Blog Posts by bweiner

Posted by bweiner on 01/06/17
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Lady Gaga’s latest CD, Joanne, is another stunning addition to the artists already complex and varied musical collection. She continues to add new sounds and styles to her repertoire, and reveal fresh sides of her musical nature.

Joanne is scaled back, softer and more acoustically inclined than most of her works. The ballads are soulful, and open a window into a very personal side of Gaga. There is an elemental power in these songs, an earnestness that is in contrast to some of the other more sensational facets of this richly talented woman.

If you are not already a fan, this might be the time to reach deep into your soul and give this dynamic artist a chance.
Posted by bweiner on 12/03/16
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In her 2016 novel Everfair, Nisi Shawl tackles a complex and seldom visited period in world history, the colonization of the Congo by King Leopold II of Belgium. The story of the massive slaughter and dehumanization of the Congolese was repressed for many years, and now Shawl brings it to life in a unique and spectacular way. She avoids bland academic interpretations and passive retrospectives and instead takes us on a journey through the Congo as she rewrites history with a fresh expression, using the steampunk genre as her vehicle.

As with all speculative fiction, you must immerse yourself in the “what if”, and the alternate reality she proposes. What if steam power were available much earlier in the Congo? Would this have given them the power to support and protect their people? Would it be possible to create a safe haven, and would this Utopia be enough to withstand the pressure and exploitation from challenging sources?

But it is in the telling of this story that Shawl really shines. There is no single perspective here; the characters telling the story are male, female, Europeans, Americans, Africans, and Asians, they are kings, servants, politicians, nurses and scientists, and this fascinating blend of voices contributes deeply to the rich tapestry of this tale.

Enough said. I have revealed more than I should.  Check this book out and go on a remarkable journey with a unique voice in speculative fiction.
Posted by bweiner on 10/21/16
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This Census-Taker, by British author China Miéville, will confound you with more questions than answers in this surreal narrative, with its strange imagination and moody quality. Miéville creates a space that erupts and burns with originality.

This small, thought provoking tale takes us on a journey with a boy who thinks he witnesses a murder, but is unable to trust his own memory. This story appears to be a fairy tale, yet it defies the usual conventions of that genre. Miéville keenly lets the story unfold through the unique vantage point of the child. His sparse revelations cautiously satisfy, while leaving us unsettled and unsure.

Captivating, challenging, this is Miéville at his finest. If you are willing to send your imagination to new heights, to indulge in beautifully constructed language and navigate a world of complex, peculiar characters, this is the story for you.
Posted by bweiner on 08/29/16
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The epic tragedy of the Holocaust has been the subject of innumerable books and movies. The sheer scale of death, deprivation and pain caused by the brutal executions of innocent millions will haunt us and future generations forever.
Then along comes Son of Saul by Hungarian director László Nemes, another entry in the canon of Holocaust material. It is challenging to find originality with this subject, difficult to find a way to retell the story of desolation and sorrow.
This, however, is not one of those stories. This very personal story of a man mourning the loss of a son he barely knew is not about a nation or world in sorrow. The exquisite pain, the fuel of loss, the need for one last moment of dignity and propriety, these things propel Saul Auslander, played with steely, rigid agony by Hungarian actor Géza Röhrig, to find a way to bury his son according to the traditions and laws of his Jewish faith. This story belongs to Saul and his son.
Posted by bweiner on 07/24/16
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Music has the ability to transport, entertain, educate and inspire, and if you are really lucky, all of these things will happen at once.

Check out The Color Purple (New Broadway Cast Recording (2016) on CD. This exceptional soundtrack is a fusion of jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues, and the impressive cast includes the spectacular Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery, and a fearless performance by Cynthia Erivo as Celie.

Erivo was recently awarded the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, and one listen will tell you why. If you know the story, Celie begins her journey with a small voice, barely able to articulate her needs to anyone but her sister, Nettie. Their voices lift you with the sweetness, spirit and innocence they collectively possess. We hear Celie gather strength as her resolve and determination grow.

