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This is to you, Twitter

Dear Twitter,

I have to say that it wasn’t love at first sight. Not at all.

When I decided I needed an account, I was bored and frustrated. Because I didn’t understand you. Not at all.

But then BBC’s „Sherlock“ came my way and I fell in love with Benedict Cumberbatch and the series as a whole (or at least the episodes I managed to watch).  And I wanted more. More information about every tiny detail I could get my hands on it. There wasn’t much out there. But you, Twitter, had some lovely accounts that offered all I needed.

You made me tweet  in English (and the English version of this blog wouldn’t exist without you) which has been quite a challenge. You will never imagine how difficult it was to get the very first tweet out there. And how thrilling it was to learn that you, Twitter, wasn’t a mere stream of information. People actually reacted, responded to my tweets, connected my to their conversations. People I wouldn’t have met without Sherlock and Twitter.  Some of them I managed to meet in RL, some of them I only know because of their Twitter but I miss them when they don’t update their status and am worried when I don’t see them online for a few days without warning.

Critics might say that this is how internet addicts behave and I should get myself some help to get rid of my addiction. But if it is an addiction – chatting with people from all over the world, learning new things from a variety of topics, getting news updates almost the minute stories are happening – then I am an addict. But as Sherlock would say: I’m just a user.

And I like it that way

Petra

xx

Sherlock: The Six Thatchers

The new year brought new Sherlock. And as always  the fans gathered round telly or any internet device to watch the first episode of series 4, „The Six Thatchers“. Written by Mark Gatiss this episode started where we left the beloved figures at the end of „His Last Vow“ (or is it „The Abominable Bride“?):  Sherlock, trying to fight his addiction, John and Mary, the soon-to-be parents, and Mycroft as dapper and clever as ever.  But of course there is the Christmas special „The Abominable Bride“ that first aired last year, and despite the fact that the creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss wanted us fans to believe it is a stand alone film, it isn’t. So aren’t the previous series.

That’s why „The Six Thatchers“ is a totally new twist for the series as a whole and for Sherlock in particular. You see the only consulting detective in familiar scenes in flashbacks (confusing for newbies, a feast for fans) and you see him coping with new situations  and new figures – a baby only being one of them. Of course this changes him, it has to, just because Sherlock is human, no matter what he made anyone believe so far and  a very caring one as this episode unfolds. This doesn’t mean he stops being that high functioning sociopath (with your number). He is as rude and clever as ever. And he is more active in a James Bond-like way.

John Watson has changed, too, as Mrs Hudson predicted on the wedding day: „Marriage changes you“, she told Sherlock, and of course she is right. The couple has to care for their baby daughter while solving crimes together with Sherlock – the two of them against the rest of the world now are  three. And Mary? Well, she is smart and fits perfectly into Sherlock’s world. But you know what’s in the canon.

All in all this episode has anything you could wish for: humour, drama and settings with lots of details that clearly need lots of re watches to deduce all the hidden clues. Benedict Cumberbatch simply is Sherlock, he fits into the belstaff as perfectly as he fits into that iconic role, delivering a brilliant performance in every single second. Martin Freeman’s John Watson as well as Amanda Abbington’s Mary are more than just sidekicks. They are adding new lines to the story that set the path for the still unknown episodes to come. The week till episode 2 feels as long as the hiatus as a whole.

 

 

James Rhodes: „Life’s too short to pretend“

Ahead of his upcoming tour in  Germany, Austria and Switzerland, James Rhodes kindly answered a few questions. No idea how he does it, but the answers hit my inbox in no time 😉

You have been on tour recently and will have a couple of concerts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Do you have time to stroll a bit through every town you are in? And if so are you looking for something typical in the town you are in?
I really hope so. Some days I’ll have more time than others but ideally I’ll always be able to stroll around and explore new places – most of these cities are new to me and I can’t wait.

How are you preparing for the concert in the evening? Is it important for you to relax, sleep in or are you too excited to be calm?
It’s a real mixture – on a perfect day I’ll be well rested and excited (in a call way!). But of course lots of the time I’ll be stressed and anxious and grumpy. But then I’m that way with everything not just concerts.

Is it difficult to concentrate when playing in a new hall?
Not usually. Sitting at the piano is the best place for me, whatever the hall is like.

You are quite active on Twitter where you are not only funny or chat about ordinary things. You are very open when it comes to topics such as depression or the abuse you suffered as a boy. Is it some kind of therapy for you? And are the internet/ social media stressful sometimes?
I love Twitter. I’ve met some wonderful people on there and been very lucky in that I haven’t come across much nastiness. I think loneliness can be really debilitating for people especially if they’re a bit wobbly emotionally (like me), so social media can be a really positive thing. I think it’s important to just be myself whether it’s with a friend in a cafe or online, it’s always the same me. Life’s too short to pretend.

