It was probably the shortest of all the films – only 1 minute long – and hilarious.


As always Odense Film Festival offered a lot of other things than just the film award competitions. This year there were free concerts, open air screenings, seminars, workshops, talent camp, summer dance, Master Shorts, Pixar screenings, Club OFF and my own favourite “The Old Theatre” or “The Old Cinema” as it was called this year. This year the silent movies screened at The Old Theatre were the two Chaplin movies “The Cure” and “The Immigrant” from 1917, the Laurel & Hardy movie “You’re Darn Tootin’/The Music Blasters” from 1928 and finally the masterpiece “Strike” by Sergej Eisenstein from 1925. Like previous years the silent movies were accompanied divinely on piano by composer Lars Fjeldmose and introduced by the witty and insightful film historian Ulrich Breuning. If ever you come to OFF, “The Old Theatre” is a must!

After a week at OFF11 my hunger for short films, animation and documentaries has been satisfied, at least for now. But I’ll be back for more next year, so see you at OFF12.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Odense Flower Festival, 2011

Last year I boycotted the annual Flower Festival here in Odense, Denmark. The event used to sport spectacularly imaginative displays of flowers, but over the years it had turned into a simple flower market selling potted plants and I didn’t like that. I believe in second chances, though, so I gave the Flower Festival a new shot this year.
Each year the festival has a new theme and that way we’ve seen dinosaurs, the European capitals, the French revolution, most of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales and an entire zoo here in Odense, all made of flowers. This year the theme was Nordic Mythology and I had really expected a lot from that, so boy was I disappointed!
 First of all there were hardly any displays. Where the festival used to cover the entire city centre, it was limited to two parks, three streets and five squares this year, the Town Square included. Secondly no one seemed to have bothered to make any decent floral sculptures. Most of them were just cheap metal sculptures with a few potted plants on the side. Thirdly a lot of the sculptures were recycled and originated from other displays. Thus a Lock Ness Monster that used to be situated in the harbour of Bogense town was now the Midgard serpent here in Odense, and the sculpture of Clumsy Hans that is usually situated behind the Hans Christian Andersen Museum had been altered to look like the Norse God Thor!
 There were a few high lights, though, like the steel wire sculptures of Odin and Thor in the Town Square, the floral Vikings opposite the Cathedral and the poetic tree of life, Yggdrasil, in the Hospital Church.
 The best part of the Flower Festival was, however, not the flowers, it was Joana Vasconcelos’ exhibition “Jardim do Eden” (the garden of Eden) in Brandt’s exhibition centre. In a totally dark room Vasconcelos had created a labyrinth consisting of transparent, colourful plastic flowers illuminated by thousands and thousands of little LED fairy lights. Small engines created movement and humming sounds, and walking through this in the darkness was absolutely magic!
 Another great thing was the many free concerts in the Town Square. One of the concerts was by the local band “Tankens Bager” (The Baker of Thoughts) and as their frontman is a friend of mine since childhood I fully enjoyed that.
 To make a long story short, the flower displays this year were shite (pardon my French), but the extra features were great!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 2 is the last film of eight in the saga of Harry Potter. In other words: it is the one to end it all. There has been a lot of hype about it and it is has been mentioned as the epic ending of an era and in a way it is, but…

The plot
I saw the film on July 13th, 2011 at the first screening on the first day of its release here in Denmark. Although the screening took place in a small cinema that seated only 135 people, less than 50 turned up, mostly young kids and teenagers and the press, some there to review the film, others to interview the audience. It was rather annoying, especially as the press photographers kept photographing the audience during the first fifteen minutes of the film.
When we were finally able to watch the film without the irritating click-click-click noises all the time I was… No, I won’t say I was disappointed, but that’s because I’ve come to expect very little from the HP films since David Yates took over directing the saga in 2007 with HP5, “Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix”. Since then the Potter films have lost some of their magic (at least for me) as Yates has a way of jumping from scene to scene without any explanation and leaving out the insights into and depths of the characters that should hold the scenes together. HP7 part 2 is no exception.
 In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 2 Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are still out to find and destroy Horcruxes, the objects in which the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has hidden parts of his soul. That leads to a huge battle at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a battle that takes up 70 of the film’s 130 minutes. The battle is the main story of the film and in fact, the two first stops at respectively Shell Cottage and Gringotts Wizarding Bank would have been better placed in “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows” part 1. They seem a bit out of place in HP7 part 2, although the Gringotts scenes are among the best in the film. Like in the book, the film ends with a “19 Years Later” epilogue, rather pointless, but necessary as there is a certain feeling of emptiness after the battle.

