Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

This is my last post before going into my usual one-month hibernation. Today I would like to focus my attention (and yours, too) on the books, films and albums which stood out for me in 2013.

This was a bumper year for me in literature, music and cinema. I finally got to read Zadie Smith’s latest novel, NW, Milan Kundera’s earlier works, Life is Elsewhere and Laughable Loves and William Burroughs’ Marmite-like Naked Lunch (either you like or you don’t. I fall in the former camp). I have also finished the year on a high with a re-read of one of my favourite Cuban novels, Memories of the Underdevelopment. Bearing in mind that I am writing this post about ten days before it’s due to come out, there could still be nice surprises ahead.

Unfortunately, because of the high price of cinema tickets, we do not get to go to the pictures a lot, which means we miss out on new releases. That is where Lovefilm comes in. We can tailor our movie time as a family and with a few exceptions most of the films that follow have a 12-certifcate. This year we have seen Badlands, High Fidelity (again!), The Killing Fields, Death of a Salesman (the one with Dustin Hoffman and a very young John Malkovich, who also had a supporting role in The Killing Fields), Ivan’s Childhood (based on a short-story that became my long-lasting companion when I was a child), The 400 Blows, The Truman Show (again!), A Soldier’s Story, Macbeth (Polanski’s version with a superb Francesca Annis playing Lady Macbeth), Gandhi, I am Cuba, Coriolanus (one of my favourite performances by Ralph Fiennes an Vanessa Redgrave. This is the movie that should be shown to presidents and prime ministers everywhere before they decide to invade another country), Pink Floyd-The Wall (again!) and the visually striking The Tree of Life. Funny, isn’t it? I started the year with Malick and ended the year with Malick. I say, who needs the local multiplex with this wealth of movies?

I have left music for the end because you all know how much music gets played on this blog. My most recent purchase was four albums by The Black Keys: The Big Come Up, Attack and Release, Brothers and El Camino. I can’t stop playing them. Theirs is raw, unadulterated blues-rock, with the emphasis on blues. Earlier in the year I got (finally!) Laura Marling’s four albums. I wrote about Laura back in the summer in one of my regular columns, Killer Opening Songs. Another record which I bought this year and which has been growing on me slowly is Mike Ladd’s Negrophilia, an organic synergy of jazz, house and hip-hop. Anoushka Shankar provided me with a beautiful, sensuous and spiritual soundtrack to my summer holidays with Rise, an album that shows off her excellent skills as an arranger, producer and composer. Dutch singer Nynke was the surprise package this year. I bought her album Alter after reading about it in Songlines magazine. I was not disappointed at all. Nynke’s music is hard to classify. I would call her a good, really strong pop artist with a strong folk influence. A serendipitous discovery was Yasmine Hamdan, the Lebanese singer whose debut record Ya Nass, found its way into my CD collection by chance. I was on You Tube, as you do, checking up clips by musicians from here, there and everywhere, when up pops this unknown (to me) artist. I was hooked immediately to her husky voice and electronica-infused arrangements. In this end-of-the-year review I cannot leave out the Brazilian brigade. 2013 was the year when I bought the whole Original Album Series by none other than Elis Regina, Milton Nascimento and Gilberto Gil. Five classic records per CD. A snip at less than a tenner for the whole lot. I also purchased The Definitive Collection by Caetano Veloso and Jorge Ben (the latter of Mas, Que Nada!). 40 tracks per artist, double-CD issue, low price, win-win. Beautiful! Having grown up in Cuba listening to all these great albums, I have been on a trip down memory lane this whole year. The icing on my musical cake was A Curva Da Cintura, a collaboration between two Brazilian singers, Arnaldo Antunes and Edgard Scandurra and the Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté. The only word I have for this album is poetic. That pretty much could describe my year, too.

I will be back on Sunday 12th January. In the meantime, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!




Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 12th January at 10am (GMT)


51 comments:

  1. I'm having problems jazzing up my blog. Apologies for the header. In tandem with winter the blog should have changed to whites and greys but I keep getting an error message whenever I try to make a change to the template. Is the same happening to those on blogger, please?

    The caption at the top should read "It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul" (Nelson Mandela). I knew the quote before but The Economist had it on its front page this week and I thought it went well with that picture of the dancer from the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.

    Have a nice Sunday. I'm hoping to sort out my blog soon.

    Greetings from London.

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  2. ha. i was surprised when i clicked over and saw some of your make over....

    i hope you have a great holiday break...i hear you on the price of movie tickets...and i def dont mind the music....i am a fan and love finding new things to listen to...

    gonna see if i cant check out a few of those books as well...

