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În scrierea articolelor pentru rubrica CHANGE.WORLD şi a multor altor documente folosesc editorul Microsoft Word. Este puţin artificial dat find că de mulţi ani calculatoarele mele personale sunt MacBook ale firmei Apple, dar m-am obişnuit cu acest editor din perioadele în care compania la care lucram era ‘standardizată’ cu folosirea pachetului de programe Office ale lui Microsoft, din ecosistemul sistemelor lor de operare. Obişnuinţa fiind a două natură şi deoarece doream să transfer în mod transparent documente de pe un sistem pe altul, am folosit şi continui să folosesc un program care practic emulează funcţiile şi comportamentul programelor lui Microsoft chiar dacă sunt rulate pe calculatoare Apple. Despre Microsoft m-aţi citit criticând sau bodogănind de-a lungul timpului, dar ceea ce această companie a dobândit în sfertul de secol de când domină piaţa programelor personale este previzibilitatea funcţionării dublată de familiaritatea utilizatorului cu interfeţele grafice şi funcţiile ‘mouse’-ului. Nu sunt programele cele mai eficiente, nu sunt în cele mai multe cazuri nici măcar inventate de către Microsoft, dar sunt destul de bune şi au câştigat în timp şi stabilitate. Putem găsi familia Office astăzi pe calculatoarele care rulează sisteme Windows desigur, dar şi pe calculatoare Apple, pe tablete, sau pe telefoane inteligente. Secretul versabilitatii şi al portabilităţii constă într-un concept pe care aş dori să-l detaliem puţin în cele ce urmează – compatibilitatea.

Să începem însă cu două definiţii – ‘backward compatibility’ (compatibilitate în urmă sau înapoi) şi ‘forward compatibility’ (compatibilitate în viitor sau înainte).

‘Backward compatibility’ este proprietatea unui sistem, a unei tehnologii, sau a unui produs care permite interoperabilitatea cu o versiune mai veche a sistemului, produsului sau tehnologiei (numită uneori ‘legacy’ – moştenire) sau care permite acceptarea şi prelucrarea informaţiei primite de la un astfel de sistem, produs sau tehnologie.

‘Forward compatibility’ este proprietatea unui sistem, a unei tehnologii sau a unui produs care permite acceptarea şi prelucrarea informaţiei primite de la versiuni viitoare ale sistemului, produsului sau tehnologiei.

 

sursa imaginii https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff649901.aspx

sursa imaginii https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff649901.aspx

 

Majoritatea dintre noi suntem consumatori de produse sau de servicii. Din perspectiva noastră ‘backwards compatibility’ înseamnă că produsul pe care îl avem în mâna sau în casă trebuie să continue să funcţioneze în condiţiile în care furnizorul de servicii a trecut la versiuni mai avansate ale sistemului. Asta se întâmplă în mod curent cu telefoanele mobile, sau cu cutia de adaptor pe care companiile de televiziune şi Internet prin cablu o montează în casele utilizatorilor. ‘Forwards compatibility’ înseamnă că dacă am cumpărat o varianta mai avansată a unui produs, serviciile existente să continue în mod transparent în aceeaşi parametri funcţionali şi de performanţă sau (de dorit) în condiţii mai bune.

 

sursa imaginii https://www.wired.com/2017/04/youre-somehow-still-windows-vista-upgrade-right-now/

sursa imaginii https://www.wired.com/2017/04/youre-somehow-still-windows-vista-upgrade-right-now/

 

Ce precauţii trebuie să avem în vedere? Primul lucru pe care ar trebui să-l ştim este că nici o formă de compatibilitate nu este garantată la infinit. Asta stă scris cam în oricare dintre acele contracte pe care aproape niciodată nu le citim, dar pe care le acceptăm când cumpărăm un produs sau servici, sau când descărcăm şi instalăm un program de software nou sau o versiune nouă a unui program existent. Măcar la câteva luni, dar în orice caz la un an sau maximum doi ani, este foarte recomandat să actualizaţi orice program folosiţi atunci când produsele sunt software sau se bazează pe software. Altfel puteţi ajunge în situaţia nu prea plăcută să fiţi anunţaţi că productorul sau furnizorul de servicii nu mai garantează nici funcţionalitatea şi nici securitatea produsului. Spre exemplu iată anunţul recent al companiei Microsoft (vorbim mult despre ei astăzi) care anunţau că încetează asistenţă tehnică pentru sistemul de operare Vista. De la 11 aprilie 2017 nu vor mai fi versiuni noi, completări pentru securitate sau corectări ale unor probleme reclamate de utilizatori. Serviciile tehnice ale lui Microsoft nu vor mai răspunde solicitărilor legate de VISTA nici măcar cât răspândeau până acum. Produsul acesta, lansat cu un deceniu în urmă pentru a înlocui foarte populara şi reuşita platformă XP a avut destul de multe probleme în exploatare, şi utilizatorii nu l-au îmbrăţişat niciodată complet. Acum nu mai este asigurată compatibilitatea şi noile programe nu mai sunt obligate să interacţioneze cu vechile variante. Multe o vor face poate pentru a nu pierde piaţă, dar nimeni nu garantează nimic, şi că utilizatori, dacă vreţi să continuaţi să folosiţi VISTA, o faceţi pe propria rapundere. Eu nu o mai folosesc de mult.

