Tuesday, October 27, 2015

writing history

Asterix: Le papyrus de César

The 36th Asterix album – the second from the new team, Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad – addresses a question of utmost importance for the historical consistency of the whole oeuvre: Why on earth did Caesar not mention the indomitable Gauls and their numerous victories against his legions in his famous De Bello Gallico? Did he falsify the historical record by omission? Are all the zillions of schoolchildren who start their Latin reading with “Gallia est omnis divisa …” fed a pack of lies?

The issue is addressed with a very satisfying story, resulting in an album worthy to be read alongside the Golden Era ones written in the years before Goscinny died. On the basis of this story, there are deep discussions to be had about how history is written, the contribution of reportage, the value of oral tradition, and the philosophy of truth. Oh, and the vanity of writers and the publishing industry. And Assurancetourix the bard (Cacofonix / Troubadix) plays an early example of a Stroh cello, so what’s not to love?

Intriguingly, this arrived on my doorstep just after I started reading another recently published book featuring the origins of Caesar’s famous opus. In the third volume of his fictionalised biography of Cicero, Robert Harris imagines Cicero’s secretary Tiro visiting Caesar in Gaul and reading the beginning of his 12th chapter: “Flumen est Arar quod per fines Haeduorum et Sequanorum in Rhodanum influit, incredibili lenitate ita ut oculis in utram partem fluat iudicari non possit.” Seeing that Tiro is believed to have written a biography of Cicero which is lost, while Caesar’s book is so ubiquitous that it would survive the apocalypse, this encounter between two authors is also an interesting reflection on the vagaries of history writing.

looks like a fragment of the lost scroll survived in the font of the word "papyrus" - maybe the authors should reveal that in full ...

PS: here's an interview with the creators, from the Guardian.

Monday, October 19, 2015

killing the wrong animals

I don't often write about food, but when October approaches I somehow feel obliged to contribute to the various harvest festivities happening in the northern hemisphere, so I wrote a feature about humanity's unsustainable hunger for meat from an ecology / evolution perspective.

The feature is out now:

Can we change our predatory ways?

Current Biology Volume 25, Issue 20, pR965–R967, 19 October 2015

abstract and open access to full text, PDF file

A vegan cafe/shop I snapped on my recent visit to Leipzig, Germany.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Alexander Calvelli @ Freudenthaler Sensenhammer

The painter Alexander Calvelli, whose work I have been following for a while, has a new exhibition coming up at a small museum in Leverkusen, the Freudenthaler Sensenhammer (a place where they used to make scythes). I just love the name of the place, and Alexander tells me it's a lovely little museum mainly run by volunteers.

The exhibiton Alexander Calvelli - Hämmer & Sicheln - Arbeitswelten opens on the evening of Oct. 23rd:

11. Leverkusener Kunstnacht
Freitag, 23.10.2015, 19.00 Uhr (Einlass 18.00 Uhr)
details

Monday, October 12, 2015

how to wake up sleeping beauties

Among the German publications in September/October we have sleeping beauties (research papers that find belated fame), green roads into the future (made of algal residues), and even one serious article about artificial cells:

Nachrichten aus der Chemie Vol 63 Issue 9, page 967
Ausgeforscht: Grüne Straße in die Zukunft
DOI: 10.1002/nadc.201590318

Nachrichten aus der Chemie Vol 63 Issue 10 pages 1002–1004
Blickpunkt Biowissenschaften: Künstliche Zellen
DOI: 10.1002/nadc.201590319
related content in English

Nachrichten aus der Chemie Vol 63 Issue 10, page 1051
Ausgeforscht: Dornröschen wachgeküsst
DOI: 10.1002/nadc.201590340

Monday, October 05, 2015

how life shaped Earth

History of Life on Earth - a special issue of Current Biology with lots of goodies is now online.

For my contribution, I looked at Earth from an astrobiology angle and examined some of the many ways in which life caused it to become different from our neighbouring planets and much more complex in its chemistry and geology.

How life shaped Earth
Current Biology Volume 25, Issue 19, pR847–R850, 5 October 2015

Open access

Table of Content

Friday, October 02, 2015

more films we're not allowed to see

Back in 2010 I started a blog entry listing interesting (mostly European) movies that did not get a cinematic release in the UK. Many updates later, this entry has become just a little bit unwieldy, with two lists running in opposite directions, so I suspect I’m the only one who still finds anything in that entry (although it has been viewed more than 2500 times and is among the five most-viewed entries of all time).

Thus, I decided to start from scratch with a clean slate and just one list of films running chronologically forward, so starting with the earliest ones. I’ll start with films produced in 2012, because that’s where the old review/appreciation list fizzles out (unlike the watch list, which also included films that were more recent and those that I hadn’t seen yet). Within each year, the films that I actually managed to see are listed first.

So, without further ado, off we go:

Camille redouble (Camille rewinds) - France 2012, Noémie Lvovsky - Charming if slightly illogical time travel story featuring the director in the lead role. It was - released in around a dozen countries but no UK date in sight.

La fille de nulle part - France 2012, Jean-Claude Brisseau - this low-budget ghost story looks like poor old Brisseau is now reduced to filming in his own flat and playing the lead himself, but it is still interesting.

Mapa para conversar (A map for love) - Chile 2012, Constanza Fernandez, starring Andrea Moro, Mariana Prat, Francisca Bernardi - three women in a cute little chamber piece mostly set on a small boat. Restrictions clear the mind, as one of the characters says. Available on DVD from the lovely peccadillo pictures.

