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Category: The Arts

Hemingway’s Life: Reborn In Cuba

When you know me better you will realize how much I love the works of Hemingway. Today though it amazes me how little is known about the man.

For many American's in my generation it went without say that Hemingway was part of your life. At least academically. His impact on our culture and society as a whole is substantial which is why it pains me to learn that my niece; She will graduate next Spring, has never picked up one of his works. Nor was she forced to read one in school.

She didn't even know he visited Cuba, nor the impact it had on his work. He has spent more than two decades there and it was between the walls of the Finca Vigia, or Ferme Vigie. A property that has become a heritage restoration workshop outside of Havana. It is a joint project of the Cuban institutions and an American NGO, which emerged despite the resurgence of tensions with Washington initiated by Donald Trump. that Ernest Hemingway wrote one of his greatest works, "The Old Man and the Sea".

Ernest Hemingway lived on the premises from 1939 to 1960. He left thousands of documents such as manuscripts of his books, but also correspondence, photographs, or annotated works. A page of his life that he toured almost a year after the revolution. A year before his final his days.

Though he is one of the major figures of literature in the United States I fear that we will someday be oblivious to the importance he had.

I. M. Pei

Abstract shapes and sharp, geometric designs have made Chinese-born architect Ieoh Ming Pei a star in the West. He turned 102 in April.

Pei died in his Manhattan apartment on May 16, 2019.

Pei, famous for, among other things, the design of the glass pyramid at the Louvre in Paris. His handling of simple geometric shapes and playing with light shaped his work.

Sponsored by Walter Gropius, the exiled founder of the Bauhaus at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, and Marcel Breuer, Pei is considered to be its most accomplished classical modernist supporter. Pei had already moved to the USA at the age of 17 for training, the Second World War prevented his return to China.

I. M. Pei was born into a wealthy family. His father was a senior executive at the Bank of China, and in 1927 he was transferred to the bank's headquarters in Shanghai. The mother, an artistically educated woman and practicing Buddhist closer to him than his father, died of cancer when he was 13.

Pei went to school in Shanghai at a boarding school run by American missionaries. North American standards were conveyed there, wearing Western school clothes, the preferred sports being basketball and tennis. Pei experienced a contrast with this environment during the summer holidays in Suzhou northwest of Shanghai with his grandfather, who introduced him to traditional Chinese values, with family sense and the teachings of Confucius.

Later Pei described the early experiences with both worlds as a win.

At that time, the first high-rise buildings were built in the East Asian business center in Shanghai, of which Pei was very impressed. He decided to study modern architecture, which was only possible overseas. In August 1935, Pei traveled to the United States and, after a brief stint in Philadelphia, enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston.

In 1942, Pei married the Chinese born, Ai-Ling Loon (1920 – 2014), whom he had met four years earlier in Boston. They have three sons and one daughter. Pei never talked about his personal life, nor didoes he talk politics. He was described as an amiable, witty interlocutor who never loses calm even in critical situations. His secretary believed he only cursed once in her presence in the thirty years she worked for him.

Still, he was a figure of controversy; His designs often caused violent resistance at first, but then mostly contributed all the more to his fame. Time and again his special energy was emphasized, which enabled him to perform with a high level of energy even in old age.

One of his partners once said: "He's equipped with a different set of batteries than everyone else." Pei himself said of his motives: "In me I have a great desire to leave something behind. This has nothing to do with ego. I think you owe it to your own existence to leave something that remains."

The last masterpiece is the Museum of Islamic Art in the Emirate of Qatar.

Previously, it was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, USA, from where a disk jockey sent the term "rock and roll" into the world in the 1950s. The design of this building was meant to reflect the energy of rock and roll, the architect once said.

In between, the desire for experimentation would have almost ruined his company – the 240-meter-high John Hancock Tower in Boston, USA, huge discs fell out of the façade during every storm – be it like, the Bank of China in Hong Kong glitters like a crystal once again. This time Pei felt inspired by the bamboo, in Chinese culture which is seen as a positive symbol.

