Review: An Evening With Jason Mraz and His Guitar

A few years back I have discovered one of the greatest musical gifts I have ever received, because most of the artists I hold dear are the ones I discovered through an extensive period of trials and errors, and I must admit that Jason Mraz is one of them. I remember an internet cafe in my hometown, circa 2005, browsing Yahoo Music (remember that?) and stumbling upon Mraz’s Wordplay. I was so amazed by his flow, his witty lyrics and genuine feel good vibe, I became an instant fan.

After a few years, I moved to Bucharest and I had so many lows, with only his guitar and lyrics, as well as some Angels and Airwaves and Snow Patrol and Marilyn Manson to keep me warm.

16508123_419215758419420_8243905664880510741_n

Last night I had one of the best nights of my life, no doubt about it. Jason Mraz finally graced us with his presence, an event titled „An evening with Jason Mraz and his guitar”, and (I might add) his keyboard and harmonica. Two beautiful hours of love, music and incredibile words, this is the only way I can describe Mraz’s live presence.

Jason Mraz’s good natured spirit transcends the language barrier, his voice carried us last night to the moon and back, it gave us dreams and reasons to live, it gave us love and sadness and grief and hope, and I will forever be greatful for this opportunity to see one of my favorite artists bear his soul in front of me.

Just a small snippet (from a different concert, I can’t be bothered to record live acts and miss the good stuff):

I was happy hearing Plane and A Beautiful Mess and Butterfly and Please (Don’t Tell Her) and Mr. Curiosity and Tonight not Again, and many more! I’m sorry he missed Wordplay and Geek in the Pink, but I’ll take what I can get:

And through timeless words in priceless pictures
We’ll fly like birds not of this earth
And tides they turn and hearts disfigure
But that’s no concern when we’re wounded together
And we tore our dresses and stained our shirts
But it’s nice today, oh the wait was so worth it

PS: I will not post a setlist for this concert, just because for this kind of event Jason Mraz does not follow a pre-established list of songs. He just goes where the vibe takes him. And also because this is more heartfelt than anything I saw in a long, long, looooong time…

Review: Skrillex & Diplo – Where Are U Now (with Justin Bieber)

Lately I have been hooked on lightweight music. Or, as I like to call it, manele. Everything from David I’m Trying To Become a Second Fabio Guetta (whom I loathe desperately), Nicki Minaj, Jason Derulo and even the notorious Chris Chick Beater Brown have been on repeat on my playlists.

But one of these songs stands out the most.

Where Are U Now, a beautiful collaboration between Gimme Me UR Flashdrive Skrillex I Forgot To Comb My Hair Again and Diplo I Like to Bully Skinny Chicks With More Money Than Me, employs the soft vocals of Justin I’m an Arse Bieber.

By now, if you’re not familiar with the genre or this particular song, you might be tempted to start throwing stuff at me. But wait!

If you want a song about devotion, vulnerability, fear, emotion and hope, despair and instability, you’ve come to the right place.

Skrillex fulfills his part beautifully, by not abusing his trademark sound. Instead, he establishes a base line for the track, on which Diplo starts building and, boy, does he build!

The instrumental part of the song mirrors the two sides of a coin – very different at a first glance, but when together, they mesh beautifully.

Now, you’ll say „But wait! There’s that prick, Bieber! I don’t wanna listen to that!”. I’ll understand you completely.

It’s exactly what I said the first time I heard about the song, but my curiosity won and I pressed play. I never pressed stop after that, and that’s coming from someone that avoids with fervor each individual that worked on this track.

Justin Bieber‘s vocals are the final touch of an otherwise amazing song. He is alone, he is disappointed, he is waiting for a sign. At times, his voice makes me think he is asking God some explanations for his times of absence. At times, he makes me feel like he is reprimanding a stray lover. At times, he makes me cry, he makes me feel sorry for him and most of the time he makes me fall in love with the song over and over again.

And if this isn’t the sign of a good song, I really don’t know what it is…

Please, enjoy responsibly.