 

sursa imaginii https://www.wired.com/2017/04/nintendo-discontinuing-nes-classic-mistake/

sursa imaginii https://www.wired.com/2017/04/nintendo-discontinuing-nes-classic-mistake/

 

Când compatibilitatea (în special cea înapoi) nu este respectată se spune că ea este ‘stricată’ – în engleză expresia este ‘to break backwards compatibility’. Câteodată producătorii iau hotărâri în acest sens, dar cam întotdeauna astfel de hotărâri îi lasă cel puţin pe unii dintre utilizatori nemulţumiţi. Iată încă un exemplu din ştirile ultimilor săptămâni. Nintendo este o companie japoneză care produce în special produse electronice de consum şi a devenit celebra internaţional şi lider al pieţii de jocuri electronice. Puţini înafara Japoniei ştiu că este vorba despre o companie cu mai bine de un secol de existenţa, fondată în 1889. A fi devreme şi a avea succes înseamnă că există şi mulţi utilizatori care joacă de decenii jocuri Nintendo, şi care se confruntă cu probleme legate de compatibilitatea cu platformele mai noi ale companiei. Pentru aceştia Nintendo crease NES Classic Edition – o microconsola încărcată cu 30 de jocuri clasice ale companiei, care permitea nostalgicilor să joace jocuri vechi sau variante vechi ale unor jocuri clasice precum Mario sau Zelda. Până în ianuarie Nintendo vânduse peste un milion şi jumătate de asemenea console, aşa încât decizia lor de a opri producţia şi mai târziu suportul i-a luat prin surprindere pe mulţi utilizatori. Cred că ghicesc însă care au fost motivele. Expertii in marketing de la Nintendo s-au temut că îşi vor ‘canibaliza’ produsele noi (care includ şi variante modernizate ale unora dintre jocurile clasice) poziţionându-se într-o nişă de ‘nostalgici’ care poate că este ne-neglijabilă că cifre de vânzări, dar nu garantează dezvoltarea de piaţă şi creşterea în volume în condiţiile concurenţei acerbe a jocurilor pe reţea, inexistente acum 30-40 de ani, când Nintendo crea şi domină piaţa de jocuri electronice. Anunţul lor a creat însă nemulţumirea utilizatorilor şi mai ales a celor peste un milion şi jumătate de cumpărători ai consolei NES Classic Edition, care nu au fost informaţi la cumpărare că puneau banii pe un produs pe care compania avea curând să-l declare ca fiind ‘nu de termen lung’.

Probabil că una dintre întrebările pe care vi le puneţi este legată de compatiilitatea înainte (‘forward compatibility’). Cum putem ghici ce se va întâmpla şi ce se va proiecta în viitor? Răspunsul este că nu putem. Şi atunci? Cum proiectăm produse compatibile înainte? Soluţia constă în standardizare. Cel puţin o parte din funcţiile de baza ale infrastructurii pot fi standardizate – canalele de comunicare, interfertele grafice. Până la un punct această asigura conectarea aplicaţiilor şi versiunilor viitoare care sunt conforme standardelor – dar asta cere şi celor care scriu aceste reguli de interoperabilitate să fie flexibili şi deschişi la scalabilitatea viitoare. A două metodă folosită de marii vendori este crearea de ‘truse’ (‘kits’) pentru dezvoltarea de programe şi aplicaţii viitoare. Compatibilitatea înainte nu este garantată, dar şansele că ea să se întâmple cresc considerabil.

(articolul a aparut in revista culturala Literatura de Azi – http://www.literaturadeazi.ro/ )

As John Wick: Chapter 2 is on screens and gets unexpected good reviews and not only from fans, I thought that it’s a good opportunity to see the first and original John Wick which also received some positive echos, much above what is typically delivered for a film in its genre. It’s certainly a matter of setting expectations, but I personally was not disappointed. If violent action movies are one of the genres that entertain you, good chances that you will not be disappointed either.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2911666/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2911666/

 

Rule #1 to enjoy such a film is to accept the conventions of the genre. The story takes place in the parallel universe of the crime underworld. Although bodies start to accumulate in piles pretty soon, there is no policeman in view with the exception of one cop showing up at one point, looking at the scene of the carnage and wishing good evening to the hero who happens to be a professional killer. This parallel universe is not lawless, it’s just that the laws or better said the rules are different. There is a code of honor, there are territories of neutrality, and there is only one punishment – death – for breaking rules or trespassing borders. At the roots of the story stands a failed tentative by the main hero to break the cycle of violence of his profession and jump in the universe of normal people. All this is just memories when the action starts. This film is for what ‘Jack Reacher’ is for Tom Cruise and I suspect that at some point even taking the name of the hero as a title is not a coincidence. It’s the start of a series and the second installment was not too late to come.

 

(video source Lionsgate Movies)

 

Assuming you bought into the story and the convention, there is some good stuff to enjoy. Stuntman is sitting for the first time on the film director chair and he delivers exactly what is expected – a coherent story telling and perfect choreography of the many action scenes that occupy more than half of the duration of the movie. delivers what is expected, and a few other fine actors show up in small and even smaller supporting roles. Cinematography is just beautiful, with combinations of dark colors that fit well the violent dark universe that they populate. If you can just forget how sketchy the whole story (or pretext) of the film is, you have good reasons to enjoy it.