A New Magic Carpet Ride

Disney's animated film "Aladdin" re-envisioning is about ready to hit theaters.

The director; Guy Ritchie, is the man responsible for the reshuffle of the 1992 classic, which appears to be a potential another box office hit for Disney once again. In the role of the famous blue bottled Genie, Will Smith, who has slipped into the role made famous by Robin Williams seamlessly. For fans it was either a perfect fit or a miss-casting. Will Smith is aware of the high expectations fans have placed on his performance: "I was really scared in the beginning. You have to be careful with movies like this because they shape people's childhoods."

For me there is a certain nostalgia associated with the film since it was one of the last that I got invested in in my mid-teens.

Director Guy Ritchie wasn't put off by the expectations people placed on him. The couples three children played a role in their father's film choices.

"My children forced me to make a family movie," he quipped in an interview. "Aladdin was a logical choice for me. I was a fan of the 1992 animated version. One thing led to the other."

The film also stars the Cairo born actor Mena Massoud, with Princess Jasmin played by Brit Naomi Scott.

Aladdin isn't the first Disney animated film that has been subject to a live-action relaunch; "The Jungle Book " and "Dumbo " have already been re-filmed. And later this summer we'll get treated "The Lion King."

Bread and Wine

Something a little bit older landed on my bookshelf the other day; "Bread and Wine" by Ignazio Silone, published in 1936 by the Gutenberg Book Guild or "Vino e pane" published a year later in Italy. The book was republished in 1955 under the title "Wine and Bread," and apparently, in terms of content, it has been modified over the years but remains in print.

From Wikipedia):

Bread and Wine is an anti-fascist and anti-Stalinist novel written by Ignazio Silone. It was finished while the author was in exile from Benito Mussolini's Italy. It was first published in 1936 in a German language edition in Switzerland as Brot und Wein, and in an English translation in London later the same year. An Italian version, Pane e vino, did not appear until 1937.

After the war, Silone completely revised the text, publishing a significantly different version in Italy (in 1955), reversing the title: Vino e pane (‘Wine and Bread’). This updated version is also available in English translation.

I had learned about the author in a documentation that I watched some time ago and decided to try some of his work up. "Bread and Wine" is my first foray into that exploration.

Born in the small village of Abruzzo and died in Geneva in 1978, Ignazio Silone, whose name was Secondini Tranquilli wrote about Italy's poverty in the 1930s and the socialists' struggle against the Fascists, but actually also contains general wisdom for life. He then fled abroad, revised his books, etc.

The book follows the exploits of Pietro Spina, a young revolutionary who is being sought by authorities. To avoid capture disguises himself as an old priest known as Don Paolo Spada.

The story tells a lot about Silone's life, who lost his parents and his siblings early in on and was forced to make due without much schooling; his transition to a revolutionary and journalists were, for a time, under the scrutiny of police spies.

The book is beautifully written and for a work to survive it must be lest it slip into the space in history that is reserved for the forgotten.

Since "Wine and Bread" is still available, you can find some reviews that both provide sound information about the work giving you a good idea of what you are in store for and others. Some of them note downsides, such as "The book is adventure novel and political thriller in one" or "Wine and bread – both appear in the book while the figures consumes them regularly, the title does not suggest the actual content. It is also increasingly political and exciting towards the end."

While I find it good that they read the book it feels like they have missed the point. Neither of the opinions are capable of painting the work in a light that would be relevant to the themes and messages the book covers.

I will avoid going into much detail about the book; Instead it is more important to understand the time in which it was written, the struggles people faced, as well as the understanding that it is truly not a work of fiction but a document of the time.

