Entertainment


Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art
Christopher Moore

This is my first Moore (I know, I know) and I enjoyed very much in it. Here I hope this doesn’t mean I will not enjoy in his previous books (which I have on my never-decreasing to be read pile) since majority is like love previous= don’t like this one.

Three days ago I just peeked inside without intention to do more than just that: peek. But since the book started with one of my favourite work of art (“Wheatfield with crows” in front of which I spent hours and more that, than once) I was like hypnotized, obsessed by sacre bleu 😉 I know it’s just an expression but I literally couldn’t stop reading. Masterpieces after masterpieces (many of which I saw on my traveling), painters I knew so much about, now under totally different light, everyone knows each other; Belle Époque in Paris was never more tempting *sigh*.

I’m a slow reader and plus English is not my mother tongue but I stormed (for my standards) through this book in less than 3 days leaving behind cloud of blue dust 🙂

Yes the story went in all directions; he might have lost his compass but I didn’t mind whatsoever. It was funny, not hilarious but with those subtle (not always so subtle though) jokes that requires knowledge about the (real) characters. That’s probably the reason why I was bothered cause he decided to reveal last name of Oscar (Wilde) and especially (!!!) title of the novel he was about to write. I was like “Oh no! Why?” almost insulted with his presumption that I might don’t know what he’s writing about (and those who wouldn’t know without his “clarification” well… they should go back in elementary school and start all over again). Speaking of wittiness I’ll never think the same about the myth of Sisyphus (there’s only one sentence about it but still).
And of course I’ll never think the same about Toulouse-Lautrec ever, ever again! I had to remind myself more than once what I’m reading IS a fiction 🙂

Half trough the book you will probably realize … umm … well who is who but that will certainly not decrease you interest and spoil the journey. And when the journey is over you’ll most definitively have urge to make another one, to the nearest museum or gallery and meet … someone 🙂

Rag and Bone
~ A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead
by Peter Manseau

This book is one of my top 2009 reads; moreover before I sent it away I had to reread it 🙂

It is also probably most surprising reading experience I’ve had for a very long time. It’s a great travelog, it’s incredibly funny, equally educational, shocking (how surprising!), ticklingly blasphemous, and absolutely bizarre!

You really would not even imagine (if you’re unfamiliar with the world of relics like myself) what people are able to do with something (human origin) that consider sacred but even worse is to see what Church (!!!) is doing. I was really shocked so many times while reading this book.

First paragraph (I love it!):
”This is a book about dismembered toes, splinters of shinbone, stolen bits of hair, burned remnants of an anonymous rib cage, and other odds and ends of human remains, but it is not book about death. Around every one of the macabre artifacts that, for a variety of reasons, have come to be venerated as religious relics, circles an endless orbit of believers and skeptics, bureaucrats and clergy, con artists, and just plain curious souls. This is a book about life.”

Manseau has done fantastic research about the issue covering all major religions. There are very informative story about each relic while being part of precise human being and that’s very interesting. But the story of the body after soul continued its journey, is stunning! I found that my own religion as the most bizarre (probably because it’s mine). I was more than once reacted like “Oh gosh no! They didn’t! How could they?” and even “Oh hurry up and lets move to Buddhism!” (I‘m joking!) And then the most pathetic: “OK I’m Christian but at least I’m not Catholic”. There are many (I guess ) blasphemous moments; but then how not be blasphemous when you’re reading about Holy Prepuce (Jesus foreskin)!?!? I didn’t even know such thing even exists and is worshiped (by the way do you know the origin of the Saturn’s rings? Go figure! You wouldn’t believe; there is no way you would even guess!)! Or few churches that each enshrines a head of John the Baptist in the same time?!? I’ve seen in Spain part of The Cross (later I’ve found out there are so many pieces of that same cross that Romans must have deforest entire Middle East to made it) also I’ve seen the hand of some saint and then I thought it’s quite morbid (now I see that was actually light image).

What I liked is that Manseau is never offensive; I don’t think he’s hurting religious being in his readers. At least he didn’t hurt mine. He’s looking from a rational point of view on something which is in enormously large scale not rational whatsoever.
As I said he’s very witty and don’t expect from this book to be profoundly serious. Quite opposite; it looks like a coffee chat … OK I admit, the topic would be quite insane but still a coffee chat. And what I liked the most in this book is how people are 100% ready to believe in something so unlikely accurate and even to actually feel the sacred power of it; whether that is a shinbone or a pebble founded in the ash after cremation. It’s really amazing.