The cast
I don’t know what to say about the cast this time, I really don’t, as most of them don’t even have lines, but just run around in the background. The focus is on Harry, Ron, Hermione and Voldemort and apart from them only Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), Snape (Alan Rickman), Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch) and Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis). have lines of real importance.
At one point in the books it wasn’t clear if The Chosen One was Harry Potter or Neville Longbottom and when you watch HP7 part 2 you get to wonder as this film is truly Neville’s. Next to Harry he is by far THE most important character and Matthew Lewis portrays him so well. Very convincing. The only other actor I noticed was Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall. She’s just brilliant. The rest of the cast never really gets to show their skills, but that has been a problem ever since David Yates took over directing.
As for my own favourite characters, the Weasley twins, they are hardly in the film. George Weasley (Oliver Phelps) has two lines and Fred (James Phelps) says one single word and that’s it. As far as I understand, the scene in which they speak wasn’t even in the original script, but the Phelps twins were called back to adlib it, as otherwise they wouldn’t have had any lines at all. To me it was sad to see these great characters more or less reduced to extras.

True to the book
A good thing about “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 2 is that it stays true to the book. The few twists and turns it takes are mostly good and the events at Gringotts and the first big battle at Hogwarts are truly epic. Unfortunately the second battle (well, you can hardly call it a battle as we only see two duels!) and Snape’s last scene are not epic at all and not what I had expected from reading the book.
Another thing I had looked forward to was the return of the prodigal son, Percy Weasley (Chris Rankin), but that scene doesn’t exist in the film. Percy is just there, no explanation given, and that’s another ongoing problem since Yates got on board. Things are not properly explained. For instance we hear Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) talk about his son, but in the films we have never learned that he and Tonks (Natalia Tena) had a baby! It’s like in HP6 when they were suddenly married without the audience having heard about their love affair. Pretty confusing if you haven’t read the books.
Instead of Remus talking about his son I would rather have had the film dwell on the deaths of some of the main characters and the reactions from their loved ones, but unfortunately the film is true to the book here as well. Suddenly a number of people have died and we never learn how. In fact not even the long awaited “death by wall” incident from the book has made it to the film. We never get to see it! Very frustrating.

The end
Seeing the Harry Potter saga coming to an end with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 2, I must admit that I had hoped for something else. A more epic ending and an ending that left the audience satisfied when it came to say goodbye to the characters who we have come to know and love through these films over the past ten years. In that way I am disappointed. I never got to say goodbye to the Weasley twins or to Percy. Or to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Hagrid, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick and a lot of other characters that had come to mean something to me. And the goodbye to Lucius Malfoy was just so wrong! The only good goodbyes were actually the ones to Dumbledore, Neville and Luna. As for the main characters (the ones in the epilogue), it was a strange goodbye as it showed a status quo, a return to the past disguised as future where the only thing that had changed with the battle against Voldemort was the reputation of a certain Slytherin.
It is always sad to say goodbye, but it is even sadder if you are not allowed to part properly. I guess it has to be this way as HP7 part 2 remains true to the book in the end, so allow me to say my own goodbyes. Goodbye George, goodbye Fred, goodbye Percy, Snape, Lucius, Remus, Sirius, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, McGonagall, Luna, Ron and the rest. I’m sad that most of you were reduced to extras so I didn’t get to see you shine for the very last time. Goodbye Harry Potter.
Three out of five stars: ***
P.S. I saw the film in 3D and although it isn’t used for much except for in the Gringotts “roller coaster” scene, I like the special Harry Potter 3D glasses that the cinema handed out. Too bad that they are too small to wear for people like me and Harry Potter who already wear glasses, but the bag is neat!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Censorship

Yesterday I had a frightening experience on Twitter. Each Sunday we have a thing called #writechat where writers meet to discuss writing. Yesterday I asked if people use pen names and why. I got a lot of answers from (American) writers who said they use pen names either because they don’t want their families to read what they are writing or because they are afraid of getting fired from their day jobs as they’re writing erotica. One even sent me an article about a schoolteacher who got fired after 25 years because the parents of her pupils had found out that she wrote romance fiction. A writer from Canada told me that she thought it was an American thing, as she didn’t have that problem in Canada and an American writer wrote me that she thought it was an example of American hypocrisy. I answered that writer, saying that it was probably an American thing. I mean, in Denmark, where I come from, erotica is no big deal, no one would ever get fired from writing that, heck, even our Queen’s husband, Price Consort Henrik writes erotica!

