Michaelwclark.com

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She’s Got Dragons

Who me? Game of Thrones freak? Naah. That’s only part of the story.

I did like Khaleesi and thought that Jason Momoa nailed the ancient conqueror role. But they are only depicting things that, more or less, really happened. Alexander the Great. Cyrus the Great. Cleopatra.

Dragons may be fiction but we have a pretty heavy inheritance we have to face.


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Cleopatra

I haven’t been buying books lately because I have so many. But this one caught my eye. After checking at the library (it’s there but only as reference) I shelled out two bucks for this. Great deal, considering the cover says $30 CAD.

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Cleopatra is an interesting character. Michael Grant reminds us that she was far more intelligent and aware than a mere seductress or silly young girl as writers like Shakespeare and Shaw have portrayed her. No, she was raised in a royal line and had to know how to appease various (powerful) interest groups, especially the Romans. Although most people think of her as Egyptian, Grant says she’s of Greek origin, which I found surprising.

This book is a great complement to the HBO series Rome, which is well done but so mercilessly cut (from the director’s original version) that it’s a bit hard to follow at times.


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The late, great David Bowie’s “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore”

Poor David Bowie. I think of him often. Anyone who rises that high and then slowly burns out – artistically, I mean – well, it must be hard. Classical composers generally get better with age. But it aint necessarily so with pop stars. I guess pop music is all wrapped up in the hopes, dreams and angst of youth. So when the star isn’t a youth any more, it gets harder and harder to connect.

Bowie’s final album had a beautiful song, “Lazarus,” which to me seemed heavily influenced by an 80s band called The Cure. Most people who remember rotary dial phones have probably heard “Lazurus.” And if they were listening to pop in the 80s, I think they’d recognize The Cure connection.

But today I want to talk about another song on the final Bowie album, “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore.”

I don’t like this song very much. When I first saw the title I thought Bowie was just being rough and crude for the sake of it, like a relic from a different age trying to be cool. After all, today we talk about “sex-workers” and the term “whore” is totally inappropriate and probably illegal to use in public.

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

But on Googling the song I found that, as often happens, there was more to Bowie’s work that I’d realized. Turns out there is an English play from 1629 by John Ford called “‘Tis Pitty Shee’s a Whore.” No doubt this influenced Bowie and I have to apologize to his enduring spirit for having judged out of ignorance!


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21st Century Signs and Urban Changes

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Now that I’ve finally got a good mobile phone that takes nice pics, I’m beginning a new venture, one that has been percolating for some time now. Actually two ventures. One is a photo series called “21st Century Signs.” The other is a series called “Urban Changes.”

21C Signs will chronicle signs that catch my eye as I go about my daily business. I won’t crop or filter the images. It’s just a quick historical snapshot. The series might seem unexceptional today, but in the future I think folks will be interested.

Urban Changes is about how my city, Toronto Canada, is changing soooo fast. Old buildings are disappearing by the truckload. New buildings are coming up and altering our skyline like never before. So this series will outline abandoned, soon to be trashed, and glittering new structures.

You can keep up by simply coming here because it’ll all be on Twitter. And my personal Twitter feed is at top right of this page. I was lucky to grab the name “@MikeClark” at Twitter early in the game, when Twitter was just taking off. If you want to see the whole thing, here’s the link:


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My summer cyber travels – Moscow and St. Petersburg

I actually watched two videos about Russia last night. But I found this one the most captivating.

This second video is also worthwhile. But, on the whole, I find Russian aesthetics to be a bit clunky for my liking. It’s like they never really get it “quite right.” Totally subjective, I know. But that’s how I usually see it.

There are exceptions, of course, like the still image for this video. Also, the Russian subways are pretty impressive. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how many Russian peasants suffered – maybe starved to death – so the Gov. could afford such splendor.


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The Northern European gods and goddesses come alive!

I’ve owned this book for some time but it’s been sitting in my basement, highly respected and largely ignored. I hoped I’d get to it some day. Finally, after years of letting it just sit there, I cracked the cover. Amazing book. Really good. At least, right for me… right now.

The author mentions other luminaries in the field yet resists the temptation, which many bigger names did not, of spelling out some grand mythological theory. So in this sense she’s incredibly contemporary for 1964 (the publication date).

Grand theory is generally “out” these days, I think it’s safe to say. H. R. Ellis Davidson seems quite content to just discuss the evidence without overlaying her own imaginative framework. And that’s what makes this charming and informed work a true classic.

Highly recommended for anyone wanting to go a little deeper into the topic.


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The Next Day – sounds more like yesterday…

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This morning I gave David Bowie’s The Next Day another listen. It came out a couple of years ago, but I was going thru a challenging time when the cd was first released, so I thought I’d give it a shot during happier times.

Stress or no stress, my impression is about the same this time as it was the first time: Good… but not great.

Like an old NASA astronaut, Bowie is to be admired. But The Next Day, for the most part, feels really YESTERDAY. The only song I might listen to again is The Stars (Are Out Tonight), which is a nice 70s sounding tune… but not quite hit material. And the overall sound quality of the album is so ridiculously compressed. It sounds like music in a can.

When I was a kid Bowie was the cool freak. Among many associations with his music is walking down Yonge Street in the 1970s, and being fascinated by all the sex, sleaze and futurism it had to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I was just a kid. But Toronto was sleazier in the 70s. Sex workers (then called “hookers,” “prostitutes,” or worse) and strip joints were more visible than in these sanitized days. And a perceptive kid could easily pick up on it. Why else did kids like to go downtown?

Oh yes, pinball and video arcades…

But everything has changed. EDM has taken the place of what artists like Bowie used to do for me. It’s fresh. It’s new. Maybe a bit mechanical. But EDM is really exploring the fringe. New sounds are coming out. Sounds that build on the 70s greats. We wouldn’t have EDM without acts like Bowie, Yes and Genesis (Peter Gabriel version). But, for me anyhow, it’s definitely time to move on.