When meeting fans it seems you are really enjoying it. Is there anything you want to tell them?
Thank you! That’s the main thing. It’s appreciated more than they know and it makes me feel all warm inside. Don’t ever feel shy about coming to say hello 🙂

I met James Rhodes in September 2015 after a talk at The Guardians' and asked for a selfie. Photo: Petra Breunig

I met James Rhodes in September 2015 after a talk at The Guardians‘ and asked for a selfie. Photo: Petra Breunig

——

You can find more about James Rhodes on his side where there are also links to tour dates, his Sound Cloud and his Twitter – and on this blog

All dates for his upcoming tour are in this poster: jamesrhodestourposter2016

David Lagercrantz: Fall of Man in Wilmslow 

It is a novel. A fiction, not a documentary about the life of Alan Turing. This is important because people tend to take every word for granted, weighing it carefully, comparing it to proved facts about the man who helped to break Nazi Germany’s Enigma code.

David Lagercrantz takes those facts and some more (Alan’s homosexuality, his somehow awkward behaviour, his genius) and unfolds his story from the very last day of Alan’s life and the moment his corpse is discovered by a local policeman. This man, Detective Constable Leonard Corell, takes a very special interest in this case that seems to be nothing more than suicide. Step by step he dives deeper into the life and thinking of Alan Turing – a journey which doesn’t leave his own life untouched.

„(I)f indeed anyone was an unbreakable code then it was Alan himself.“

„The Fall of the Man in Wilmslow“ is a thrilling story that hooks you from the very first page. If (and this is an if I only can claim for myself) you already know something about Alan Turing’s life and impact. Then you find hints you have read elsewhere, imagine pictures, films or documentaries you have seen or listen to and you will be able to find your pace between fact and fiction this novel is constantly mixing up. If you haven’t stumbled upon Alan Turing at all, you probably will be lost in between the complexity of the story that hops from the past to the present and back again, changes perspectives and comes  up with names and places you might find confusing because you have never heard of them. If you still want to find out more about Alan Turing, start with a biography (or click on the link given below).

FallOfMan

David Lagercrantz: Fall of the Man in Wilmslow. The death and life of Alan Turing. A Novel, MacLehose Press, about 9£.

You find more about Alan Turing here on my blog.

JG Ballard: High-Rise

It took me a while to figure out what other book JG Ballard’s „High-Rise“ reminds me of. In my defence I have to write that it has been ages since I’ve read „Lord of the Flies“ by  William Golding, another novel about how people react under special circumstances. Whereas Golding sets his figures on an uninhabited island, Ballard unfolds his story in a huge skyscraper, the High-Rise, a building that offers literally everything the inhabitants need from a supermarket and a school to restaurant and swimming-pools. No wonder the flat owners – as the story unfolds – are gradually losing interest in the surrounding world and stick inside the building.

„With its forty floors and thousand apartments, its supermarket and swimming-pools, bank and junior school (…) the high-rise offered more than enough opportunities for violence and confrontation.“

All the way back to the primitive ways of existence

Robert Laing, a doctor and medical school teacher who moved into his flat on the 25th floor after his divorce, soon finds himself too lazy to go to work and spends his nights protecting himself and some neighbours from other inhabitants. Gradually living in an exclusive flat means getting back to the most primitive ways of existence: staying alive, getting something to eat, having a safe place to sleep.

„The building was a monument to good taste.“

The intensity in JG Ballard’s „High-Rise“ comes from a language that is almost neutral and a complete contrast to the story itself, that is told like a non-fictional topic with a storyteller who seems only to describe what he sees or what he has been told. That’s why this novel is so brilliant and thrilling at the same time.

 

JG Ballard: High-Rise, Fourth Estate, about 7 £

In the movie adaption of  „High-Rise“ Tom Hiddleston takes the role of Robert Laing.

Photo: Petra Breunig

Photo: Petra Breunig

Benedict Cumberbatch’s outstanding Richard III

Yes, I can hear them. Those critics, those self declared grail holders of every single tradition you can think of in cultural topics. They are about to start their writing software after they had difficulties to survive  „Richard III“, the third part of the second series of „The Hollow Crown“, screened over the last three weekends on BBC Two. After a certain Benedict Cumberbatch got his hands on William Shakespeare’s „Hamlet“ last year in London’s Barbican those purists had to endure beat after beat: People ran wild! Queued for tickets! Young folks watched a play live on stage for the very first time in their lives! How could that happen? And they still watch it whenever a live recording hits a cinema within reach.