Well, to make a long story short, all hell broke loose because I answered that American writer! Within seconds I was swamped by hate tweets from other American writers blaming me for generalization, for judging other peoples cultures, for being narrow minded (ha-ha-ha!) etc. etc. I didn’t even get to answer that Canadian writer because the hate tweets kept coming. What happened to her and the American one I don’t know, but measured by what happened to me because of me answering one private tweet, I’m not sure if they’re alive anymore. Out of the many writers on #writechat only one – ONE – wrote that everything should be allowed in art. I think he was Norwegian…

Anyway, the whole thing made me think. I always thought that writers were supposed to stick together and fight against censorship and for freedom of speech and not jump the gun on our colleagues if they had a different view than ours. My whole idea of pointing out that if we hide behind pen names because we are afraid of society’s reaction was shot down by the people who’re supposed to fight for the right to say and write whatever we like. Instead I was blamed for being anti-American! Well, I was not judging the US per se, in fact I think it’s a nice country and I have lived in both New York City and Los Angeles, but it was American writers who brought up the problem as being American. All I did was react to it and I’ll continue to do so, because something is wrong if you have to hide behind a pen name in order to avoid getting fired, no matter if it’s in America or Antarctica! If people keep hiding, we’ll never get anywhere and the powers that want to censor and control us have won.

I must say that I was pretty sad and disappointed about the reactions on #writechat yesterday. I guess we still have a long way to go when writers would rather support a system where they can’t use their own names than allow a few (foreign) colleagues to criticize that system, blaming them of being judgmental and narrow minded. I think those writers are going to have a hard time when/if they have their works published as I can’t see how the heck they’re going to handle the critique that any writer gets. And I sure as hell can’t see how we are going to get rid of censorship as long as writers fight each other instead of fighting censorship as a joint community. That’s all. Peace and love, man!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Source Code

“Source Code” is the second feature film directed by David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones, following the brilliant “Moon” a couple of years ago. This time Duncan Jones has more money and greater studio expectations behind him, and with this new sci-fi thriller he fully lives up to the expectations.

“Source Code” centres on the American army helicopter pilot Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wakes up on a Chicago commuter train in the body of an unknown man. His last memory is flying in Afghanistan, but now he sits opposite the lovely Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) who obviously thinks he’s a teacher called Sean Fentress. Eight minutes later the train explodes and Stevens finds himself in a space pod where he talks to Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), a woman who is evidently now his commanding officer. Stevens learns that he is part of a government experiment called the Source Code, a program that enables him to cross over into another man's identity in the last eight minutes of his life. Stevens now has to re-live the incident on the commuter train over and over again, gathering clues each time, until he can solve the mystery of who is behind not only the bomb on the train but also bombs that threaten to kill millions in downtown Chicago.

In a way you could say that “Source Code” is a kind of “Groundhog Day” meets Rod Serling, but then again it isn’t. The film asks more of its audience than the average film, it is philosophical, but action packed, too, although the action is more concerned with thinking rather than things exploding. “Source Code” is all about time, identity and multiverses and it gives you plenty of food for thought. I know that the scene where we finally get to see the “real” Colter Stevens is going to haunt me for ages.

I’ll give “Source Code” four out of five stars, although the fourth star goes solely to Duncan Jones. While I sat in the cinema waiting to see the film, he was kind enough to write me on Twitter, saying, “hope you have fun!” Thanks, Duncan, I fully enjoyed it!
Four out of five stars: ****

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sparkle

The new phenomenon Sparkle has now gone live on www.globalsparkle.com. And what is Sparkle, you may ask. Good question. It’s a social network where stars of sports, music, film, fashion and comedy share short video-clips (usually of 1 to 2 minutes’ duration) of what is going on in their lives. Among the celebrities using Sparkle are dancer Brian Fortuna, actress Emily Atack, supermodel Caprice and then the Phelps twins, who play the Weasley twins in Harry Potter.

It is pretty clever of the Phelps twins to do Sparkle as now that Harry Potter is almost over, they have to maintain a following in order not to be forgotten when what they are famous for is coming to an end. So far there are about 30 clips of the twins on Sparkle, mostly filmed by themselves and most of them being 2 to 3 months old, so it’s old news that you get, you could say.

On Sparkle the twins share moments of their hectic and very privileged lives, all very carefully selected in order to protect their privacy. In fact the most ”private” thing you’ll see are a few clips filmed in their own shared home. Instead some clips include hidden ads for companies like Adidas and Mathiesen & Brooke Tailors Ltd., others promote some of the twins’ favourite charities like The Great Ormond Street Hospital charity or their favourite sports clubs, like Oliver Phelps’ fave FC Aston Villa.

Most of the clips are either funny or informative and held in a positive tone and this way you get a very glossy and edited picture of how it is to be a Phelps twin. There’s nothing gritty there, nothing bad or revealing. In fact the most true-to-life clips are one with James opening Oliver’s rental car door into a tree and one of Oliver and his mates being pulled over by the police outside Las Vegas for speeding.

Watching the twins ”sparkle” as it is called, you can’t help but wonder what it is good for. Fans are gonna love it, at least at first, but after watching for a while you get to wonder if this is such a good idea after all. Although the clips are designed to please fans and protect the private lives of the twins, you get a behind-the-scene picture of the Phelps boys that is probably unintended and at least unexpected. Despite the carefully selected events and the positive tone when sparkling, the twins’ personalities shine through in a way that you haven’t seen before. When interacting, Oliver Phelps comes across as the bossy big brother (he is 13 minutes older than James) and James Phelps as the sheepish little brother. In other words you get a better picture of why their mates call Oliver Grandpa and why James seems so insecure, but is it a picture that fits in with the image they have built up within their fan community?