From the blurb:
”Manseau’s “Rag and Bone” reads like a novel, entertains like a TV docudrama, and educates like the best college professor you ever had. It is at once informative, quirky, and funny. Do people really think that the leathery tongue of 12th century saint can bless them with good fortune? They do. Why do people believe in such weird things as the holy relics of religion? Read this book to find out. WARNING: you may well discover that you also hold beliefs in holy relics and not even know it!”

Here I’d like to mention one vignette I found very interesting. It’s part of the relics in Buddhism, religion I know little about. The only Buddhist I know personally is my dear friend Shanna (whose BLOG is one of  virtual places I regularly visit; check why) who told me while visiting me in Belgrade something very interesting: That Buddhism is actually not religion but philosophy.  Reading this book helped me to fully realize her words.

There is a story in the book about the Temple of the Tooth in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. Of course it’s worshiped and moreover in Myanmar they made a replica equally worshiped as “the original”. As I said I knew little about Buddhism but I knew that much to see a mountain-sized contradiction. And here is an explanation:

There are two branches in Buddhism: one that is following Siddhartha’s words how we should disconnect ourselves from impermanent things in our life (which is basically everything) and the one that is doing completely opposite thing: that is worshiping something so undoubtedly impermanent such is human body (i.e. Siddhartha’s tooth) and even ready to die for. But what was incredibly surprising is that Siddhartha was fully aware that people would hear his sermons and understand what he had meant or they would hear them and understand the exact opposite. He never denied that he told people what they needed to hear to affect necessary change in their lives. He knew that his followers would take from his message parts they needed the most. For some that meant philosophy, for others that meant teeth.

So what about relics? And should they necessary be connected with religion? Are they mandatory sacred? What one relic could be?

“Relics seem to me to admit that, yes, while we do have spiritual dimension to our lives, we are also flesh under the looking glass of all those around us. Our lives and or deaths are witnessed by others, and what our lives might mean to them is mostly beyond our control. We are simultaneously people who need symbols to survive, and we are symbols ourselves. Our bodies – our toes and shins, our foreskins and ribs, our hands and whiskers, our teeth and hair – have the capacity to tell stories we can not imagine. And the facts of our lives can be as mysterious and in need of explanation as anything that lies beyond.”

This is without doubt one of the best nonfiction book I’ve read in years. I so didn’t expect this. I didn’t know what to expect at all. I was attracted with the bizarre topic it deals with and was hooked from the page 1.

OK so it happened. I’m pretty much puzzled what to think about this concert. You don’t have to be Madonna’s fan to know this is something you shouldn’t miss. Beside I liked her in my youth very much actually. I remember her concerts at the beginning of 1990-es  (“Blond Ambition World Tour” and “The Girlie Show World Tour”) and thinking if I’ll ever see something like this … oh well I didn’t.

I was hoping to go on her concert last year when she was in Montenegro because no one believed she’ll come back in the region. Well she did but it seems that vast majority of people from Serbia who were at the concert in Montenegro decided to stay home last night. Namely there were only 40000 people which is of course far less than what was expected. On the other hand, reviews from that last year’s concert weren’t bright whatsoever. Anyway I didn’t manage to be in Montenegro and when I heard she’s coming in Belgrade I knew it’s now or never (luckily my brother thought the same and gave me this for birthday). As I said that’s something you just don’t miss no mater if you’re not her fan. There are only few artists who are living legends who fits in this category (sadly Michael Jackson is not anymore one of them so I’ll definitively not see him live). I’ve already seen “Rolling Stones” and now after Madonna I really don’t know who could be added in this group? Who is such an institution on the global scale?

Concert itself was true spectacle. Light, laser, computer, dancers, 8 huge mobile LED screens … all effects were absolutely perfect. Of course she is inhumanly fit considering her age. She danced like 10-20 years ago… But then, she wasn’t the same Madonna as she was 10-20 years ago. Her music has evolved and I’m not sure if I like direction she took. She is (and will probably remain) the biggest pop icon ever but the music she’s making now is hardly pop; or if it is it has so many techno spices that it makes special subgenre.

Concert (after exactly an hour delay. That was very surprising. I’m not even sure if she was aware that she’s late) started with “Candy Shop” and really, as much as you were pissed cause you’re standing an hour like an idiot in that moment every negative emotion just vanishes. I mean, the moment when you’re ACTUALLY looking at Madonna only few (tens of) meters from you really shocks you. It does have an impact: at first you are paralyzed like and then you just go wild.