 

Intr-una dintre etapele periplului ei odiseic in cautarea ramasitelor si umbrelor familiei pierite in fumurile Holocaustului, Katja Petrowskaja, autoarea cartii ‘Poate Estera’ aparuta in colectia ‘Raftul Denisei’ a editurii Humanitas-fiction in traducerea impecabila a lui Alexandru Al. Sahighian, ajunge intr-o localitate poloneza numita Kalisz, unde traisera o parte din membrii unei ramuri a familiei sale. Calauza sa locala este o persoana pe nume Pani Ania.

‘Era indragostita nu doar de orasul Kalisz, dar si – lucru total neobisnuit in Polonia – de Nicolae al II-lea, ultimul tar al rusilor. Mi-a aratat cele mai frumoase ‘koscioly’ ale orasului, relicvele sfintei Ursula, voiam sa vad neaparat cupa regelui Cazimir, dar cand mi-am exprimat admiratia pentru catolicism, Pani Ania m-a lamurit intr-o engleza ingrijita ca este musulmana practicanta si a studiat patru ani la Londra, iar acum lucreaza la inchisoarea din Kalisz. Era perfecta Straina, perfecta si cu toate acestea ca mine, si mi-am zis ca intr-adevar Polonia nu-i pierduta cu asemenea oameni. Si tocmai Pani Ania mi-a aratat literele ebraice in caldaramul din Kalish.

Oamenii mergeau prin Kalisz in ritm alert, inca mai burnita si nimeni nu parea sa stie ca unele strazi ale orasului erau pavate cu pietre funerare din vechiul cimitir evreiesc. Inca in timpul razboiului, cand la Kalisz nu mai existau evrei, din cimitir au fost indepartate matevot, pietrele funerare evreiesti, care au fost taiate in patrate si asezate pe strazi cu dosul in sus, in asa fel incat literele ebraice sa nu se vada cand calci pe ele. Era un sistem de nimicire multiplu asigurat. Fie ca se stie sau nu de asta, oricine paseste de-a lungul strazilor din Kalisz calca in picioare pietrele funerare.’  (pag. 108-109)

Realitatea a creat in orasul polonez Kalisz una dintre acele metafore pe care rar le poate crea marea literatura. Polonia noua si oamenii ei noi, unii veniti de dincolo de alte orizonturi, calca, fara sa stie, zilnic, in mersul lor alert peste ramasitele unui trecut care cuprinde in el evreimea europeana, distrusa in Holocaust si ale carei ramasite au fost spulberate in lume dupa Holocaust. Situatia aceasta este una dintre consecintele ultime si ultimative a unei crime care nu s-a rezumat la distrugerea fizica a vietilor, dar a incercat si sa pangareasca mortile, si sa distruga memoria – atent, sistematic, in patrate, cu literele ingropate spre pamant.

Tocmai lupta impotriva uitarii si pentru recuperarea memoriei este una dintre temele principale ale cartii Katjiei Petrowskaja. Autoarea este descendenta a uneia dintre acele milioane de familii evreiesti sau aproape evreiesti care a trecut prin cei peste 70 de ani de regim sovietic si si-a pastrat in mod miraculos evreitatea, intr-o forma schimbata, ingropata, redescoperita si recucerita. De multe ori am auzit in Israel unde traiesc exprimari de dubiu fata de ‘evreitatea’ multora dintre imigrantii din fosta Uniune Sovietica – dubiu uneori fata de ‘puritatea’ dupa Halacha (legea religioasa evreiasca, care defineste evreitatea pe linie materna – esti evreu daca te nasti dintr-o mama evreica) dar mai ales fata de modul de viata, cu alte cuvinte evreitatea culturala. Pentru mine problema se pune exact invers. Este miraculos cum sentimentul de apartenenta nationala a supravietuit in mintile si sufletele a milioane de oameni apartinand la 3-4 generatii succesive, nascuti, crescuti, educati, fortati sa adere la un ateism internationalist care incerca sa stearga componentele nationale ale personalitatilor oamenilor (ca sa nu mai vorbim de cele religioase) si sa le inlocuiasca cu uniformitatea produsului suprem al ingineriei sociale comuniste – omul sovietic.