Recently there has been a huge debate regarding whether or not Twitter is a good idea for celebrities to use, as fans grow weary of their idols’ tweets that are often meaningless and inane and the same could be said about Sparkle. Why do we need to know that Oliver has just eaten an In-N-Out Burger? And why do we need to know that James has difficulties in choosing a lining fabric for his new tuxedo? On Twitter celebrities have started losing their magic and thereby fans because of things like that and I’m afraid the same thing is going to happen to stars using Sparkle, especially stars like the Phelps twins who are on both Sparkle and Twitter. A lot of illusions are going to be shattered and what you end up with are the rather pointless sparkles of two extremely privileged boys leading extraordinary lives.

I’m sure that with Sparkle the Phelps twins are trying to strengthen their image as ordinary, down-to-earth and very approachable guys (and as celebrities come, they really are), but with the clips of them playing golf, getting fringe benefits, attending VIP parties and jet setting around the world, the result is just the opposite. Yes, they are approachable, but they are in a different league and the upper crust life has become so ordinary to them that they don’t even seem to realise. I think that after a while the Phelps twins are going to lose fans over this, because they want to seem approachable, but at the same time they are not willing to share what the fans really want to know. Instead the fans are fobbed off with inane chit-chat about a life so blessed that ordinary people can’t even start to dream about it.

In a way the celebrity “sparkles” are as phoney and staged as a Hollywood movie, because they only show edited versions of the celebrities’ lives. When that is said, I have to admit that I haven’t had enough, yet, but I will at some point, I’m sure. As for now I’m just tagging along for the ride, hoping against hope that the sparkles are going to be a bit more profound in the future.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Collectormania 2011, Milton Keynes, UK

 On May 28th I went to Collectormania in Milton Keynes, UK. I got there by train and only 10 minutes after arriving at MK Central, a coach came to drive people to Collectormania free of charge. The coach stopped just outside the MK Dons Stadium where an awful lot of people were queuing up. Luckily, when the doors to the stadium opened, the queue moved quite quickly and at 9.05 a.m. I found myself in front of the Phelps twins “tent”; a sort of white canopy placed on the concrete above the lower tier.
When the twins turned up a little later, only seven people were in front of me and the twins took their time to talk to everyone and pose for pictures for whoever wanted it. I’d brought a photo that I took of the twins at the gala premiere of HP7 part 1 in Copenhagen, which they signed, and James said that it was one of the loudest premieres they had ever been too. My fellow Villan Oliver got up and gave me a hug and a kiss and he asked me about my trip to the UK and me staying in Sutton Coldfield.
I’d bought the twins wristbands from my local FC and Oliver decided that James was to get the ones in the home colours while he kept the ones in the away colours. I know, wristbands aren’t as inventive as the Ned Gerblansky T-shirt I gave James a couple of years back, but to make up for it, I also gave the twins The Slade Box, a 4 CD anthology containing Slade tunes from 1969 to 1991. Then we had a pic taken and I got a new hug and kiss from Oliver before my five minutes were up.
Walking around the MK Dons Stadium was freezingly cold and I was surprised to see that most of the celebrity guests were placed in flimsy “tents” outside on the concrete while the dealers were inside, warm and cosy. It only took me about an hour to see it all, as there was not much to look at unless you were a major collector of especially Star Wars and Dr. Who memorabilia or porn. A few people were dressed as characters from Dr. Who and Star Trek, there were some Freddie Kruegers, Ghostbusters and HHGTTG guys and then a whole lot of Star Wars types, some of them raising money for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity.
I then went to see Nigel Planer (Neil from The Young Ones) and I got an autograph and a pic, but there was no time for talk. He only asked me if my name had an a or in e in the end. He seemed nice enough and I noticed that no flash photography was allowed.
I was freezing seriously now and as it was only 11.30 a.m. I left the stadium and went over to ASDA to shop and get warm. Then back to the stadium in order to queue up for the twins’ photo shoot. The queue was as endless as the one in front of their “tent” and people were freezing their butts off while waiting. To make things worse, it even started raining!
The photo shoot was hilarious and the quickest I have ever attended, the bloke shooting the pictures calling everyone Sir or Madam no matter if they were six or sixty. Each shot took less than five seconds, the twins almost laughing at the photographer who kept repeating, “Step up, Ma’m, that’s nice, Ma’m, you’re done, Ma’m, step up, Sir,” etc. over and over again. Oliver sneaked in a “Hi again” and “Cheers. Thanks for coming,” to me, then I was done there as well.
Literally stiff with cold I went to get a cup of tea, then I walked around and looked at some of the other celebrity guests (no autographs, though, as I was on a budget). I saw David Warner, Robert Englund, David Prowse, Nick Moran, Afshan Azad and Charlotte Skeoch. Englund struck me as a funny guy, David Warner as very bright and the rest were nice, but a bit bored as not many queued up to see them. The queue for the Phelps twins was by far the longest at Collectormania, only challenged by the one for Robert Patrick.
In the meantime the sun had come out, but because of the wind it was a lot warmer outside the stadium than inside and the place slowly emptied. Around 4 p.m. only the people waiting for photos were left and even most of the celebrity guests had gone, except for the Phelps twins. Their photos didn’t show up until 5 p.m., then their queue got even longer as everyone wanted their pics signed. Poor boys, they worked hard for the money!
When finally I was able to leave, it was with mixed thoughts about Collectormania. I think it’s brilliant that the entrance is free and the coaches running to and from the station is a great service. But having such an event at a stadium, that is prone to be windy, is probably not the brightest idea. Furthermore there is too little to see and do if you have to spend the whole day there waiting for pics.
There were many dealers, yes, but most of the stuff that was on sale was the same, and when it’s impossible to take pics of the celebrity guests because they are hidden inside “tents” what are we supposed to do while we wait?
A chill out zone or a bar/restaurant with seats would have been nice, too, as it is very tiring to spend nine hours walking around the stadium as there was nowhere to sit down. You couldn’t even stand still because you’d then freeze to death! To be perfectly honest, hadn’t the Phelps twins been there, I would have regretted going, but as it was, the twins saved my day. Thanks, guys.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean 4