For instance, the lives of the landless peasants are described very forcefully. Mussolini is all present and is feasible for one to see that people actually had no choice but to join the fascists, because they were mislead through the news, exploited and used to further Mussolini's agenda to receive minimal sustenance and support. For a job as a civil servant, teacher, community doctor one had to sell his soul and the poor students got money for their food rations, but only if they agree.

The book explores the populist rhetoric undermined the fabric of society and fake news was employed in much the same manner as today.

It is a time that we cannot return to.

Kubrick A Retrospective

For Stanley Kubrick's fans it is apparent he offers us a look into surreal worlds which challenge our sense of being and morality. But his works are richly layered and offer a broader look at both the future as well as a look into the past when they were created.

Now London is home of a retrospective dedicated to Kubrick's work and rich sense of director until September.

The exhibit honors the renowned director, screenwriter and film producer, marking the 20th anniversary after his death. It shows his creative process; step by step, throughout the whole creative process and gives us a look at one of one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of the 20th century.

Many of the objects are on loan, belonging in private collections and and are now shown for the first time. His daughter Katharina Kubrick, said: "It's all our stuff, all of Dad's stuff. We had them at home, he never threw anything away. Everything was carefully cataloged and kept in boxes. When we moved, it all came with us. I don't think he'd envisage an exhibition, but there was a reason he didn't throw anything."

Awards and iconic movie objects like from films like: "2001" or "Clockwork Orange " are on display at the exhibition.

Kubrick, who was born in New York, moved to London at the beginning of the 60s which became the center of cinematographic operations for the director.

For Kubrick it only seemed logical to use it as a setting for all of his films which was also extraordinary for the time. That is why it is was really the only choice for a retrospective were made in London. He was a master when it came time to recreate these worlds audiences enter when they watch his films. It might be a hotel in the Rockies or for battlefields in ietnam, or space, were ever it was he could transport you there.

About 500 objects are included in the exhibition which lasts until the 15th of September at the Design Museum of London.

The Venice Art Biennial 2019

The Venice Art Biennial 2019 has opened its doors to the public this Saturday and what I wouldn't give to visit it. Not just this year, but generally speaking, sometime.

For those of you who may not be familiar with it:

The Venice Biennale (/ˌbiːɛˈnɑːleɪ, -li/; Italian: La Biennale di Venezia [la bi.enˈnaːle di veˈnɛttsja]; in English also called the "Venice Biennial") refers to an arts organization based in Venice and the name of the original and principal biennial exhibition the organization presents. The organization changed its name to the Biennale Foundation in 2009, while the exhibition is now called the Art Biennale to distinguish it from the organisation and other exhibitions the Foundation organizes.

The Art Biennale, a contemporary visual art exhibition and so called because it is held biennially (in odd-numbered years), is the original biennale on which others in the world have been modeled. The Biennale Foundation has a continuous existence supporting the arts.

This year the Golden Lion for the best pavilion has been for Lithuania by the "Sol y Mar" facility, an artificial beach inside the Arsenal's historic building.

The central exhibition is spread over the old Venetian shipyards and in the Giardini. One of the most shocking facilities is perhaps "Barca nostra ", a ship from Libya that sank in 2015, with more than 700 immigrants and refugees aboard. The Swiss artist Cristoph Büchel's project echoes again this drama, one of the worst shipwrecks of the 21st century.

And it really does have a haunting appeal to it.

"I think it is a good thing that the ship is here, as it should be regarded as a reminder of our present. It is not something that no longer exists, something that can be ignored but something that can happen again and unfortunately occurs almost every day in the Mediterranean," laments Carlotta Sami, regional spokesperson for UNHCR in southern Europe.

Special mention for the Mexican Teresa Margolles has re-envisioned the city's canals as a large concrete wall with concertinas to question the public about the divisions and violence that exists in the world.

The Israeli pavilion takes the appearance of an ER in which the visitor can see with despair that there are still 200 numbers ahead in the waiting room…

If you are lucky enough to be in Venice you will have the chance to visit the Venice Biennial until the 24th of November.

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