Review: Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale

the handmaid's taleI devoured, in the most literal sense or whatever, The Handmaid’s Tale. This dystopian depiction of a sad, alternate, maybe future reality was my undoing for about two days, because that’s how long it took me to finish reading this gem. Basically, after what was about 10 or 12 hours of violent torture, psychological in manner, I finished the masterpiece of Margaret Atwood.
To say it defies society is the least of your problems. With a material that echoes the depths of 1984 and Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of an unnamed woman appointed as a (shocker!) handmaid in the house of a Commander, in order to (real shocker!) bear his children.
If the depiction of the sanitary sex scenes won’t perturb you, I really don’t know what will. If you find amusing the living arrangement of an old wife with the assigned mistress, I’m pretty sure your sense of humor is faulty. If you think religious power is the best, then maybe this book spells out the best future for you, so maybe you should give it a go.
But above all else, Margaret Atwood‘s piece transcends its bleak tones and finds a way to leave an impression on you.
The unnamed protagonist and narrator, identified as Offred – because she belonged to Fred (get it?!), goes back and forth to a past when she was allowed to read, have a job, disagree with her husband and raise her child, as opposed to a present time diluted by war, famine, infertility and religion.
Everything is just survival, but not the „zombies gonna getcha” type. People learn to survive the rule of not speaking unless asked to, women learn that they are only walking wombs, coquetry is not permitted, of course, and neither are alcohol, tobacco and coffee. Clothes are meant to inspire chastity, legs are not meant to be shaven and eyes are bound to look only down.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a difficult read, especially for someone that enjoys the benefits of a colorful wardrobe, as opposed to the „uniforms” presented in the book, and the mere triviality of having money and use them as you please seems distant and obliterated in this book.
Offred‘s prison-like room sometimes reminded me of Winston‘s apartment in 1984, and her thoughts loudly reflected his. With great terror I assisted to a very misogynist way of living, one that scared and scarred me, and Offred‘s thoughts were so female-like, that sometimes I thought „am I that crazy? am I truly like that? are all women like that?!”.
Margaret Atwood surprised in an indecent Polaroid of the times the hate, the fear, the magical behind the reason of being a woman, and she did this effortlessly beautiful.
Here’s to never having the chance of experiencing this.

Review: Rhiannon Frater – As the World Dies Trilogy

I am very much a fan of zombie lore, so whenever I find something worthy of my time, I tend to finish it in a second. Or maybe two weeks, because, you know – job, and real life obligations, and stuff.
Rhiannon Frater‘s As the World Dies is my first time reading a zombie novel written by a woman. And since her trilogy is so army-versed, it was very easy for me to get immersed in this universe, because all of the gun crazy talk felt very appropriate.
As-The-World-Dies
The First Days is the first volume of the As the World Dies trilogy. The start is a bit shaky, but soon enough you find yourself a new pair of bad ass Thelma and Louise, stranded in Texan land, with zombie hordes following them diligently.
We meet Jenni and Katie, one a battered woman and one a prosecutor. Two girls that have nothing in common, except loss and the will to live, not just survive. The writing is also shaky this first book, but it gets so much better with Fighting to Survive, the second installment.
Book No. 2 finds them surrounded by survivors who look up to them, in a society determined to make the most out of this bleak situation. Maybe, if The Walking Dead wasn’t so keen on killing all the fans favorites, it would sound and feel like Frater’s trilogy. But thank god it doesn’t, because this girl knows what she’s saying and we needed something this good in our lives.
Rhiannon Frater plays out easy psychology with talent, and grows her characters into bad asses with natural pen-work. She masters the build up in a manner that never suggests that something big is going to happen. Her last book, Siege, is basically an avalanche waiting to happen, but you’d never guess that, after reading Fighting to Survive.
Of course, the author cannot help but kill off important characters, beloved ones even, because this is the Zombie Land and we are spared no tears, but Frater is very good at managing loss and gain when it comes to her characters.
As the World Dies might be a bit feminist, especially when placed into a world laced with the undead, but it’s a necessary read for all the zombie fans out there. You have beautiful, albeit one dimensional, female characters, LGBT representations, men without the annoying, unnecessary machismo, courage, fear, wilderness, pure evil and death by numbers. Rhiannon Frater’s universe is almost complete, so why not be a part of it?

Review: E. L. James – 50 Shades… Trilogy

Fifty-TrilogyThe lack of disappointment when it comes to 50 Shades of Grey and the rest of the vile  trilogy is unnerving. I started reading the books, hoping to finish them by February 14th, which marked also the release of the film, but I managed to reach the end chapter of the third book last week.

To say that the volumes are not so interesting is an understatement. I’ve read Ikea instructions more entertaining that this, but somehow, I took the time to read them in full, which is more than I can say about Deborah Harkness and her trilogy.

To say that E. L. James masters some kind of talent while writing her pages is a generous overstatement. Throughout the first book, I had to fight the vocabulary of a 13 year old with sexual needs, as well as my gag reflex, only to reach a boiling point expressed by the all mighty „inner goddess” which saturated almost every page.