Thin plot, great action and an excellent Johnny Depp. That pretty much sums up ”Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”, the fourth instalment in Disney’s adventure series about Captain Jack Sparrow.

The movie is directed by Rob Marshall and in many ways it marks a new beginning to the series. The old plot from the first three movies, where the love affair between Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) played a central part, has been replaced by a flimsier plot with the relationship between Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Angelica (Penélope Cruz) as the turning point. In “Pirates of the Caribbean 4”, Jack is forced by his former lover Angelica to join Blackbeard's crew and to lead them to the Fountain of Youth. Both the Spanish King Ferdinand VI (Sebastian Armesto) and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) are after the Fountain, too, and on the way they have to encounter deathly mermaids and retrieve a couple of silver chalices from a grounded ship.

The plot as such is not very interesting and neither are the characters apart from Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa. Barbossa is really hilarious this time, serving as a smarmy privateer to the British Navy. It is a pleasant surprise, too, that Keith Richards is repeating his part as Jack’s father Captain Teague and Kevin McNally is back as well as Gibbs, Jack’s former First Mate. I suppose Stephen Graham does an okay job too as Jack’s new funny sidekick Scrum, but here the fun ends for me. Yes, Ian McShane fills the part as Blackbeard, but to be honest I had a hard time telling him apart from both Barbossa and Captain Teague and the love affair between the missionary Philip (Sam Clafin) and the mermaid Syrena (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) is no match to the old Will/Elizabeth love story. That brings us to the other love story of “Pirates of the Caribbean 4”, the one between Jack and Angelica, which just doesn’t ring true. Penélope Cruz is not convincing as Angelica and I don’t know what seems most unlikely; that Angelica grew up in a convent or that she is the true love of Captain Sparrow. She is boring and her thick accent is more than annoying.

When that is said, I must admit that I enjoyed “Pirates of the Caribbean 4”. It is tighter and funnier than part 2 and 3 and I loved the action scenes, the mermaids and Johnny Depp’s acting. Too bad that the 3D effects weren’t used for much, though. You could as well have seen the movie without.

The way “Pirates of the Caribbean 4” ends, I’m sure there’ll be a part 5 in the future. Hopefully without Penélope Cruz. Please, bring back Keira Knightley. Elizabeth ruled!

Three out of five stars: ***

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

J. K. Rowling press conference in Odense, Denmark, October 19, 2010

On October 19, 2010 J. K. Rowling received the first “H. C. Andersen Literature Award” in Odense Concert Hall, Denmark. In that connection she gave a press conference where she answered questions from the Danish and foreign press. Here is the transcript:

Q: What do you see as your greatest achievement?
Rowling: It’s a pleasure to put money for example towards medical research. Multiple sclerosis is an area that I’m interested in. That was the disease that killed my mother. To be able to do things like that is a real privilege. I never imagined that I would be able to do that in such a scale. I think I’ve always tried to do something, but it increases your power when you have the resources. I’m proud of that.

Q: What inspires you?
Rowling: Everything, to be honest with you. I really need to write and I needed to write from a very early age. Harry Potter was far from the first thing I had written and I need to write now. It hasn’t gone away. After the publication of the seventh Harry Potter book - which could have been a very, very difficult time for me – for a few days I felt berefted, I thought it was over. The thing that shocked me, the thing that moved me so much and upset me so much, was that I can’t write it anymore: How awful. Getting past that there was only one solution and that was to keep writing. So it’s very difficult for a writer to say what inspires them. It’s a mysterious process, but I remain inspired.