Cartea Katjei Petrowskaja este un ‘road trip’ – destul de haotic de altfel, dar cred ca haosul este intentionat lasat asa cum este, caci ce logica ar avea ordinea? – in spatiu si in timp, in cautarea memoriei colective si personale pierdute. Fizic calatoria incepe de la Berlin, din Germania in care s-a stabilit tanara evreica nascuta in Ucraina. Intr-o zi, amintirile, cele personale si cele colective, au revenit si au indemnat-o sa plece in aceasta calatorie:

‘Intr-o buna zi, pe neasteptate, m-am trezit cu rubedeniile in fata mea – cu cele din trecutul indepartat. In felurite limbi ce-mi sunau familiar, au murmurat in barba vestile lor de bun augur, si mi-am zis ca impreuna cu ele voi reusi sa fac sa infloreasca arborele familial, voi umple lacuna, voi vindeca sentimentul pierderii.’ (pag. 19)

 

sursa imaginii http://www.lapunkt.ro/2016/05/31/humanitas-la-bookfest-2016-peste-30-de-lansari-mai-mult-de-1000-de-titluri-la-raft-intalniri-cu-cei-mai-indragiti-autori/poate-estera/

sursa imaginii http://www.lapunkt.ro/2016/05/31/humanitas-la-bookfest-2016-peste-30-de-lansari-mai-mult-de-1000-de-titluri-la-raft-intalniri-cu-cei-mai-indragiti-autori/poate-estera/

 

Lupta impotriva uitarii inseamna insa pentru cineva nascut in Uniunea Sovietica sau in alte tari ale Europei vremelnic (dar un ‘vremelnic’ care a durat multe decenii) cazute sub dominatie comunista si o lupta impotriva falsei memorii. Caci in toate aceste tari a fost perpetuata pana la caderea comunismului o falsa recunoastere a ‘crimelor naziste’ cu o completa depersonalizare si denationalizare a victimelor. (Asa s-a intamplat si in Romania, unde manualele scolare mentionau ‘atrocitatile’ si chiar si lagarele mortii fara a preciza ca majoritatea victimelor fusesera evrei, si desigur, fara nicio referinta la partea romaneasca a Holocaustului.)

‘Dar nimeni si nimic nu trebuie uitat, cum scrisese poeta Olga BERgholz in amintirea celor un milion de victime ale Blocadei leningradene. Versul acesta era purtat in inimi, inlocuind amintirea din intreaga tara, nu puteai fugi de el caci a devenit o adevarata profetie prin adevarul sau evident si prin minciunile ascunse. eram indemnati sa nu uitam de nimeni si nimic, ca sa uitam cine si ce fusese de acum uitat.’ (Pag. 31)

Recuperarea este departe de a fi liniara si departe de a fi completa. Unele episoade sunt presarate cu umor, altele cu surprize. Iesita abia din adolescenta, in 1989, autoarea calatoreste pentru prima data in Polonia, tara aproape legendara pentru tanara nascuta in Ucraina, acolo unde sa nascusera parintii si bunicii. Si pentru prima data, tanara nascuta sovietica, gaseste un disc cu cantece evreiesti, si cu Steaua lui David pe coperta.

‘Toata viata noastra pictasem stele in cinci colturi, cele de pe pamant si cele de pe cer, stelele Kremlinului nostru, asa cum le proslaveam intr-un cantec, cunoasteam si-un alt cantec, in care o stea discuta cu alta, cantecul se canta cand porneai singur la drum – dar niciuna dintre stelele acestea nu avea sase colturi. In toata patria mea intinsa la infinit, nu dadusem niciodata pana atunci peste un Maghen David, nici ca semn, nici ca obiect.’ (pag. 61)

Fata aduce discul acasa, si deodata …

‘… bunica-mea, pe care de cand o stiam, si de cand o stia si mama, nu rostise niciodata un cuvant in idis, a-nceput dintr-o data sa cante si ea, laolalta cu discul. acele cantece zglobii intr-o tonalitate minora. fara capatai, mai intai urmand cuvintele, mergand dupa ele, apoi cu precizie in pas cu ele, si deodata, luand-o inaintea lor, voioasa, precipitandu-se, iar eu, ascultand-o, eram la fel de incredula ca atunci cand pipaisem Maghen David pe invelisul discului.’ (pag. 62)

Este foarte greu de caracterizat genul careia ii apartine aceasta carte. O carte de memorii? Galerie de portrete ai membrilor familiei, raspandite pe o durata de patru sau cinci generatii? Recuperare istorica? Culegere de povestiri si schite care amesteca toate aceste genuri? Ordinea nu este intotdeauna clara, arborele genealogic nu este desenat niciodata, si familia este destul de raspandita pentru a ramane cu semne de intrebare si a pierde detalii care poate nici nu sunt semnificative. Cele sase capitole ale cartii primesc fie numele care uneia dintre rudele apropiate (‘Roza si cei muti’ – instruirea surdo-mutilor fiind profesiunea didactica a famliei transmisa din generatie in generatie, ‘Deduska’) fie a unor teritorii mai mult istorice decat geografice (‘Frumoasa mea Polonie’, ‘Babii Iar’) fie reprezinta metafore care camufleaza oroarea (‘In lumea materiei neorganizate’). Am mai citit carti memorialistice dedicate Holocaustului (intre care ‘Lea, povestea familiei mele’ a clujeanului Andrei Klein, dar la Katja Petrowskaja formula este amestecata parca intentionat, in schimb scrierea atinge nivele exceptionale.

‘Uneori aveam senzatia ca ma misc prin molozul istoriei’ (pag. 68)

 

O asemenea fraza si povestirea care o cuprinde (‘Trenul’) ar fi suficiente pentru a justifica intreaga carte. ‘Telefonul din trecut’, din anul 1940 pe care il primeste mama autoarei intr-o noapte de Revelion, redescoperind dupa mai bine de jumatate de secol o batrana supravietuitoare care nu uitase nimic (spre deosebire de atatia altii, majoritatea, care au uitat sau au ales sa uite) este unul dintre episoadele cele mai emotionante ale cartii.