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  3. Yes...I keep having problems with blogger too!
    I have been attempting to change script for ages, but have had no luck...it is rather frustrating, to say the least.

    I really like the music. You have introduced me to so many musicians I had never heard of, and it is really great to hear them for the first time...so thank you so much for expanding my listening experience!

    I know what you mean as regards the price of cinema tickets...you almost need to take out a mortgage to visit these days!*Smiles*

    Here's wishing you and your family a fabulous break.
    Will look forward to reading you again in the New Year :)

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  4. We don't do cinema visits anymore because of the price. I confess I have only heard of a few of those books, but I'm wading through a load of 'must-reads to keep my conversational topics alive. Love the striking header picture and hope to see your blog in full working order when you've had your Christmas break - or earlier. Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday.

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  5. Blog changed a bit, made me scroll lol sounds like you got much in and hope you have a great holiday at your bin

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  6. Thanks for sharing with us your love of the humanities. Merry Christmas.

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  7. Books, books and more books. So many books and so little .... well, the only one on your list, CiL, which I have read is, "Naked Lunch," by William Burroughs. He rode in the caboose among writers of the Beat Generation, in my opinion, and I share your view of this book. But, it is worth reading.

    Thanks to cable television, I have many films awaiting my beck and call. I have seen all but two on your list and enjoyed those I have seen. I might add that I offer special thanks to cable for giving me access to movies from eras such as the 1920s and the 1930s, which, in a sense, is like having a time machine.

    Your music almost always is new to my ears and, much of it, I find enjoyable. I guess, though, I will always remain floating in limbo between classical and "rock on, baby."

    I hope your hibernation will be enjoyable and beneficial, CiL, and I look forward to the resumption of your posts.

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  8. It is books for me, over movies and music.
    Love your enjoyment of all three.
    Have a wonderful hibernation, and Christmas. I hope the New Year comes in dancing for you.

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  9. smiles...usually i miss all the new movies and watch them way late... never mind...better late than never... i heard about lovefilm, didn't check it out so far though but sounds good... enjoy your holiday break and have a wonderful christmas time

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  10. Your new header completely took my breath away...now what were you writing about? He is gorgeous- masculine energy combined with style and grace.

    OK. I will stop slathering all over your photo. But what a beauty.

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  11. I love your new header picture. Very dramatic. Looks good, too!

    The cost of going to the movies has gotten ridiculous. Last month, we went for the first time in fifteen or twenty years, and it was quite a sticker shock. But it was "almost" worth it to see "Gravity" in 3-D.

    Here's wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas and all the best in the new year. Enjoy your break

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  12. If I'd made it as far as 'Happy Christmas' in my teach-yourself-Spanish lessons, I'd send my greetings in your language.

    As it is, you'll have to make to with my English greetings.

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  13. whishing you great holidays. :) See you next year. :)

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  14. I love love when people give a list of their favorites of literature, movies, plays etc. Does the art so good☺

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  15. Ya veo que cierras tu año con un buen repertorio de películas y música.
    Yo ahora estoy en la descarga de cine clásico desde hace ya un buen tiempo y sigo disfrutando de él.
    Que tengas unas felices fiestas navideñas con toda tu tribu y que el 2014 sea lo mejor para ti.
    Un abrazo compañero virtual.

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  16. That's a fine image and quote on your new header. I know a lot of folks are having trouble with changes to templates on Blogger. Hopefully this too shall pass.

    Have a wonderful Christmas holiday. May the new year bring you nothing but joy.

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  17. Thanks for your comments. I managed to make the changes I wanted. It was nothing to do with blogger but with a new version of internet explorer I downloaded which was causing problems.

    Greetings from London.

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  18. Always enjoy your posts. I went through a few movies this year....usually tried to hit the day(s) each week where the prices were a little less prohibitive. I confess my reading has suffered since blogging/ poetry; and I also join the others who have said they enjoyed your musical shares.

    Do have a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. See you in January!!

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  19. Best of Christmas to you and your family. Let the season begin.....

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  20. Enjoy your hibernation. And I love that header shot !

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  21. Wishing you the merriest of Christmases and looking forward to your return!

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  22. Thanks for sharing this list. LOVE your header, wowsa!!!


    Wishing you a magical Christmas season and all the good things in 2014! :<) Enjoy your break, I'm taking one too.

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  23. l loved the music in the video, and I also enjoyed all your book reads and movies and music. I have made a list. Thank you so much for your anniversary wishes. Enjoy your break and I'd also like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

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  24. I like your header too.
    I admire that you chronicle what you see, read and listen to. You def enjoy diversity.
    Hope you have a wonderful break and enjoy the holidays with your family.

