I've written before
about Bletchley Park, when, in 2008, closure seemed imminent and the UK government seemed unable and unwilling to do much to keep it alive. Now Google has offered to help restore Bletchley Park --- an admirable endeavour that is very welcome, given the site's significance in World War II history. As a sidenote, it is a real shame that we have now come to depend on multinational corporations in order to preserve our monuments.
Ten for Grandpa
If only all shorts were as well directed, captivating and sublime as this one! Loved it.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver (2011)
Two days of listening to Bon Iver (the new album) by Justin Vernon's synonymous band. Part of me admires this guy for evolving, for moving on and not capitalising on what he achieved with 'For Emma, Forever Ago' three years ago. Yet another part of me is sad; all that made "For Emma" the jewel it is, is all but gone from this album: the emotion, the pain, the pure, unadulterated sound and simplicity of Vernon's voice + his acoustic guitar. Without arrangements, without electronics and fx*
, without guest musicians or overengineered sonic landscapes. That's where 'Bon Iver' is different to its predecessor and so much like other contemporary indie/folk albums: there may be some glimpses, sporadic moments of brilliance that reminded me why I liked the band in the first place, but as a whole it's an average album. But then again, it is clear to me that 'For Emma' was the exception, not only because of how it was produced (the product of a three month seclusion at a cabin in northwestern Wisconsin), but also because of the ripple it created exactly because it was so authentic yet so different to everything else that made it stand out. In that respect 'Bon Iver' is nowhere near 'For Emma' territory, but still an album that showcases Vernon's songwriting ability and unique voice.
* Ok, there is some autotune in use in For Emma..But it really doesn't detract from the statement above.
Brett Garsed – Dark Matter (2011)
It's nine years since Brett Garsed's last solo album, Big Sky. And while his output has more or less declined in volume this past decade, his latest album, Dark Matter is a great example of contemporary Rock Fusion, along the lines of Big Sky as well as many of his numerous appearances and collaborations.
Although I only got the album a few hours ago, I have found it to be particularly interesting in that it literally 'fuses' (pun intended!) several familiar --- at least to me --- related styles: Vintage Satch, Liquid Tension Experiment, touches of Holdsworth, Fripp, Metheny and Shawn Lane.
The tracks are more upbeat and energetic than those found in Big Sky; jazzier at times, heavier in others, with a distinct bent on fusion. I particularly enjoyed Avoid the Void, Dark Matter and Enigma, although I cannot say that any of the other tracks were disappointing.
Dark Matter may be an interesting album, yet it is somewhat typical of the genre, which has been largely stagnant for years. It may lack the exceptional feel one finds at times in Big Sky --- there are no tracks like Trinity or Drowning, for example --- but includes many tracks with more uplifting, polished and --- I might argue --- technical deliveries of interesting compositions and improvisations that lean heavily on Garsed's signature technique and sound.
For those enjoying rock fusion, progressive rock and virtuoso guitar instrumentals this is definitely an album worth getting and listening to. Those more familiar with Garsed's competence and compositional skills (and more demanding of their music) may have expected a bit more.
In 2008 Canon released the EOS 5D Mark II. This was the successor to the synonymous (Mark I) camera that made full-frame DSLRs accessible to people unwilling to spend a small fortune to get one — the EOS 1Ds usually costs around $8,000 when a new revision of it is released. But it was also […]
Mark Mazower is perhaps one of the most prominent historians of his generation, one that I respect and whose works I've have studied extensively over the past decade. This is his latest article on the NY Times and a good read; it may not be comprehensive --- as no newspaper article could ever be --- it may skim over a two thousand year period, in the process making an impossibly romantic, and if it weren't for its author I'd dare call it naive, argument: that Greece has repeatedly throughout its history had a leading role in shaping world events by being a forerunner of (r)evolution. The argument is romantic and flattering, but it's also flawed. It purposefully ignores that Greece has long lost its position as an enviable country (if it ever really had one) and nation, that it encompasses a society, a state and (a modern) culture admired by very few people that can discern between Classical Greece and Modern Greece. It hides the fact that since the founding of the modern Hellenic state in 1830, it is seldom Greece (the state) or its people that have chosen to shape the world, as Mazower puts it, but rather the world that has repeatedly coerced, if not forced, it to partake in its experiments, a guinea pig of sorts, the testing ground for change; whether for the imposition of western european monarchy on newly constituted nation-states in the 19th century, the fight against the Axis, the field testing of napalm in the 1940s, or the slow dismantling of the post-WWII status quo in Europe and the West that's happening now. In that respect, Mazower's article is unfounded and misleading; it makes the same mistake so many western historians, philhellenes and intellectuals have made over the past two hundred years: it flatters an intellectually, politically and economically corrupt state and an ignorant yet proud people by ignoring the very causes of their predicament, viewing the world through the stained rose tinted glasses of its long and glorious history and a form of nationalism, irrational as it always is. And that is the last thing that Greece needs, right now and --- arguably --- has ever needed.