 

sursa imaginii https://www.deutschland.de/fr/topic/culture/arts-architecture/une-langue-dinnombrables-voix

sursa imaginii https://www.deutschland.de/fr/topic/culture/arts-architecture/une-langue-dinnombrables-voix

 

Cartea este plina de portrete extraordinare: generatii de dascali in scoli pentru surdo-muti, care parcurg toate cararile imperiului rusesc, de la Polonia si Viena dinainte de primul razboi mondial, trecand prin Kievul primelor decenii ale puterii sovietice, si apoi in exilul dincolo de Ural din timpul razboiului; bunica Roza care isi pierde vederea pentru a castiga acuitatea auzului dar mai ales a amintirilor; bunicul Vil care este ranit in primele zile ale razboiului si compenseaza devenind capacitatea intelectuala a familiei; celalalt bunic care cazut fiind in prizonierat supravietuieste, ajungand la Bergen Belsen in finalul razboiului desi era singurul membru ne-evreu din familia, insa pretul supravietuirii este asa de cumplit (si niciodata revelat) incat intoarcerea acasa va dura aproape patru decenii. Portretul cel mai interesant insa este fara indoiala cel al fratelui bunicului, Judah Stern, care in 1932 asasineaza un diplomat german, intr-o actiune rocamboleasca si misterioasa, ale carei motive nu vor fi aflate niciodata. Agent al NKDV-ului? idealist care incearca sa atraga atentia asupra tragediei sovietice care abia incepuse sa se desfasoare? Sau pur si simplu un nebun, care dintr-un accident a fost la un pas de a schimba, sau poate accelera cursul istoriei?

Capitolul dedicat masacrului de la Babii Iar este cel mai apropriat de genul de literatura – sa o numim – conventionala despre Holocaust. Autoarea a trait la cativa kilometri de locul crimei. Ceea ce este uimitor pentru cei care ai trait in atmosfera de dezvaluire si demascare a Holocaustului este faptul ca asemenea masacre, desi comise de Germania nazista, au fost ingropate in uitare de autoritatile sovietice, si ele complice la o atitudine antisemita:

‘Hitler i-a ucis pe cititori si Stalin pe scriitori, asa a rezumat tatal meu disparitia limbii idis. Cei care supravietuisera razboiului erau din nou in pericol. Evrei in intregime, evrei pe jumatate sau pe sfert – se reinvata cum e sa gusti procentele, si limba parca-ti ingheta lipita de un metal rece. Erau stigmatizati drept cosmopoliti apatrizi, poate pentru ca erau omorati netinandu-se seama de frontiere, ei, care intretineau relatii interzise cu strainatatea, si din aceasta cauza nu le era permis sa apartina marii familii a popoarelor sovietice fratesti. Douazeci de ani nu a existat aici la Babii Iar, nici un semn care sa aminteasca de masacre, nici un monument, nici o piatra, nici un panou. Omorului i-a urmat tacerea.’  (pag. 155)

Scena insa care ramane in amintire este episodul scurt al asasinarii strabunicii, al carei nume nu mai este sigur in istoria familiei. Poate, Estera. Ramasa singura in Kievul ocupat, incearca sa se prezinte convocarii adresate tuturor evreilor, care aveau sa ajunga la Babii Iar. Cu naivitate se adreseaza unor ofiteri germani.

‘Au impuscat-o pe loc, cu o rutina nepasatoare, fara sa-si intrerupa discutia, si fara ca vreunul sa se fi intors cu totul spre ea, absolut in treacat.’ (pag. 181)

Banalitatea raului, ar fi comentat Hanna Arendt.

Nu stiu care va fi cariera literara in continuare a Katjiei Petrowskaia. ‘Poate, Estera’ este nu numai un document, dar si o carte profund personala. In unele locuri pare a fi scrisa detasat, in altele apare si acel umor tipic sovietic sau est-european, dar multe pasaje par a fi strigate din rarunchi, scrise cu sange. Cartea a obtinut cateva premii marcante si a creat o rampa de lansare pentru o viitoare scriitoare importanta. Va putea Katja Petrowskaja sa scrie despre altceva? Va trebui sa asteptam cativa ani pentru a primi raspuns la aceasta intrebare.

 

A few weeks back I wrote about Bridge of Spies and I was mentioning the fact that I expected more than an OK+ story about the Cold War from a script written by the  and brothers. This feeling was now enhanced by viewing Hail, Ceasar!. The trailer was so promising – the anti-establishment brothers made a film about the Hollywood.  as the drunken (not even, actually) star in the historic super-production.  as the blonde brainless starlet. The bigger the expectations, the deeper the disappointment, they say. The brothers seem to have ran out almost completely of ideas and spices.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475290/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475290/

 

Hollywood loves making fun of itself, but never forgets to mix a dose of nostalgia. This is what made The Artist such a huge success, plus of course the French charm. It’s 2016 however, and nostalgia should not be consumed in overwhelming doses. Yet, the Coen brothers seem almost to crawl in repentance to the big studios they succeeded to teach in the past a few things about digging for gold in the classical fabric of American stories. There is only one scene where the Coen spin and spirit succeed to remind the good old days – that’s the ‘ecumenical’ discussion in preparation of the Christ movie with the participation of Catholic, Easter-Orthodox and Protestant priests plus one rabbi. It looked and sounded like a good joke. The difference is that we used to have ten or more such good jokes in the Coen brothers films, now it was just one. The social content which is also present in many of their films is now reduced to a parody of the black-listing of the 50s combined with an incarnation of Communist hysteria (in a Malibu villa by the ocean of all places) which is maybe the second good joke in the film. Still insufficient.