Q: Are you used to adults screaming and shouting when you enter a room like it happened today in the concert hall?
Rowling: It has happened before. I must be honest with you. I did an event in Carnegie Hall in New York which was the closest I’ll ever get to know how it felt to be a Beatle. It was an extraordinary thing and it was very similar today to walk into a room and have a reception like that. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t enjoy that. It was amazing, just fantastic.

Q: The entire Harry Potter story is soon finished in both books and films, so what would you say to all the Harry Potter fans who want more?
Rowling: I would say…oh, goodness, me…I would say, it’s not over in the sense that you can always go back and read them. I think I have probably written my last Harry Potter book, but I’m not going to say never. Always through all these years I’ve always said that I don’t want to rule out the possibility of another book, because I might want to do it. When I’ve had a ten year break – and I say ten years for some reason, but maybe it won’t take that long for me to feel the need again - then it is possible. So don’t be too sad.

Q: What does it mean to you personally to be connected with Hans Christian Andersen and what are you writing on now?
Rowling: He’s the Shakespeare of children’s literature, that’s who he is, that’s how great he was. The standard of his works was so consistently high. What is extraordinary about Andersen is, and I’m aware that like Shakespeare he didn’t invent all of his plots, yet it’s his stories that have become the definitive form. We all know Andersen’s versions from his fairy tales. So it is a massive honour. He was an extraordinary writer. My favourite of his stories is the one with the tin soldier and the paper ballerina, which I think is a beautiful, beautiful story and of course he invented that. That wasn’t a copy story. Yes, it’s an immense honour. What am I writing now? I’m writing several different things now. After the Harry Potter finish, it was as though I had the reverse of writer’s block. All those ideas I’d had to put in notebooks and put aside over the years that I was doing the Harry Potter books, I’m now going to explore. It’s sort of an explosion and it has been fun.

Q: Do your life feel empty now that Harry Potter is over?
Rowling: No, not at all because I’m still working very hard and I’m very fortunate in that I have three children and a very happy marriage. I’m not going to deny that the ending of Harry Potter was immensely difficult in some ways because I’d been writing it for seventeen years and it was seventeen quite turbulent years in my life and I was always able to return to Harry. It was a constancy in my life and I think if I hadn’t had other things in my personal life, after the books were finished it would have been very difficult for me. But no, my life is not empty. It’s the reverse of empty. I have a very busy life.

Q: Are you still in contact with the actors from the movies and are you close to them?
Rowling: Yes. Some more than others. And I can truly say that you’d have to go a long way to meet nicer, more intelligent, well-adjusted young people than those actors. I last saw most of them at the opening of the Harry Potter theme park, which was a really nice reunion. It was lovely and I write to a few of them: We have quite close relationships, which is really nice.

Q: Have you ever been in Odense – Hans Christian Andersen’s town – before and are you going to stay a few days?
Rowling: We arrived yesterday so my husband and I had a small explore yesterday which was very nice. It’s beautiful and I had no idea that Odense is so beautiful so we definitely need to come back and explore it some more.

Q: One of your colleagues in fantasy writing is Stephenie Meyer. Have you read Twilight?
Rowling: I’ve not read Twilight. I merely wrote to Stephenie when she… I don’t know how this happened because I’m not a computer expert, but it was reported in the press that one of her Twilight books had been accessed by someone who shouldn’t have had access to it, which must have been very distressing, and I merey wrote to her then and said that I could identify strongly with the difficulties of writing something that is very eagerly awaited which obviously is mostly pure pleasure, but occasionally it is a little straining. I had journalists searching my dustbins when I was writing Harry Potter and it was sometimes quite surreal. I’m quite glad to be away from that.

Q: What do you see as the future for fantasy for kids?
Rowling: I’ve always said and I maintain this, that there will always be fantasy and I think another author will be sitting here in a hundred years time and they will have written a book about magic. There is something very elemental and primitive and important to us about magic. We seem to have a need for it.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Weezer – Hurley