Des morceaux de moi (Pieces of me) - France 2012, Nolwenn Lemesle, starring Adele Exarchopoulos (before she became famous in that other role) - growing up in a dysfunctional family in the middle of nowhere (in this case Picardie, northern France) can be hell, as the contrast between Adele Exarchopoulos' character, Erell, and everything around her demonstrates. Erell tries to cope by recording a video diary of her daily life, thus locking up her teenage trauma in a little box which she can eventually leave behind.

Una pistola en cada mano - Spain 2012, Cesc Gay - Shown in Germany (Ein Freitag in Barcelona), and at the London Spanish Film Festival 2013.
Die Vermessung der Welt (Measuring the world) Germany 2012, Detlev Buck. Adaptation of Daniel Kehlmann's bestselling novel.
Klip (Clip) - Serbia 2012, Maja Milos
Weil ich schöner bin - Germany 2012, Frieder Schlaich
El amigo aleman (The German friend) - Germany, Argentina 2012, Jeanine Meerapfel
3 - Uruguay, Argentina, Germany 2012 - Pablo Stoll - oops, there are too many movies called 3, I was looking for this one and first found the one below, and got all confused.
Tres - Ecuador, Argentina, Germany 2012
3 Zimmer/Küche/Bad (Move) - Germany 2012
Baad el Mawkeaa (After the Battle) - France / Egypt 2012
Después de Lucía - Mexico / France 2012
A perdre la raison - Belgium 2012, Joachim Lafosse, starring Emilie Dequenne
Buscando a Eimish - Spain 2012, Ana Rodríguez Rosell, starring Manuela Vellés, Emma Suárez - shown at the London Spanish Film Festival 2012
Joven y alocada - Chile 2012, Marialy Rivas
Goltzius and the Pelican Pelican Company - UK 2012, Peter Greenaway


Angélique (I) - France 2013, Ariel Zeitoun - A fresh-looking new adaptation of the bestselling history romances by Anne and Serge Golon. I admit I watched part of it during travels in a hotel room and kind of liked it, so I ordered the DVD. Review to follow.

Landes - France 2013, François-Xavier Vives, starring Marie Gillain - gloomy reflections on life, boredom and social problems in the vast pine forests near Bordeaux set in the early 20th century. Compare and contrast with Therese Desqueyroux, starring Audrey Tautou, which did get a UK release.

Jack et la mécanique du coeur (Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart) - France 2013, Stéphane Berla, Mathias Malzieu - interesting CGI-fairy tale in a surreal steampunk-style setting. One could spend hours unpicking cultural references from Jules Verne through to modern ones.

Las brujas de Zugarramurdi (Witching and bitching) - Spain 2013, Alex de la Iglesia, starring Carolina Bang, Carmen Maura. Shown at various festivals in the US and UK. Too much horror and buddy movie for my tastes, so I won't even attempt to review it, but here's the New York Times' take on it.

Flores raras (Reaching for the Moon) - Brazil 2013, Bruno Barreto
Ayer no termina nunca (Yesterday never ends) - Spain 2013, Isabel Coixet - shown at the Berlin International Film Festival 2013, and at the London Spanish Film Festival 2013
La marche - France 2013, Nabil Ben Yadir, starring Hafsia Herzi - I only know about this film because the trailer is on a DVD I own, probably one I bought in France.


Todos estan muertos - Spain/Germany/Mexico 2014, Beatriz Sanchis, starring Elena Anaya - the first full-length feature from Sanchis is a nice little film on a former pop singer traumatised by the accidental death of her brother and bandmate. Mecano may have been a musical inspiration. Only released in Spain and Mexico, and shown at a few festivals.

Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles - France 2014, Cécile Telerman, starring Emmanuelle Béart - a spirited defense of authors' rights, in a way. Based on the best-selling novel by Katherine Pancol.

Ocho apellidos vascos (Spanish affair) - Spain 2014, Emilio Martínez Lázaro - only shown at the London Film Festival 2014.
Sous les jupes des filles - France 2014, Audrey Dana
Marie Heurtin (Marie's story) - France 2014, Jean-Pierre Améris, starring Isabelle Carré
Week-ends - France 2014, Anne Villacèque - released in Germany as "Wochenenden in der Normandie"
Au fil d'Ariane (Ariane's thread) - France 2014, Robert Guédiguian - released in Germany in Dec 2014 as "Café Olympique - Ein Geburtstag in Marseille"
Las insoladas (Sunstrokes) - Argentina 2014, Gustavo Taretto - released in Germany in August 2015.
Respire (Breathe) - France 2014, Mélanie Laurent - shown at lots of festivals around the world, released in half a dozen countries.


Ma ma - Spain 2015, Julio Medem, starring Penelope Cruz - !!!UK release 24.6.2016!!!, see my review here.

Journal d'une femme de chambre (Diary of a chambermaid) - France 2015, starring Léa Seydoux, shown at the Berlinale, all of which is sadly no guarantee that we will get to see it here (except in the French Film Festival UK showing in a small number of cities.)
Mi gran noche (My great night) - Spain 2015, Alex de la Iglesia, starring Carolina Bang.
Le gout des merveilles - France 2015, Eric Besnard.


Egon Schiele: Tod und Mädchen (Death and the maiden) - Austria / Luxembourg 2016
Paula - Germany 2016, Christian Schwochow. A biopic of painter Paula Modersohn-Becker.
Marie Curie - France 2016, Marie Noelle.


to be continued ... - last updated 19.01.2017

One of our lovely independent cinemas here, not their fault that they're not getting all these films. (Own photo)

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