 

(video source Universal Pictures)

 

In a season that was so deprived of comedies that The Martian got a nomination in the category at the Golden Globes, Hail, Ceasar! is still the funniest show in town, but it’s more by lack of competition. and looked genuinely bored in a film which should have been fun to make. is no comedy actor. The ones lucky to get more interesting parts are the amazing and who left me with the dilemma of guessing which film director he took revenge upon when building his character.

I am waiting for the Coen brothers to return.

 

 

I usually rely on the opinions of exquisite movie critics like Robert Ebert or James Berardinelli and it seldom or almost never happens to be in disagreement with one, not to speak both of them. Luckily I usually read critics opinions after seeing the film and so I did in this case as well, because I may have chosen to skip one of the most intelligent and well written action films I have seen lately. The story is not only well written and the pace of the action kept me on my edge for the whole duration of the film, but it also has logic and is credible, so I dare say that the two great critics got it wrong when they gave the two stars out of four treatment to the film.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1401152/

 

The first sequences of the film introduce the viewers in the American-Has-Trouble-In-European-Big-City genre, with Berlin playing the role usually assumed by Paris. The hero is a biotechnology expert which in the first few minutes of the film loses his suitcase, his wife, and his identity. The losing of the identity is soon to be turned into the kind of situation where not only the hero starts to doubt his own self, but also the viewers start doubting what they have seen, or searching for the hidden signification. Another man has taken his identity, his wife seems to have become part of the plot or maybe she is forced to be one, a lot of people try to kill him, and whoever helps him is in mortal danger and does not survive much time on the screen. All this happens in a frozen Berlin in winter, and is filmed with a blueish filter that creates a metallic light atmosphere that just increases the anxiety. Acting is exact, Liam Neeson will not get another Oscar nomination for this role but he succeeds to make us care for him and so does Diane Kruger in the role of the woman who helps him, to find her life blown-up together with her flat in the action.

 

(video source movieclips)

 

This is the fourth film of director Jaume Collet-Serra, whose first film, a piece of horror name House of Wax I also enjoyed. He proves here that he understands the rules of the genre and can make well-paced and efficient movies. The quality of the film comes however first of all from the quality of the script – Unknown is simply brilliantly written, the terrorism and Cold War sequels intrigue reminding Le Carre’s novels provides a logical explanation which put for me every event in place in a story of lost memory and identity that could belong to the Bourne series. My preferred critics were wrong this time.

 

About Roger Ebert’s extraordinary fight with cancer you can read here.

In her book On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, MD describes five stages of coping with the malady that she observed in the psychology of many people hit by cancer. The stages may last for different periods of time and will replace each other or may exist simultaneously: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. There is one common feeling through all these stages: Hope.

This information is well known by everybody who faced a disease that can be terminal or who had somebody close and dear who had to cope with such a malady.  Playwright Anat Gov not only has the chutzpah to bring to stage the very delicate and emotional subjects of dealing with cancer and the perspective of death, but also does it with artistic tools and from a perspective different from the one taken by the majority of the artists or writers who did it before.

 

source http://cameri.co.il/index.php?page_id=2195

 

There is no melodrama in the text of Sof Tov (which could be translated as Good End or even Happy End) written by Anat Gov and the staging of Edna Maze at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv. We are watching a comedy and a musical and if there is anything that is close in genre it is not the psychological journal or reflections on life and death but rather the kitsch medical soap operas that are quite popular on TV. However, the subject and the approach are unexpected. A famous actress enters hospital for chemotherapy for an advanced form of cancer. Statistics are not on her side, the disease was discovered late, she can at best win a few more years of life spent in hospitals and treatments, probably slowing but unable to stop the disease. She seems unable or unwilling to cope with the five stages of the relationship between sick people and fate, and decides to fight back her own way, refusing treatment soon after it started. Does she have the right to do it to herself and her family, has the medical personnel around the right to assist or must they continue the treatment against her own will? The moral and emotional questions asked by the play are smart and difficult if not impossible to answer. The amazing thing is that the low key approach and the comical register work so well in dealing with them on stage.

 

source http://cameri.co.il/index.php?page_id=2195

 

The mix of comedy text, music and dance on such a serious subject succeed to ask the right questions, put in move emotions and entertain most of the time in the version of the play created by Edna Maze. The emphasize is on the strong acting with a wonderful Anat Waxman in the main role, and a supporting cast in which the three actresses playing each one of the other three fellow patients creates wonderful portraits of the ex-rock girl, of the Auschwitz survivor and of the young haredi woman brought together by the destiny of the same malady. Oded Leopold as the doctor was the only actor which I liked less in the performance, he fits the exterior of the role but does not catch and relay the human vibration. Dancing and singing are not the best, the Cameri knows to do much better, and certainly Broadway or West End will do better if they will have the inspiration to take and remake this play. I am pretty sure that they will do it, as the daring and well written text of the play deserves an international career.