Weezer’s eighth studio album Hurley was released in September, 2010. Named after Hurley from Lost, it’s a quaint, up-beat pop rock album and the first one released on an idie label. It combines the elements from former Weezer albums, the intimacy, the anthems, the experimentalism and the out right great songs and you’ll detect threats back to pop and rock from the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties. It’s entertaining, energetic and enjoyable.
There is not one track on Hurley that I don’t like, but when that is said, I have to admit that I like the first part of the album better than the second. My favourite track is probably Memories, but it’s hard to decide, as there are several contenders. Memories is a catchy, dynamic songs with great lyrics about being Weezer for the past sixteen years seen from front man River Cuomo’s perspective. Truly a hilarious hymn to the band and its past.
Ruling Me is another great track. With its chunky guitars, steadfast drums and efficient chorus, this song is a piece of extremely well-composed pop rock.
Unspoken is also favourite of mine. Don’t let the acoustic guitar and Rivers Cuomo’s sweet vocal at the start of the track fool you. It builds up, the lyrics gets darker, the drums harder and the strings and guitars aggressive. True grit.
Finally I have to mention Where’s My Sex? I really like that track. Never mind if the lyrics are about sex or socks, I like the heavy guitars and overall sound, although the middle section seems a little out of place and like a completely different song.
As for the four bonus tracks, I like them all, especially All My Friends Are Insects written by Adam Deibert and Represent (Rocked Out Mix), the unofficial theme song for the US Men's Soccer team..
In short I find Hurley a great Weezer album. There’s something for everyone, no matter what Weezer era you prefer and it’s a good introduction album if you’ve never heard Weezer before. Thumbs up!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

ABIII


ABIII is the third album from Alter Bridge, released in October, 2010. Quickly fans and critics came to agree: this album is one of the best rock records of 2010 and I think they’re right. The album is darker than Alter Bridge’s previous ones and it’s not as easily digested, which is very becoming. It shows Miles Kennedy as the excellent front man that he is, Mark Tremonti gets to show off his guitar wizardry and Brian Marshall (bass) and Scott Phillips (drums) make up a tight, powerful rhythm section.
ABII consists of fourteen tracks, broody, melodic, heavy and dynamic. There are plenty of great songs to choose from like Isolation, Ghosts Of Days Gone By and I Know It Hurts, but my personal favourite is the album’s opener Slip To The Void. It sets the dark mood from the start and is completed by classic Tremonti riffs and Kennedy’s outstanding vocal performance. Epic.
Among my favourite tracks you’ll also find All Hope Is Gone, which starts of slow and broody, then picks of pace. Although it is a dark track, Tremonti’s riff adds an almost 16th century folk song atmosphere to it, completed by Kennedy’s soulful vocal.
Wonderful Life is also worth mentioning, a melancholic ballad, although uplifting in its delicacy. The album’s most beautiful song, in my opinion.
Finally I’d like to mention the sinister Coeur D'Alene, heavy and melodic at the same time with a crunching riff, great vocal and catchy chorus.
To me ABIII is Alter Bridge’s darkest and most elegant album so far with its superb vocal, riffs and harmonies. No matter if you’re an Alter Bridge fan or not, this album deserves a listen to, so give it a shot if you haven’t already. Maybe you’ll end up liking it as much as I do.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Gnomeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy subjected to garden gnomes and Elton John. That’s pretty much what the CG-animated movie ”Gnomeo and Juliet” is about and that’s not bad.
    The movie tells the story of the garden gnomes in the gardens of two neighbours, Mrs. Capulet and Mr. Montague who live in respectively 2B and Not 2B in Verona Street in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Mrs. Capulet’s garden gnomes are blue, Mr. Montague’s red, and blues and reds hate each other as much as their owners do. But of course the blue Gnomeo falls in love with the red Juliet and it turns out to be a difficult task to be lovers in the middle of a feud.
    The movie has quite a few funny Shakespeare in-jokes that you’ll only get if you know your Shakespeare and that way ”Gnomeo and Juliet” appeals more to an adult audience than kids. Furthermore the story has quite racy undertones, I mean, it’s perfectly clear what the size of the gnome hats are supposed to indicate!
    ”Gnomeo and Juliet” makes use of the voice talents of James McAvoy (Gnomeo), Emily Blunt (Juliet), Michael Caine (Lord Redbrick), Maggie Smith (Lady Bluebury), Ozzy Osbourne (Fawn), Dolly Parton (Dolly Gnome) and Patrick Stewart (Bill Shakespeare) - just to mention a few – and it is released through Touchstone Pictures. It is directed by Kelly Asbury, who also directed “Shrek 2”, so don’t be surprised if sometimes you get the feel that you’re watching “Shrek”. Especially Juliet’s character reminded me of Fiona from “Shrek” and the ending…well, see for yourself. The 3D effects were okay, by the way. Three out of five stars: ***

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Joe Matera – ”Face Off”

On May 2nd, former Geisha guitarist Joe Matera is releasing his new solo instrumental track named ”Face Off” which marks his return to his rock guitar roots after having released two acoustic tracks in 2010/2011.

“At the heart of my guitar playing lays a life long love affair with the electric guitar,” Joe Matera explains. ”After having delved into the world of acoustic guitar on my previous solo recordings, I felt the time was right to return to my primary first love; melodic rock guitar playing.”

