Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bots High, Émile Zola, and yes, more 2CELLOS

I adore Bots High, which is a documentary about high school students in Miami building combat robots and competing in a national robotics competition. Incidentally, many, many of the robot engineers are girls. That's only one of the reasons to watch -- I love these kids, love their smarts, creativity, procrastination, anxiety, heart, the ways they take care of each other.

Wanting to read a novel that takes in Paris while I'm in Paris, I settled on Émile Zola's Au Bonheur des Dames ("The Ladies' Delight"), translated by Robin Buss. First published in 1883, it's about a fictional department store in the era when department stores were new to Paris; the store's brilliant, attractive, and dissolute owner, Octave Mouret; his staff, and in particular a strong young women of dignified purity named Denise Baudu; and all the small merchants in the neighborhood whose lives and livings are destroyed by the capitalist behemoth in their midst. It's repetitive, predictable (except when it's not!), preachy (but interestingly ambivalent!), packed with extreme figurative language, overflowing with excessive and flowery description, and about as believable as a fairy tale (though I won't say whether of the Disney or the dark variety). I LOVE it. A French friend tells me this is pretty much the only Zola book that isn't chock-a-block with depression and despair. I wish certain other depressing, despairing writers had written one (relatively) happy, cheerful book. Can you imagine if there were one happy, cheerful Edith Wharton book, or one chipper Henry James? I love Edith Wharton, don't get me wrong, but there isn't much mirth in her house. Anyhoo. This Zola has been the perfect read for me just now.

Finally, it's been ages -- ages! -- since I've posted some favorite 2CELLOS covers. Here are two heavy metal songs wonderfully well-suited to cello, for your enjoyment and also the enjoyment of your babies. (I've been receiving reports from friends that not only do they enjoy the 2CELLOS stuff but so do their babies. Happy babies! Just one more thing to love about 2CELLOS! ^_^)

Forthwith, a cover of Racer X's "Technical Difficulties" and one of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." (I think NIN's Downward Spiral counts as heavy metal, but "Hurt" has a real softness and lyricism to it, and the cello accentuates this -- while the lack of lyrics automatically strips out a lot of the angst. Google the original "Hurt" if you don't know it and are interested, but note it's not safe for work -- unless your workplace is okay with Trent Reznor singing about his crown of shit.) (ETA: Here's an unplugged version of "Hurt" with Reznor on piano that is safe for work  -- and also quite lovely! Though if you listen to this one, you NEED to listen to the original, just to appreciate the difference.) (Okay, I promise I'm done babbling about this now.) After that, I also embed Luka Sulic of 2CELLOS playing the theme to Schindler's List, with my parents, and listeners like them, in mind -- for those of you who might love cello, but not necessarily rock covers on cello. This theme has been overplayed, IMO, but this interpretation, truly gorgeous, lifted me out of my lethargy.