 

Monteverdi’s rendition of the story of Orpheus is a milestone in the evolution of opera, one of the first works that definitely crossed the barrier of the oratorio into a fully defined stage representation. It includes remarkable musical moments, arias and recitatives with fine instrumental backing, it has a clear story line and a duration that makes it fit to modern representations. No wonder it has been part of the repertory of big opera houses for many years, as one of the most representative and most popular pieces of the early baroque style.

(video source ladiszka3)

The version that I have recently seen on the Mezzo TV chain was put on stage at the Theatre de la Monnaie – the opera theater in Bruxelles which has a fascinating history of its own. I hope to have the time to write about it separately in a separate piece on the blog. The musical direction belongs to Rene Jacobs and the main role was sung by Simon Keenlydeside.

(video source FILMS7)

It is however the stage direction which is remarkable in this representation. Theatre de la Monnaie has a long tradition of supporting innovative ballet. Maurice Bejart was a ballet master here from 1959 to 1992, and I have seen one remarkable work of the ballet troupe in Tel Aviv a few years ago. This version of the L’orpheo is directed by Trisha Brown, one of the remarkable American choreographer of our times, and the result is as it can be expected a wonderful combination of music and movement, which fills in the recitative and instrumental parts with dance and acrobatics. It’s not an easy task for the performers, as the solo and chorus singers are required to sing and dance to fulfill the vision of a complete performance. Here is one example of the scene where Orpheus tries to cross the gates of the underworld.

(video source votregali)

Luckily I also found on youTube the final scene, with Simon Keenlydeside – the overall concept of music, dance, sets and lights can be well enjoyed in this sequence.

The 78th meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force was hold in the heart of Europe – in the city of Maastricht, the Netherlands.

the IETF at the MECC

The venue of the meeting was The Maastricht Exhibition & Congress Center (MECC) not far from the place where in 1992 the treaty that defined the European Union and the creation of the Euro currency was signed. The location is a little remote from the center of the city, but frankly speaking the 20 to 30 minutes walk at night after dinner from the center to the nearby hotels did us just good, and the free pass that was granted to the IETF participants on buses during the week helped the lazy ones.

one shore of the Maas ...

The name of the city derives from the Maas (Meuse) river that crosses the city. The place is inhabited at least from the times of the Romans.

... and the other

The history of the city includes several interesting episodes. Good chances are that you have read about it during your childhood if you have read Alexandre Dumas’ novels. The death of d’Artagnan – the hero made immortal by Dumas happened during the siege of Maastricht by Louis XIV’s armies. The story is told in Dumas’ novel The Vicomte of Bragelonne.

the city seen from above ...

The city has many beautiful churches and at least two of them are outstanding. I will tell more about them and also bring up some pictures in one of the coming episodes.

... and down in the streets, at day ...

I love wandering on the streets of European cities like Maastricht.

... and at night

They are beautiful at day and at night.

terraces in the Vrijthof square

The week I spent in Maastricht was a pleasant summer week, following a wave of heat which had made the atmosphere challenging they week before (as we were told). The few showers were short and just cleaned the air. We could spent some of the evening dinners on terraces like the one in the Vrijthof square …

the Town Hall in Markt Square

… or the ones in the Markt Square.

a city of statues

Adding beauty to the picturesque streets are the statues that can be found in Maastricht at the crossroads or even on the sides of the streets. Most of them are not big in dimensions, in many cases at human sizes and proportions allowing for an feeling of intimacy and belonging to be established between the statues and the street walker.

Johannes Petrus Minckelers

One of the few that look at visitors from a pedestal is the statue in Markt Square of Johannes Petrus Minckelers, the inventor of the illuminating gas, who holds an eternal flame in his hand reminding all about his invention.

bycicles, bycicles

As in many other places in the Netherlands bicycles are a preferred means of transport. Locals are bicycling to work, to recreation, or to their commuting train stations.

the police orchestra plays for the IETF

The social event is the one moment of recreation that happens on Tuesdays of the IETF meetings allowing for a change of atmosphere and pace for the big heads who build and run the Internet.

rocking the boat at the IETF Social

The social at this meeting was organized on the boats near the river (who are used during the day for the tourist rides on the Maas). We had fanfare music, we had rock music played from the high deck of the boats, we had even tribal drums by the end. Food, wine and especially beer ran free, but beer will be the subject of a dedicated later episode.

If there is time for just one museum visit in Malta or Valletta I recommend it to be in the National Museum of Archeology.

