Friday, February 26, 2016

Oh, God that time of year again...

It's my birthday next week, an ominous rather than a momentous one, as I'll be forty-nine. How did that happen? Maybe adulthood will kick in soon, maybe not...

But before then there's still time for a bit of culture. I'm hoping to get along to the Anthony Burgess Foundation on Monday for Japan Now: Takasha Hiraide and Kyoko Yoshida. It always surprises me how little foreign literature we know these days, so this is a rare opportunity to find out about two contemporary Japanese writers. We all know the Japanese are obsessed with cats and Hiraide's "The Guest Cat" was a bestseller, whilst Yoshida is a dystopian short story writer. What's not to like?

My own chequered reading career continues next Thursday at Speakeasy at Sip Club, the new Stretford-based literary night that I'm going to for the first time and have signed up to the open mic. Its the day before my birthday (and my birthday clashes with a friend's 40th) so this is my unofficial birthday/literary drink if anyone wants to join me in the 'burbs. Earlier in the evening and just next to the tram stop (so no excuses for not doing both) is the new exhibition at Castlefield Gallery, an exciting exhibition of international so-called "outsider artists".

Out in the wider world, its been a funny couple of weeks, with the EU referendum negotiations completing and various arms of the Conservative Party manning the barricades, Dad's Army style to "leave Europe." It would be an absurdity and I wonder how it has come to this, but unfortunately it has, and depressingly there is a real risk that we could "Brexit", the least attractive neologism for some time. Any club with Boris Johnson, George Galloway, Michael Gove, and Nigel Farage as members, I don't want to be part of.

In the entertainment world, we're still mourning David Bowie, and his albums still hover near the top of the charts, whilst "tributes" from Lady Gaga at the Grammys and Lorde at the Brits, seem to indicate that none of our contemporary male "stars" have anything of his panache. I liked the Lorde tribute though "Life on Mars" feels overdone these days -  weirdly I think her song "Royals" from a year or so ago, was like a synthetic teen version of "Heroes" in some ways, with its sense of hope and longing. Only Rihanna (who I should really write a blog post about at some point) was equally uplifting at the Brits, though I do find that I like Adele's "When we were young" much more than the ubiquitous "Hello" - basically I like one song an album with Adele it seems, so this is her "Rolling in the Deep" or "Chasing Pavements" this time round; its got a bit of "Born to Run" to it, I think. Interestingly, as a connoisseur of past Brits' fiascos, I get the feeling that everyone these year was swamped by the pyrotechnics (literally so in Justin Beiber's case) of it all. Not for the first time, I think a lot of modern music suffers from only being a soundtrack to its own stage show. The "stars" are merely ciphers in this new spectacle, necessary but disposable. More to discuss later!

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