”Face Off” is an energetic rocker featuring Matera’s signature melodic guitar playing. The track is written by Matera and as well as playing all the guitars, he also engineered and produced it. It is an exciting, melodic and breezy track where Matera’s guitar soloing follows in the tradition of guitarists such as Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen, Boston’s Tom Scholz and The Angel’s Rick Brewster. Rick Brewster actually makes a special guest appearance on one of the track’s guitar solos.

”Face Off” was mixed by Craig Pilkington (The Killjoys) at Audrey Studios, Melborn. Bass duties were handled by Tony ‘Demolition’ Dolan (Atomkraft, Venom), The track is released through Mercury Fire Music and will be available on iTunes from May 2nd. It is set to appear on Matera’s EP CD later this year, too.

For more information go to: http://www.joematera.com

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Don Powell biography blog

I now have a blog where you can follow the progress of my work with Slade drummer Don Powell’s official biography. You’ll find it at: http://www.donpowellbio.blogspot.com .
    In 2006 Don Powell asked me to write his biography and back then I thought it would be a 2 year project like any other of my books. Today I’m wiser.
    I decided on a format for the bio pretty quickly and the sources were to be Don’s diaries, interviews with Don and with his family, friends and colleagues. I started out making the interviews with Don and over the course of 3 years I made 14 interviews with him, amounting to a whopping 36 hours. The diaries I didn’t get until 2008 and as they go all the way back to the 1970s it took me several months to read through them and pick out what should be included in the biography and what not. By then a 2 year timeframe for the bio was out of the question and we postponed a possible release date until 2010.
    The work with interviewing Don’s family, friends and colleagues kicked off in December 2006. What first seemed to be a fairly easy part of the process, turned out more complicated than expected and I had to wait up to 4 years for some of the interviews that I needed. By February 2010 I thought I had made my last interview, but new contributors to the bio kept being added to the list and at the moment I’m still awaiting the comments from another 2 or 3 of Don’s colleagues.
    Then in November 2010 Don found a number of diaries which he thought he had lost. I’m still waiting to get those and yes, you have guessed it. We’ve had to postpone a possible release date yet another time. With a little luck I’ll finish the biography by December 2011, but I won’t guarantee it, as something new seems to pop up all the time. Anyway, on the new blog you’ll be able to follow the progress of the bio. Keep your fingers crossed that it won’t be a never-ending story!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Books I read in 2010

So far we’ve had a cold and snowy January here in Denmark. The pavements are icy and the snow at times so deep that you can’t get out of the house, anyway. Indoor activities are called for and one of my favourites is reading.
 If you need a little inspiration as to what to read, here’s a list of (some) of the books, including manga, that I read (or re-read) in 2010:

Abraham. Yamila: “Yaoi Hentai 1”
Burgess, Anthony: “A Clockwork Orange”
Boedker, Cecil: “Hungerbarnet”
Carroll, Lewis: “The Complete Illustrated Works of Lewis Carroll”
Faulkner, William; “The Sound and The Fury”
Geneser, Kenneth: “Europadroem”
Hatori, Bisco: “Ouran High School Host Club, vol. 12”
Hatori, Bisco: “Ouran High School Host Club, vol. 13”
James, Henry: “The Turn of the Screw”
Jarry, Alfred: “Supermale”
Jarry, Alfred: “UBU”
Levin, Ira: “Rosemary’s Baby”
Lindsay, Joan: “Picnic at Hanging Rock”
Llewellyn, A.J.:”Rent Boy”
Mankell, Henning: “Hugget”
Murakami, Maki: “Gravitation vol. 3”
Murakami, Maki: “Gravitation vol. 7”
Murakami, Maki: “Gravitation vol. 8”
Murakami, Maki: “Gravitation vol. 9”
Murakami, Maki: “Gravitation vol. 10”
Nakamura, Shungiku: “Junjo Romantica vol. 12”
Poe, Edgar Allan: “Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe”
Rowling, J. K.: “The Tales of Beedle the Bard”
Sandemo, Margit: “Trollbunnen”
Thimm, Jack: “Swinger det ik’”
Thimm, Jack: “Undervejs”
Townsend, Sue: “Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years”
Woodward; E. L.: “A History of England”
Zwigtman, Floortje: ”Ich, Adrian Mayfield”
Zwigtman, Floortje: ”Versuch einer Liebe”

Some of the books I read in English, some in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, German and French. That’s the great thing about knowing languages: you’re able to read a lot more books! I wish I did read Dutch a little better than I do, though, as the best book I read in 2010 was Floortje Zwigtman’s “Ich, Adrian Mayfield.” I had to read it in the German translation, as my Dutch isn’t good enough to read it in the original language. I hope it’ll be translated into English one day as it’s the most exciting, well-written thing I have read in decades!
I hope to be doing a lot of reading in 2011 as well, and thanks to my iPhone I now have Kindle, so it shouldn’t be a problem to always carry good literature with me. Happy reading, everyone!

It

One week has already passed since I saw the new movie-version of Stephen King’s horror novel ”It”. I should have written this re...