Concert was divided in four parts: First part “Pimp” was homage to art-deco of 1920-ies. After introducing animation she appears sitting on the “M”-shaped throne. The peak of this part is “Vogue” in new design mixed with tones from “4 minutes”.

Second part “Old School” reminding us on her beginnings 1980-ies. I LOVED her “Get Into the Groove” with fantastic paints of Keith Haring (whom I like as well and whose reproduction I even have on my wall). I think this was my favourite part. You know here she was real Madonna, true pop queen.

Third “Gypsy” part was filled with Latino rhythm. There was a Ukrainian Gypsy band who played “La Isla Bonita” mixed with some traditional gypsy songs. It was interesting but I’m afraid that the change of one of her greatest hits ever was so drastic that it became different song. I’m not sure did I like that too much. Later, Gypsies had their solo performance which I’m sure was absolutely stunning in Western Europe, North America or Australia but she came in the part of the world where world’s best gypsy music is producing and I really doubt that anyone was fascinated with that part. I mean common gypsy band in some tavern in Serbian (or Romanian or Bulgarian) province would put more fire and heart in their songs. So the folks here really are used to really go wild with gypsy music so I’m afraid Ukrainians didn’t even produce a sparkle in the audience but hey we are tolerant so we waited Madonna to take microphone. But then when she took she sung “You Must Love Me” from “Evita” which was really slow and didn’t stimulate the mass.

Final part “Rave” was a mix of Far East choreography and visual effects and electronic music and it was OK. It ended with “Give It To Me” which was absolutely fascinating and the very peak of the concert. her commuication with audience was phenomenal during that song, she was giving microphone to the peoples in first raw and whole mass was dancing like crazy. Too bad that climax meant also the end.

There were few very special moments such is tribute to Michael Jackson (this video is not from last night’s show but from London but it was exactly the same so I’m putting it). Indeed, “Long live The King!”

There were no too many shocking things (after all elections in US are over) but since she’s known for her political and ecological activism there were one segment dedicated to this. Namely during video break and song “Get Stupid” which has had the theme global warming, ecological disasters, craziness of consumer society, political dictatorships… there were scenes with Hitler, Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong-il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iranian religious leaders, scenes from political rallies after presidential elections in Iran few months ago including the death of  ‘Neda’ video.
Then there was images of destruction and comes one very curious part. Namely on the big screen along with scenes of destruction and bombing appears US flag. Now, without any euphemisms we are not very fond of American foreign politics in last 15 years (we’ve been bombed, US opinion about Kosovo is completely opposite of ours, those are two issues among many other bead ones) so I was curious to see reaction of the audience but (surprisingly!) there was no any. And then image of Barack Obama appeared and the audience reacted with ovations! I so didn’t expect that and I must say I was thrilled with it. I don’t know if he’ll bring some big changes that will have some positive influence on our lives but I’m so glad to see that change has happened in our minds and that we do have faith in American peoples’ choice.

All in all this was good concert but I did have highest expectations. There were not enough big hits (there were beside the ones I mentioned) “Like a Prayer”, “Music”, “Frozen”, “Holiday”, “4 Minutes”. So the set list wasn’t the happiest one; it was more warm/cold when the crowd sunk into delirium after some hit goes something that calms atmosphere down and so on. Too many average songs spiced with cruel, cold professionalism. Communication with the audience was solid but for our standards not nearly enough (just for the record Mick Jagger talked with us IN SERBIAN!).

Now when I’ve mentioned again concert Rolling Stones had I knew they’ve made standard that (I honestly believe) no one will be able to achieve but I didn’t expect that difference between that one and last night’s, Madonna’s, the grates pop icon EVER will be so enormous!

It was a good concert indeed, it was amazing spectacle and I would regret horribly if I have missed it. But that wasn’t nearly the concerts I watched 15 years ago fantasizing to be there.

OK before you enter this site I’m advising you to empty your mouth and sit preferably on the chair without wheels. I spilled coffee all over my desk plus I was sitting on the chair with wheels. I almost fell. Apparently I’m very late but I just discovered Dickipedia. It’s the same as well known Wikipedia but “slightly” different. It’s “A wiki of dicks”.