And now it is Shakespeare all over again, three of his plays transformed into three 2 hours films, bringing the bloody Wars of the Roses into living rooms where the audience watched how a tyrant was made. A tyrant in the shape of Benedict Cumberbatch whose Richard III took over the screen  step by step in „Henry VI, 2“ until he rules it completely in the defining part of „Richard III“. And he does so by luring the audience into his thoughts, his grief and his rage, leaving you wondering if you should be appalled by a cripple who is so terrible deformed or if you should feel sorry for a man who had been an outsider for all his life. The very first scene where Richard has one of his soliloquies speaking directly to the audience reveals not only his violent ambitions. It also shows that he is a vulnerable human being – naked upwards from the waist, a deformed back, a hand he can’t use – desperately trying to find his path where Richard is only true to his only ally, the audience, addressed directly to the camera in his soliloquies.

„I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion, deform’d, unfinished, sent before my time into this breathing world scarce made up – and that so lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at me, as I halt by them.“ Richard III, I,1

All these different feelings, the cruelty of a man driven by ambition, hate, haunted by the ghosts of the men he killed are brilliantly performed by Benedict Cumberbatch who always is in control of the audience’s attention, who grabs their hands, takes them on a ride and leaves them crying for a king who died on a muddy battlefield. It seems that Benedict’s performance gets better and better with every new role. He clearly is on the height of his abilities, bringing every emotion you can possibly think of to life within the wink of an eye or the move of a hand. And of course his voice talking Shakespeare’s English –  making it vivid and just beautiful.

So may all of those professional critics analyse every letter, every scene, every move of the camera, may they shout at the BBC for tearing Shakespeare down to the small screen and may they shout at Benedict Cumberbatch for whatever reason they may possible find. One of his faults clearly is bringing a new audience to Shakespeare. If this is a fault, I can find more to blame this man for.

Hollow Crown, Shakespeare and Benedict Cumberbatch

No, I’m not a Shakespeare expert. Far from that. Although I can imagine that reading his works might be the same challenge for native English speakers as it is for me reading Goethe or Schiller, getting the meaning of Shakespearian English is indeed a challenge. And it doesn’t get easier watching a play live on stage or a film version.

Unless you have a production team and a broadcaster that have the courage to  throw two hours of a 400 years old play on their audience, including lots of artificial blood, mud, ancient buildings and a very fine crew of actors to bring William Shakespeare’s War of the Roses to life. The second series of BBC Two’s Hollow Crown has all this. And it has a Benedict Cumberbatch whose Richard (soon to be King in the third episode of this series) goes all the way from an awkward but still nice ish teenager – his first appearance is all cheerful – to a cruel villain ready to climb on England’s throne, killing everyone in his way. We watch a young man who loves and adores his father who considers himself as rightful heir to the throne, a young man who from the very first scene always stands a bit aside, limping with a stiff leg and a hunchback – and is mocked for this and the fact that his birth apparently wasn’t an easy one, leaving him disabled into a world full of warriors.

„This word ‚love‘ (…) be resident in men like one another, and not in me.
I am myself alone.“ Henry VI 3, V,6.

As if this isn’t enough to harm a man, Richard is an eye witness when his younger brother is killed. His shock and fear is the audience’s because it is all written in Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance and we know that this is the final reason that turns Richard into the monstrous villain.

„And am I then a man to be belov’d?
O monstrous fault to harbour such a thought.“ Henry VI 3, III,2

But it is not a villain that is totally disgusting and appalling. Richard is scaring, thrilling, seductive and – surprisingly enough  – funny and you realise you care for a man who admits all he longs for in the end is his brother’s crown no matter how many men he has to kill to reach that aim. But Richard is not only just bad. He’s a man who feels utterly alone since early childhood, a man who knows that he will not find true love because of his deformities.

If it is true that „Richard III“ is one of the most demanding roles for any actor, it’s not for Benedict Cumberbatch. Because he brings every tiny detail of that character to life without any visible effort, leaving his audience speechless in front of the telly (or where ever you have the good fortune to catch this film), realising that you haven’t moved since two hours – except for opening your mouth in disbelief, murmuring „Oh my God“ every once in a while and totally forgotten that you are watching a Shakespeare play normally considered as difficult stuff.  We don’t know if  William Shakespeare thought of a special actor when writing his play. But maybe you need a Benedict Cumberbatch to make a villain sexy.

Ian McEwan: The Child in Time

Time. You will need time. Because when you start Ian McEwan’s „The Child in Time“ it will hook you from the very beginning and will only release you to your real life after you have read the very last word.  At least that happened to me – and to be honest it always happens when I start a work of Ian McEwan I happily discover book by book both in English and in German (thanks to Diogenes who offers both brilliant translations and wonderful made copies).