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  25. What a wonderful cultural round-up - happy Christmas from Nice and best wishes for the New Year.....

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  26. Thanks so much for your reviews and suggestions! I also am in the Naked Lunch camp, although actually I think I found Junky more compelling, because at the end of the day, I am a complete sucker for a more straightforward narrative line. Thanks for all the music and movie suggestions too. I have only seen the Black Keys on Colbert, but I think they are produced by Jack White whom I like very much.

    Thanks for your very interesting ideas and writing on your own blog, and for your kind visits and support throughout the year. K! (Manicddaily)

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  27. I'd see High Fidelity twice and reread the book. A guy I went to high school with produced the Truman Show. I didn't know him that well because he was older. That film really stays with you. I love how you've reflected on the year in literature, film and music. Looking forward to more next year!

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  28. Have a very merry christmas and you do find the cool music, your blog is great makes me think

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  29. Love your header and quote. I hope you enjoy your hibernation and holidays! I am in awe of how many artistic efforts (musical, cinematic, visual, literary) there are now to choose from. I heard somewhere the other day that the use of social media, once thought to have a negative effect on the intellect, is having just the opposite effect. People who engage (intelligently) with each other on social media sites can look forward to a healthier mental state as they age. Of course, a good spell of hibernation never hurts:)

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  30. Enjoy your sabbatical! May your Christmas be wonderful and your New Year blessed.

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  31. I should let you know (if you didn't figure it out) that the Riding Rails blog you posted on was a blog I had a few years ago when on Sabbatical and I didn't want to maintain this one.

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  32. Feliz fin de semana navideño amigo, que lo disfrutes mucho :)

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  33. I'm a sucker for Best of the Year lists, and I appreciate that yours isn't just a re-run of all the recommendations that are popping up on every magazine's list. You're Fresh, Mr. Cuban in London!

    Plus: the Alvin Ailey dancer is such a lovely image to click into.

    Enjoy your respite.

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  34. Merry Christmas dear, have a nice time there!!!
    xxxx
    gloria

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  35. Gracias por su saludo que tengas una Feliz Navidad junto a tu familia tambièn,hugs,hugs.

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  36. Thanks for stopping by my blog ... merry XMas to you and a very Happy New Year ... I visited Cuba not long ago ... am still enchanted ... http://ckpeacemaker.wordpress.com/ Love, cat.

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  37. I've never read Naked Lunch, but I have seen the movie.
    Merry Christmas!

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  38. Enjoy your hibernation. That sounds like a wonderful plan. All the best in 2014.

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  39. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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  40. That's wonderful CIL. A whole array of books and albums to whet the appetite. I wonder if these should come my way. But at least the titles are made known most generously. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your break!

    Hank

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  41. Have a great holiday season! See you in 2014.

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  42. Oh, so many recommendations! That will certainly be enough to keep me busy over the festive period :) I hope you're enjoying your hibernation.

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  43. Have a great holiday season :)

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  44. A hibernation at this time of year sounds like a grand plan. May your Christmas have been just the way you wanted it, and all the best in the new year of 2014 with good health, happiness and wonderful reading.

    Thank you for your comment.

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  45. A couple of book recommendations before 2013 finally bows out. As I mentioned in my post I knew there would be more reading to come and I wasn't disappointed in the least. I finally got to read "Comment Je Suis Devenu Stupide", the comic book which had been in my to-buy list for years. Very funny, cynical and dark, the way I like my literature to be sometimes. Right now I'm in the final third of The Smile of the Lamb, a beautiful novel by David Grossman. It's my first Grossman book, about whom I had read extensively. It's a such a vivid, human and descriptive novel. I highly recommend it.

    Happy New Year to all of you! :-)

    Greetings from London.

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  46. I enjoyed reading your favorites. Some I have read or seen and some not. Corialanus I will add to my must sees. Thank you for visiting my blog, and Happy New Year to you.

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  47. Hello, dear friend.
    I have a few wishes for you.
    May 2014 bring you much joy.
    May we all have peace in our homes,
    laughter by our firesides,
    time spent with family,
    and contentment in our hearts.
    Be well, my friend.

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  48. i know you wont be back for about 10 more days, but wanted to wish you a happy new year!

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  49. I hope you've had a good break. I'm sorry, I have not been visiting blogs much over the last few weeks (or blogging myself) Assume you've gone back to Cuba!
    By the way I too have terrible problems with Blogger. Comments on comments are yellow on white but I can't make any changes in the template. It's a bug, and doesn't seem possible to fix. Have spent a long time on it. Wish it was possible to change back to the old template although that was also buggy.

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