After the second volume, though, things went more smoothly and I’m guessing that James had indeed improved her writing technique, making it a little more bearable for us, mortals.

To be frank, I used this book for a different purpose from what it was intended. I used it to fall asleep at night, when I usually closed my eyes after 2 or 3 pages of the stuff.

The erotica is very sparse, due to some very un-sexual characters, that make even the most hottest moment a dull one, repeatedly overflown with guilt, questions and thoughts that would make a nun yawn, the BDSM part of the story sounds like a treatable disease, as long as a fair maiden comes to the rescue of the perfectly chiseled man-trophy with money and abs to spare, and as for the abusive relationship so totted by feminists around the world – I truly see none.

No relationship whatsoever. What I see is two persons in love with the ideal image they have for one another, and even though I applaud the moments when these two love birds fight (because they give such an authentic vibe), the fact is that their personas do not exist. They are the idealization of the author when it comes to both women and men. Virginal, untainted vs. Manly, broken results in a change dynamic that turns the woman into a sexual predator, with a glorious career, a great husband, awesome taste in clothes, a mom and a race car driver vs. the sincere man, lovey-dovey-cutie-pie, amazing CEO and father, always at the whim of his woman.

Yeah, right!

There were moments when the build up could’ve been great, especially the plot with the oh, so enamored horny boss of the protagonist, or the plot with the sexy architect, or the plot involving the history behind the Greys, but after a few paragraphs, you could tell that E. L. James does not master enough literary eloquence in order to control her characters, so all of those moments flew out the window.

However, the books were captivating enough to keep me returning night after night, and I’d recommend them for the ease of language and the satisfactory pace of the story. If you love Sci-Fi, then brace yourselves – James masters this art with great ease. Never have I ever seen such incongruous array of characters, making it unbelievable for the common person to relate to all that turmoil, all that inconsistency, all that… Blah-factor.

I raise my glass to a period of three months well spent in regaining my love for good reading once more. Here’s to all of the E. L. James’ in the world, may you forever float in our universe, teaching us bad books so we can savor the good ones!

Pic.

Review: Taylor Swift – Bad Blood ft. Kendrick Lamar

After a few years of musical anger, reflected by the personal demons in all the rock music that haunted my playlists, something weird happened and now my brain is wired along the pop waves that sweep through the nation.

And when I say nation, I am referring to, of course, the almighty internet.

With the release of 1989, I noticed that I am a big fan of the pop princess that is Taylor Swift. Her newest video is one of great cinematic importance, star studded and very Frank Miller-esque. Obviously, Taylor kills it in this video – she’s so inhumanly pretty and hot and bad ass, to the point I can’t stand her.

Although Bad Blood is a bit of a hot mess, especially because of all those pop culture references that Joseph Kahn seems to use ad libitum, but all in all, the final cut marks a whole lotta neo-noir and Taylor Swift‘s best video yet. I was saving this title for her previous effort, Style, but Bad Blood, coupled with the song, is clearly a work of art.

With nods to the likes of Sin City, Matrix, Kill Bill and Tron, the stars of the video assume aliases to help them get even with Arsyn, the Wrong-Doer (Selena Gomez), and help avenge Catastrophe (Taylor Swift).

The song is rumored to be about rival Katy Perry, who presumably stole some of Tay-Tay’s backup dancers, but who knows? Girls in pop biz are so up in each other’s biz-biz, right?! Anyhoo, the likes of:

Lily Aldridge (Frostbyte – sorry, not feeling it!)

Zendaya (Cut-Throat – I really don’t know why she’s famous, but here she slays it)

Hayley Williams (The Crimson Curse – cause of course she is, the Punk Princess herself!)

Gigi Hadid (Slay-Z – nice play on words, Kardashian undercover)

Ellie Goulding (Destructa X – a really appropriate nod to showcase her destructive ways with the charts)

Hailee Steinfeld (The Trinity – such a boring waste of visuals)

Lena Dunham (Lucky Fiori – awesome mob-like attitude!)

Kendrick Lamar (Welvin Da Great – What Da What?!)

Karlie Kloss (Knockout – a different way to spell Perfection, if you like)

Serayah (Dilemma – I am having one right now. Who is you?!)

Jessica Alba (Domino – or Little Nancy Callahan, that works even better!)

Martha Hunt (Homeslice – I was betting on Martha Stewart, sign of a gap in my current pop culture information)

Ellen Pompeo (Luna – oh, wow! Unimaginative as hell!)