(video source heartofmalta)

Located on the Republic Street, the 5th Avenue of Valletta which divides the city grid into two almost symmetrical halves, the museum is hosted by one of the beautiful palaces built by the architect of the co-cathedral Gerolama Cassan, the Auberge de Provence which was hosting the Provencal knights when coming into Malta. The palace was renovated by the end of the last century and the entrance hall and its beautiful painted ceiling is a great example of the architecture of the palaces of the first period after the foundation of the city.

auberge de Provence - entry hall

The collection of the museum covers several historical periods, however the megalithic finds section is by far the richest and the most extensive, with both a comprehensive and well documented timeline of the ancient history of the island, as well as a richness of objects and artifacts that document each period, plus a few exceptional top findings, among the most exquisite objects of such kind in the world.

Ghar Dalam animal heads

The first populations in the island were the agricultural and shepherds inhabitants who left the artifacts at Ghar Dalam from the period between 5200 and 4500 BC. They were related to the inhabitants of Sicily from the same Neolithic period, and actually objects found on site show that they were navigating or part of a cross-Mediterranean commerce that put them in contact with other civilizations of the same period.

red Skorba figurine

The immediate next period is well characterized by findings at Skorba. The figurines from the Red Skorba period (4400 – 4100 BC) are the first representations of human bodies found here, they are very similar to the Cyclades figurines again indicating a possible commerce and cultural interference, and were probably religious cult object.

fragment from the Hypogeum

One of the most famous Megalithic objectives to visit on the island of Malta is the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum with its monument and underground cemetery. It accommodates a limited number of visitors each day, and the waiting queue was a few weeks even in the out-of-season period when we visited Malta. Luckily the National Museum of Archeology has documentation and a few artifacts brought from that place that we could see and learn about it.

Hagar Quim Altar

The Hagar Quim Altar is another example of a valuable object, brought in this case from a place that we had already visited. The form and dimensions of the altar are very similar to ones in works by Brancusi, and it left me wondering if the Romanian had maybe seen photos of the monuments and made me see in a different perspective some of his stone works.

animal representation

The period of maximal development of the temples civilizations in Malta bring up some of the most representative objects of artistic expression of the stone and bronze ages. Representations of animals – mostly domestic as there were few wild beasts on the small surface of the island are typical for a culture that made of growing animals one of the principal sources of living.

heads

Back to human representation, some of the heads of the Temples period (4000 – 2500 BC) are superb.

standing statues

Many of the human representations were however having cult destination as are the standing statues from Tarxien and other places which presumably are fertility goddesses.

seated statues

A similar group of seated statues drew my attention as a proof that Botero did not really invent anything.

The Sleeping Lady

The absolute masterpiece of the Maltese Temple period art of The Sleeping Lady, discovered in the Hypogeum. It is interpreted representation of Death, the Eternal Sleep, but can also be viewed as a precursor of the Goya’s Majas and other reclined women portraits in the history of art.

The Venus of Malta

The Venus of Malta discovered at Hagar Quin is another representative piece of work, of an astonishing realism. Well, it may look different than Venus of Milo, or maybe beauty standards changed in the thousands of years in-between.

sarcophagi from Tarxien

The last great period of Megalithic art is the one represented by works from Tarxien, around 2500 BC. After that time the great period of the megalithic temples ends abruptly. The causes are not clear, maybe a natural catastrophe, maybe diseases, maybe over-exploitation of the natural resources. Ancient history of Malta ends here in any case, and so did our visit through the most interesting sections of this beautiful and recommended museum in Valletta.

12 is a remake of the classical 12 Angry Men – Sidney Lumet’s ultimate jury drama. What makes Nikita Mikhalkov, a director who never lacked original ideas or Russian scripts take the court drama located in the US of the 5os just out of the McCarthy period era and transplant it with all its 12 characters, with very similar premises and very predictable (at least up to some point) end into the reality of today’s Russia?

source www.imdb.com

I believe that the intent is explicit and declarative. Russia undergoes now a similar process of transition as the USA in the 50s, and the end is still uncertain. The laws may be already written in the books of laws, the jury system is called in theory to allow for fair trials in which the accused is presumed innocent until l proven guilty, but laws are implemented by humans and humans have limitations and prejudices and they are in a hurry to give a verdict and get back to their lives. As in Lumet’s film, it is more the human beings than the system that ensure that justice is eventually done. The responsibility of every man to stand up and express his doubts despite the overwhelming opinion of the other, the right of the minority in a democratic system to have its say despite the apparent rightfulness of the majority are key elements in the Russian film as well as in the original American one,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBq_Y0kgkMY

(video source ErlandJosephson)

And yet at the same time Mikhalkov’s film is very Russian. The mix of characters represents various sectors of today’s Russian society and the acting is without exception splendid. National tensions and antisemitism are still part of the landscape, and so are the cultural and even the language sequels of the Communist period. The jurors, all men (why?) address each other inertially with the denomination ‘comrades’. Each has the opportunity to tell his story, and the stories describe the background of their personalities, and the motivation of their decision to eventually absolve the innocent. it is however the surprise ending that adds a new dimension to the film. The Chechen youngster wrongly accused of killing his Russian stepfather is acquitted. However, his acquittal may mean just a suspension of a death penalty in the hands of the mafia who are the real responsible of the murder. It takes a rather melodramatic ending to solve this problem, and this interesting addition to the original American story is both unconvincing as story flow  but quite eyes-opening. Although the court drama is for almost the whole duration of the film confined inside the walls of the same room it tells a lot about the Russian realities at large.

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