03 November 2009

The new new testament

In these days of brought out of blue ridiculous debate over national identity in France, one book comes to mind that I was shown by David G. last time I visited in Milan in spring this year. "Italianità" curated by Giulio Iacchetti is an amazing graphic design book that captures the essence of what it is to be Italian or, like the Wiktionary defines, "the peculiarities of Italians or their language or culture". 30 of those peculiarities are picked and commented (and beautifully illustrated by ale+ale), such as the Tabu licorice box, the Sambuca drink, the voting card, the Tabacchi sign, the comics Diabolik, the Gazzetta dello Sport, etc...

I guess it has to do with pop culture and daily life. The little things that you don't pay attention to much, that you might not share an interest about, but that are part of the landscape of signs that surround you. And in this regard, I find it easy to adopt a culture wherever I go. Parts of me are italian, french, japanese, israeli, american, british... I never think about these things really, they come naturally to me. I dislike the expression "citizen of the world", it resonates very dull in my mind. I just experience very strong cultural bonds wherever I go, wherever I live. I find myself enjoying the local lifestyle with a twist of my own blend. Usually, it comes first through experiencing food, graphic design, architecture, cinema and fashion. Which is probably why I hate shopping at Zara, H&M, Ikea and The Gap because you can find the stores everywhere.

I do have a problem though of adjusting to my own city, my own country. After all these years, I still haven't figured out how I can change the fact that I don't feel free in Paris. It gets on my nerves because I'd like to be able to stay in one place. Therefore the question for me is certainly not what is a national identity but what makes a place a home.


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08 April 2009

High-school hype

The French newspaper Le Figaro just released a ranking of the best high-schools in France. Turns out my old one, the Lycée Victor Hugo, is ranked 1st public school in the academy of Paris (2 private schools are ahead)! It's ranked 25th in France over 1915 (but most of the top ones are again private schools so it makes my high-school one of the best public school in France). It came a long way, baby so I'm rather pleased. When I attended the school between 1990 and 1993, it was rather average. There were a couple of amazing teachers, like my 1st Russian teacher, but overall none of them made a real positive impression (on the contrary, we had rather really terrible History and English teachers), while the impact my teachers from Junior high made on me is still fresh and enjoyable.
That said, the place itself was a cool stir of people : I got to meet there life-changing friends, I discovered with them and thanks to them some of the best music ever, like Nirvana, Faith no more, Pulp, Nick Cave, Sonic Youth among others (and we went to see all of the above in concert). We weren't hype by the then standards (although we would be very hype now), we were a group of music and pop-culture geeks, we hated being teenagers but we did love each other very much (and also argued with each other a lot a lot).

-- Joëlle.

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01 June 2007

Beatles Moments

What is a Beatles moment?
It's when something said, sung, played, shouted, staged (etc..) in a Beatles song catches the attention and sticks in the memory. For instance, one of my favorite is in the "A Day in the Life" bridge, the "ha, ha, ha" groan after Paul says "I noticed I was late" and then few lines later the way he pronounces "Found my way uptairs and had a SMOKE, and somebody SPOKE and I went into a dream". I heard the song, what?, hundreds of time, and I still get the chill when I catch those moments.
Apparently, I'm not the only one. I discovered this blog post through Le Monde website and its part 2. The writer made a .mp3 for a selection of these moments. He followed what seems like an exciting musicology seminar called "The Music of the Beatles", run by Pr. Gass at IU Music School who likes to think in terms of "Beatle moments".
I share many of his favorites and it gave me the opportunity to listen to the outputs with a spotlight on because isolated from the rest of the song. It's a different way to notice the extraordinary quality of all the elements that got into place in their compositions, from voice, to guitar, to intro, drums, transitions, pronunciations, etc..
Killer moments for me: When Paul says "Limousine" in "Your never give me your money", it breaks my heart. And the Marathonpacks blogger is right, his "You and I have memories, longer than the road that stretches out ahead" in "Two of Us" addressed to John is a tearjecker. Also, the way John sings in a chain the verses of "Across the Universe" without taking a moment of breath, the "Tum-Tum" of Ringo in "Every Little Things", the guitar intro of "I've Just Seen A Face", the "IRRRam in love with you" of George in "Do you want to know in secret?" with his delicious L'pool accent, not even 20 years old and still nervously mimicking somewhat John but clearly learning fast to be himself...
Today, Sgt Pepper's is 40. Which is why many articles are spreading around of course to write about how it's overestimated, underestimated, the Peter Blake's album cover, the LSD, the 1st concept album like it was planned to be so and what not: too many clichés to actually learn anything interesting.
I just remember that 20 years ago today, Sgt Pepper's was 20. And I was 12. This is about when I got seriously hooked up on the band. I have in mind a great documentary I saw on TV around then that I was lucky to tape on VHS: "It was twenty years ago today", a pertinent and definitive analysis of the album - and its repercussions, offering a take on each song. Many people who worked on the album, including no less than George Harrison and Paul McCartney, talk about it. But also, we hear comments by notorious contemporary audience. In particular, watch for Allen Ginsberg's analysis of "She's Leaving Home".

-- Joëlle

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