It has quite huge list of all sorts of dicks: Political, Entertainment, Sport, International, Media, Miscellaneous etc –dicks and under each category list of them. I must say I checked only few and I’m so bookmarking this site! Each entry starts with usual introduction and at the end goes their title of dick! Then you’ll find history and present live that on numerous occasions confirms their dickness! There are lots of name there. Just to name some with little glimpse of their story:

Hillary Rodham Clinton

“…Clinton’s campaign strategy originally hinged on how many voters would confuse her with her husband. As the candidate pool got narrowed down to Clinton and a black man, Barack Obama, news reporters became increasingly focused on the divide between white women and African-Americans. Clinton decided to take the only appropriate course of action for a woman in her situation: exploit the latent racism among white men. Luckily, just before she dropped out of the race, she was able to salvage her public image by suggesting her opponent could potentially be assassinated.

In 2009, Hillary Rodham Clinton was confirmed as secretary of state by a group of Republicans she bonded with over mutual hatred of their new leader….”

Sarah Palin

“…Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain performed perhaps the greatest political mindfuck in American history by announcing that he had chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin celebrated by ovulating…”

Pope Benedict XVI (born Joseph Alois Ratzinger)

“…he is a dick who holds a position historically held by dicks, and which actually requires you to wear a hat that kind of looks like a dick… In his first recorded instance of hypocrisy, 14-year-old Joey Ratz (as he was known around “the neighborhood”) joined the Hitler Youth as one of their “future Aryan supermen” or “super-dicks.” The Pope Formerly Known as Ratzinger now insists that his membership in the Nazi Party was “unenthusiastic” and that he refused to attend meetings, which is a lot like saying you’re just a “casual member” of the Klan and only participated in, like, four or five lynchings, tops.

Another notable feat of hypocrisy was Ratzy’s attendance at Saint Michael Seminary while simultaneously training in the German infantry’s anti-aircraft corps. The dickish ability to see no conflict between Jesus’ commandment to love thy neighbor and Hitler’s commandment to violently murder millions of Jews should have served as a sign that the Papacy couldn’t be too far off.

…Benedict XVI has said that rock music is the work of Satan and has spoken out against such pagan/devil worshippers as Bob Dylan”

Of course there is a (real) Dick (Cheney) as well! I just really don’t understand how on earth George W Bush (or the one without W) is missing??? Gosh, he’s not even a dick!

9th May is Day of Victory over fascism and also Day of Europe and as such is celebrated including in Serbia. When I say celebrated I mean that all European embassies participate in some projects mostly cultural. So in the main pedestrian zone here in Belgrade each of European embassies has had its stand where citizens might get known closer culture of certain country. Cynical as Serbs became toward Europe in last few years the comments were more like “I rather see and feel personally your culture than to look brochures” and I agree. Truth I traveled most than vast majority of my compatriots but still I’m finding all this embassy-activities kind of hypocritical.

Anyway mostly everything we were hearing, getting and associating with Europe and “European values” (as if we here live according to some Martian values) have some bitter taste of insincerity that’s why I wasn’t interested whatsoever to go and see what’s happening in pedestrian zone in last Saturday. But I was preparing to go on something different the same day in the evening. It’s European and is very welcomed!

Like many, I’ve heard about Leningrad Cowboys for the first time thanks to amazing Aki Kaurismäki and his movies “Leningrad Cowboys Go America”, “Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses” and the “Total Balalaika Show”. That only because I’m huge Kaurismäki fan. And then on my last year’s trip to the north (Finland) we were watching “Total Balalaika Show” in the bus. They were fantastic. It’s one of those concerts that if I would have to pick one to see most probably I’d pick that one. They were performing along with Russian Alexander ensemble (160 members) in Helsinki with 70000 spectators. It was absolute craziness!

They are Finnish band whose members look … well I have no idea what word to use here. Just observe the photo. Their hairstyle, costumes, stage… and their repertoire is from Russian folk songs (which I adore!) to rock and roll performing immortal hits of The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin … etc. It’s such an original approach and condemned to produce fantastic experience!

Needles to say that I was utterly thrilled when I heard they are coming in Belgrade! And LOL on the entrance I saw almost entire crew from the trip. People who I haven’t see, nor hear for months! “We couldn’t miss this!” everyone said.