Good music is an indulgence for the ears, but this CD takes it a step further by artfully articulating Alice Walker’s story of courage and triumph.
Posted by bweiner on 05/18/16
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Every couple of months I scan the shelves of the Marketplace in search of a great book. I bypass every author I have ever heard of, and search for a book so obscure, yet so extraordinary that it takes my breath away.
I finally found one.
The Vegetarian, by South Korean author, Han Kang, is exactly what I was looking
for. This story about Yeong-hye, her family, and her attempts to become a
vegetarian will shock you. The savage images that lead her to this desperate
resolution are lost on her family and set in motion a chain of events that embroils
the entire family in bitter conflict.
This story is about the fine line between the physical and psychological; it is
strangely fixated in the physical yet bound to the spirit. It is dark and disturbing
and rich and sumptuous in detail. Yeong-hye fights for ownership of her body and
its destiny, as everything about her is exposed and revealed. This story is
alternately frightening and familiar as it rolls in waves between fantasy and reality.
Characters are imprisoned and liberated, and face their lives with exhausted
endurance. Art is vision and reality as it becomes an obsession and a compulsion.
The characters are passionate, yet unemotional, and there is a perseverance of will that is terrifying to see.
All this, wrapped in a package of perfect prose, definitive and direct in purpose, yet
lyrical and evocative in deliverance.
Simply marvelous.
Posted by bweiner on 03/20/16
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Breathe: Respire, the 2014 film by acclaimed actress-director Mélanie Laurent, confronts the issue of bullying in a credible and terrifying way.
Charlie is your average high school student, endearingly sweet and alternately willful. She fights with her family, laughs with her friends and makes tentative steps into adulthood with the opposite sex.

Enter Sarah, the new student with the rebellious attitude and free spirit. Charlie is drawn to her total lack of social constraint and allows Sarah to influence her actions and behavior. The consequences of this shatter the lives of all involved…

No more reveals, for there are some interesting twists and turns in this well-acted, absorbing film. In French with English subtitles.

Posted by bweiner on 02/14/16
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The Daughters by Adrienne Celt explores the complex dynamic between mothers and daughters in a dramatic, unflinching and uncompromising way. The maternal presence in this story is represented by four successive generations in one family, and their fierce love mixed with struggles for power is a familiar scenario.

Woven into the fabric of this story are bits of Polish mythology, and this influences the fates of the women involved. Lulu is an opera singer who has trouble with her voice following the difficult birth of her daughter, an event that has extracted a personal cost to her family. When a daughter is born, someone must be held accountable…

Adrienne Celt does a magnificent job creating mood and atmosphere in this story. You can feel the darkness descend and the moments of tension between the women are tangible. The passion of these mothers is transcendent, and to be in their inner circle is fascinating. As an added bonus, most of the action takes place in Chicago. This is a very interesting read, and a wonderful exploration of the powers of motherhood.
Posted by bweiner on 01/27/16
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If you are looking for heaps of hilarity in your life, something guaranteed to make you chuckle, or even better, make you laugh till the tears come down, look no further. Check out the hysterical, frenetic world of bestselling author Jenny Lawson, as she describes in uproarious detail, her struggles with mental illness in 2015’s, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things.

Whoa, wait, mental illness? Are we allowed to laugh at that? According to Jenny Lawson we are! She shares her struggles and permits herself to be gloriously and furiously happy, to ride the tide of joy when she can, knowing the darkness is not always that far behind.

This audiobook caught my eye because of its riotous cover, which Jenny will explain in detail. Her goofy voice, sincere delivery, captivating stories and fresh approach to living with mental illness make this a superb selection.
Posted by bweiner on 12/18/15
Enter the world of surrealist Swiss artist H.R. Giger in the 2014 film, Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World. This work is a classic case of life imitating art, as his world on canvas is eerily similar to the one he inhabits.

I first became familiar with these mesmerizing works through some cover art that Giger did for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, a progressive rock group popular in the 1970’s. In the 1979 science fiction blockbuster film Alien, and the subsequent Alien films, we once again witness the far-reaching vision of Giger. The creature, the ship, and the entire landscape were developed from his visionary soul.

The story traces his life from early childhood and illuminates the inspiration and motivation that power his art. Images come to him in dreams, all related to his obsessions with birth, death and the feminine form. Giger passed away in 2014, but we are lucky that his work is on permanent display at the H.R. Giger Museum at Gruyères in Switzerland. And we are lucky indeed, to have this exceptional film as a tribute to his life.
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