Mariska Hargitay (Justice – I’m betting on supermodel here)

Cara Delevingne (Mother Chucker – beautiful, twisted beast)

Cindy Crawford (Headmistress – age is but a number, but beauty is forever?)

and, of course, Selena Gomez (Arsyn – doesn’t she look evil and mastermind with that short, geometrical bob?! Amazing!) team up for one of the greatest music videos of the summer.

Some of these personas do seem to make more sense than others, especially if you look at Arsyn, Headmistress, Mother Chucker, Domino, Knockout, Lucky Fiori, Destructa X, The Crimson Curse and Catastrophe. They make even more sense, once you take into consideration that the stars chose those names by themselves, so they must reflect almost on point the character they wanted to convey.

And even though Kendrick Lamar fails to prove himself once again, I really like the song (the original version lacks his unwelcome intrusion) and the video is exquisite. Dark, futuristic, visually compelling and creative – what more could one ask from a self-appointed pop princess?

Review – Doi si un tulnik

doi si un tulnikNimic nu doare mai tare decat atunci cand cineva vine si racaie in sufletul tau secrete pe care le acoperi cu momente superficiale de viata fugara. Doi si un tulnic, pardon, tulnik, spectacolul lui Alex Unguru, are aceeasi calitate dureroasa ca si Ka-chiiing! Pare menit sa vina sa te dezvaluie, sa te dezbrace de minciunile ordinare, vine sa deschida ochi si minti si sa te elibereze de tine.

Responsabil cu textul si regia, Alex Unguru face din spectacolul sau despre globalizare un amalgam de istorii cu personaje distincte, relativ dificil de urmarit, din punctul meu de vedere, de catre publicul neantrenat. In Doi si un tulnik abunda dedesubturi si subtilitati, si va spun sincer ca spectacolul va forteaza sa fiti atenti la fiecare replica, sa inspirati tot ce se intampla pe scena, sa rumegati in voi fiecare secunda si sa traiti fiecare gand.

Alex Unguru face echipa buna cu Misa Serban, care se modeleaza pe un tip de personaj la care exceleaza fara drept de apel. Cel mai bine le reuseste celor doi pasarea replicilor intr-un fel care le e foarte fluid si natural. Jocul de cuvinte dintre Alex Unguru si Misa Serban e foarte greu de urmarit, dar nu imposibil, si solicita atentia publicului cu fragmente de istorie, filosofie, muzica si sport, legandu-le cu fictiune si absurd intr-un fel care le devine propriu, caracteristic.

Tulnikul care impreuneaza toate aceste momente aparent disparate e reprezentat de Alin State, un om pe care stiu sigur ca o sa-l mai vad si in alte spectacole, pentru ca nu ai cum sa nu-l vezi si sa nu fii subjugat de prezenta lui. Alin State are o carisma aparte, pe care o pune in slujba artei, dar si a filosofiei, pe care o foloseste ca sa-ti demonstreze cat de mult te-ai indepartat de radacinile tale, dar si ca sa te sileasca sa te uiti inapoi, in tine, si sa vrei sa revii la ce ai fost o data. Magnetismul lui domina fiecare secunda petrecuta pe scena si spun din suflet ca ar fi meritat un public mai… Viu. Mai simtitor. Mai sensibil. Sau nu stiu, poate e vina omului modern, care se ascunde in rusini de clasa si ii e jena sa recunoasca faptul ca s-a pierdut un pic in capitala asta mare.

Spectacolul lui Alex Unguru e unul subtil si haotic, si permanenta intrerupere data de fenomenul numit tehnic breaking the fourth wall il face sa fie o provocare pentru spectactor. Doi si un tulnik e despre globalizare, dar si despre uitare, la fel cum este si despre filosofie, istorie, geografie, arta si muzica. Este la fel de mult despre femei, cum este si despre barbati. Despre soare, si despre ploaie, despre lumea noastra si despre luna noastra. Despre pinguini si comunism si, cel mai des, Doi si un tulnik e despre radacini si despre grai.

Imi plac spectacolele care ma fac sa gandesc, dar nu-mi plac cele care ma fac sa-mi amintesc. Pentru ca, dupa atata ras salbatic si zambete fugare la referinte pop culture relativ ascunse, imi dau seama ca m-am uitat prea mult pe mine, si o lacrima se grabeste sa atinga pamantul pe care noi cu totii l-am uitat. Si in clipa aia imi dau seama ca mi-am uitat graiul…

Voi nu-l uitati, si mergeti sa vedeti Doi si un tulnik. E musai!

Multumesc Godot Cafe Teatru pentru gazduire si lui Alexandru Unguru pentru invitatie.