Sadly, sadly, sadly the promoting campaign before concert wasn’t nearly as it should’ve been! “Leningrad Cowboys” are completely unknown for Serbian audience. My friends who were at the concert with me would never go unless I didn’t talk about it. Therefore there were not as many people as I was hoping to see. And the hall organizers picked was such a bad choice: It’s huge and with seats!!! Why on earth seats??? So of course the very first sentence Tipe Johnson said was: “Get your butts off those seats! No one is sitting where we are coming from!” and we were obedient! and then they started: “Back In the USSR”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Whiskey In a Jar”, “Perfect Day”, “Easy Livin”, “Smoke On the Water”

Communication with the audience was fantastic (which is very important for us. I don’t know if that’s the case everywhere but we generally have some impression that something was lacking if the concert was phenomenal but communication with audience poor). Anyway Johnson spent good part of the concert among us in the audience, was calling one kid on the stage to play special tractor-like guitar, was giving microphone to see our vocal abilities…

For the end as an icing on the cake was Tom Johns’ “Delilah” and then “Those Were the Days”. Then they left the stage but we refused to go so they came back with “Eloise” and David Bowie’s “Starman”.

Tipe Jonson said: ”I don’t know do you know but we know that we are for the first time here in Belgrade! And we are very glad to be here and you will be glad as well for being here tonight because you’ll say one day to your grandchildren that you saw “Leningrad Cowboys” when they played in Serbia for the first time!”

Not sure about grandchildren but I surely do have what to talk about!

I had to post this! Just look little Lily:

and then you can check these MORONS! (click)

stonesOK it’s very strange to say when you are 30 years of age (as a matter of fact as of today so Happy Birthday to me! Wee!!!) since I’d like to believe that 30 is not “old” that experience you have is the best one you’ll ever feel. In spite the fact that hopefully decades are in from of you. But I really cannot imagine that I shall ever be part of better concert than the one from last Saturday, 14th July.

I should say that we in Serbia have ‘history of waiting Stones to come rolling’ and we all believed that they will come after Godot. In past few years their concert has been canceled several times. We even have a saying that whoever bring Stones in Serbia will win next elections. So when the concert has been announced we didn’t have high hopes; then the tickets has been released and we bought them and still we didn’t have high hopes (because once concert has been canceled in spite the tickets) and then day after day idea of the concert has becoming more and more realistic until the final day. We went, enter the concert space, looking at the stage, listen other musicians who were play and still without real knowledge that in a few hours the Stones will be on that same stage! So we were waving our bodies with “Elecrtic Orgasm”, cult Serbian rock band (I’m a huge fan) and “The Answer” from Belfast who were giving us some homage to Led Zeppelin and AC/DC; luckily Stones generation is familiar with that sound. and then after some dense psychological pause it came dark…

… and dark … and then small light in the distance … and the crowd started to scream … and the light has becoming brighter … and brighter … and screams were louder … and louder … and the light brighter … and scream louder … and light brighter … and bigger … and then … BANG! … ‘Start me up’ … partly blind we were starting to realize: this is THE moment: They ARE here!

stones
(I was 15 meters in front of this moving stage)

I don’t know … I was standing in shock and looking at those men convincing myself that I am there and they are there as well and even though it looks exactly as on TV it’s not TV (or if so I’m on TV). I was standing and thinking That shit I’ve spent my youth in is over … OVER! (probably my youth as well LOL) and then I become wild.

After first song Jagger said “Dobro veče Srbijo! Zdravo Beograde! Presrećni smo što smo ovde!” (Good evening Serbia! Hello Belgrade! We are very happy to be here!) and after that he was holding more than 50000 people in his hand. He was actually speaking in Serbian after almost every song “Ja se odlično zabavljam! A vi?” (I’m having great fun! Are you?) …“Konačno smo ovde” (We are finally here) … finally indeed!
I wont lie, when Keith Richards said “Welcome to the club!” my eyes were filled with tears. This might sound silly for you; maybe you think it’s just another concert, not big deal. Oh but it is, it is!

Of course they are great professionals and great institution and legends and whatnot so you shoud expect at least perfection. And of course, perfection is what you’ll get. At least.
It will not be exaggeration if I say that we’ve got that night much, much more.

stones

It was evident that Jagger and the crew have felt enormous positive energy. And nothing else will be the same again (I’m saying that with all risk to be pathetic). When you once live picture of high resolution it will be impossible that anyone in the future will manage to sell you some domestic or foreign forgery. 50000 people will remember 14th July 2007 as a day they become part of the world.

It was our Bang, The Biggest Bang!