In „The Child in Time“ Ian McEwan tells the story of Stephen, author of children’s book,  member of a committee dealing with children’s education, happily married to Julie and father of three-year-old Kate. The perfect life is turned upside down when Kate vanishes in a supermarket literally in bright daylight and under the caring eyes of her father. Realising that the worst nightmare of parents has come true, Stephen’s existence is lost somewhere in between memories of his parents and childhood, his every day life duties and the desperate search for his daughter. It is only after a while and the separation from his wife, he learns that he has to struggle with time itself.

„It’s got something to do with time obviously, with seeing something out of time.“

Hopping between different plots and different  flashbacks could be confusing and boring for the reader who could be in danger to lose the plot if the author is unable to control all the lines. But it could be thrilling and exciting when it is done by a brilliant author that is Ian McEwan. He, being an amazing story teller, describes every single detail to create a world that seems both very familiar and very strange as things are unfolding for the thrilled and hooked reader. The only problem is that even brilliant books have an ending.

Photo: Petra Breunig

Photo: Petra Breunig

Ian McEwan: The Child in Time, Vintage Books, £8,99.

You can find my latest blog entry on IanMcEwan here.

Jim Ottaviani: Alan Turing in a comic book

Welcome, reader! Or should I write: Welcome user? Either way, it may be possible that you won’t be able to read this at all: Without the help of Alan Turing the invention of modern computers may have been quite different. Even if you are not a mathematician you may have stumbled upon Alan Turing and you may connect his name  with the Enigma. A machine that Germans used to encrypt their messages during World War II. and nearly helped them win that war. Of course this is the story of the Comic book „Alan Turing Decoded“ by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Purvis which I think can be seen as a summary of Andrew Hodges‘ „The Imitation Game“ – at least this is what came to my mind when I enjoyed reading it and of course I thought of the film, too (sorry, fangirl here).

A bit different

But the book also brings that brilliant man Alan Turing (of course he had lots of helping hands back in World War II in Bletchley Park) to life who always was a bit awkward and different compared to others. He ran miles on end, wore a gas mask as a prevention from hay fever, chained his mug to his heater in his office at Bletchley Park  – and he was a homosexual when this was illegal in Great Britain. Sadly enough he was prosecuted for that  – a treatment that may have been the reason why Alan took his own life. Though the circumstances are still unclear as Jim Ottaviani writes in his author’s note.

Of course this beautiful made comic book isn’t a documentary or biography on Alan Turing, so readers shouldn’t take any word or any picture as a historical fact. But it is a lovely way of getting the story of Alan Turing out to readers who don’t want to be bored by huge books with endless footage and bibliographical lists (although there are a few in this 232 page hardcopy, too) – but being entertained and touched by an intriguing life story with a tragic ending.

Photo: Petra Breunig

Photo: Petra Breunig

Jim Ottaviani, Leland Purvis (Illustrations): The Imitation Game, Alan Turing Decoded. Abrams, round 24$, £16, €16.

You may find more on Alan Turing on my blog – some of them are in German.

Dear Letters Live

The Internet, 17th March 2016
1.15pm ish, CET

 

First an apology: I’m typing this letter to post it on my blog rather than grabbing my pen and a piece of paper. It’s not that I can’t write any more in a traditional way. But on the one hand it would be a bit tricky to upload a handwritten letter to my blog (and I admit it has to be on my blog for anyone to read and of course I want clicks in my statistics). On the other hand it’s quite comfy typing in a foreign language and relying on the spell checker to mark typos whereever they appear (thanks Internet).  Of course this won’t turn my writing into a perfect English text – so don’t be too harsh.

LettersLive

I have no idea when I learnt about Letters Live but when I stared at your event in 2015 I was jealous and envy because I wasn’t able to be there. You know, sometimes real life is a bit bitchy when it comes to a fixed schedule that can’t be changed. So I decided I had to be there the next time, whatever it would take. Given the fact that London isn’t just a taxi drive away, I planned holidays around the event as soon as I knew the dates and bought tix the moment they went on sale – and blamed myself for torturing my credit card without knowing a single performer for the weeks to come.  When it was clear that my adored actor and beloved human being Benedict Cumberbatch would be there (after all he is to blame for my interest in Letters Live and so much more), I knew that I might have a chance to see him live on stage again after having the privilege to attend two of his Hamlets last year.

Now, that Letters Live is over, there is nothing to complain about. What a unique experience this was.  What a homage to the written word, to letters that gave insight looks into private lives that otherwise would have been hidden from the public ear. I laughed and cried and felt myself at the right place at the right time, taking unforgettable moments back home.

Hope to catch you again next year.
See you – all the best & take care

IMG_20160317_125832

 

 

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