2016 has not been my favourite year.
Aren't you over this obsession with nationalism and populism? Being herded into simplified positions or towards activism. Where everything gets reduced to us being for or against something. With us or not with us.
We don't seem to have any patience for things that are complicated or nuanced anymore. We're all so angry.
Culturally, 2016 has also been Beyonce's year. Again.
Once upon a time she was the prom haired child of destiny. On the cover of every magazine, beauty personified. Great voice, great look, great mover.
Then she reinvented herself and the game in 2013 with Beyonce.
It's not an easy task to reinvent yourself after so long in the public eye. People are only too ready to remind you of how frumpy you were or how much of a nerd you were before you made yourself over.
I think it was a good move on Bey's part. Musically she really needed to step it up a few gears. And her 2016 release Lemonade has consistently been the year's most acclaimed recording.
In case you haven't noticed, with Beyonce and Lemonade Bey has morphed into a serious artiste. One who doesn't want to pay lip service to issues anymore. Someone who's no longer content to be the L'Oreal gal in pop. Girl's got other things on her mind.
And where in the past her albums featured hubby Jay Z, Lemonade [thankfully] lacked his vocal presence. Even if the idea of him is still all over it.
The takeaway from all of this, and Beyonce's continuation as a serious artist was that Beyonce somehow got 'blacker' [and angrier] this year. Realer thanks to the elevator scene, Superbowl, the baseball bat. The corn rows. Pretty much any moment and any thing in the long play video.
Queen Bey transitioned her sound with Beyonce, but she's solidified her position on things with Lemonade. She's done it by doing what commercial artists have long done. By working with the best and by tapping into social movements that artists strive to claim as their own.
But these feel like ridiculous times.
Times when we suddenly have to be reminded that Black Lives Matter. Times when people are identifying with the old, white guard. When many are not even willing to acknowledge the existence of 'minorities' anymore.
Times when parts of the world are looking to repeal rights so hard fought for.
So when Bey appeared at the Superbowl and paid tribute to the Black Panther movement back in February, the press had a heart attack. If she hadn't already killed off her old L'Oreal persona with Lemonade, she certainly finished the job at the Superbowl.
Beyonce's numbers are impressive. Her album has performed solidly, but not even she is Adele. Adele's not here to ruffle your feathers. But Beyonce suddenly is and that has pissed a lot of people off.
But any backlash to Beyonce's activist position in 2016 isn't really about her suddenly thinking she's black. It's a sign of how the usual suspects [and now parts of the disenchanted society] feel like we're in a rickety boat. A boat whose position is so precarious that any sign of rocking will force us all to capsize.
The real take out? Beyonce has slayed this year because mainstream artists have been playing it safe for years. And for all the activism, Beyonce's album was solid musically, and breathtaking at a visual level. Beyond that, well her fans are more likely to be caught up in who Becky with the good hair is to worry too much about the message Beyonce is trying to send.
It's 2016. They need a simple, clear position and not much more, after all.
LET'S face it. 2016 has been a horror year.
We should've seen the signs as early as January.
January 10 to be precise.
On that day, we lost someone incredibly unique: David Bowie.
A man who transcended boundaries and whose appeal was inter-generational.
Bowie left with the same style and grace he'd displayed for decades, choosing not to make his health battles and problems public. Instead, he left us with Blackstar, his final album, which has remained one of the year's best reviewed works.
How fitting, it seemed, that Blackstar - an album in which Bowie looks death squarely in the face - was his final swan song. As if the master had planned the farewell in advance.
But accounts are now beginning to surface which suggest Bowie was already planning on yet more material after Blackstar. It's a tantalizing idea.
As has become custom, we realised what a remarkable, mercurial talent he was only once he was gone. Blackstar went to number one on its posthumous release. Much of Bowie's back catalogue filled out the world's albums and singles charts as we scrambled to preserve our memories of him and his music. And, his transcendental approach to culture: blurring the lines of music, fashion and art as he did for so long, have stretched his legacy into the art world.
Since his departure, the Victoria and Albert museum in London has announced that their Bowie exhibition has become their most ever visited show. Bowie's personal art collection: as progressive and ahead of the times as the man himself - has had collectors in a frenzy.
And yet, he'll be remembered for being such a phenomenal pioneer in popular culture. With a voice that was distinctive and incredibly powerful. Get your fill of it over at NME which have some great isolated vocals that attest to how amazing that voice was lest we forget.
So PF (that's short for Pope Francis) has brought the Jubilee year to an end.
The press here in Italy are referring to it as being a pretty massive flop. They've labelled it as being the Low Cost Pilgrimage particularly because it failed to attract anywhere near the number of visitors the Vatican expected.
The City of Rome had high expectations for the event and its hospitality industry was at the ready to welcome to the tens of millions of visitors that the Vatican expected. That didn't happen though. Visitor numbers to Rome were pretty much identical to the year before.
But a lot has happened in Rome between the Jubilee year beginning and ending. Notably, Rome's administration is now under Virginia Raggi and the populist political group Cinque Stelle [5 Star Movement], who, in addition to campaigning against the old guard, are trying to manage the city of Rome by applying a lot of really unpopular austerity measures.
Romans are up in arms about Raggi and the incompetence of the movement, and the political group is also not really making a lot of friends in high places.
In announcing the end of the Jubilee year, the Vatican spokesman, Monsignor Rino Fisichella, thanked a number of institutions including the region of Lazio for its support.
His exact words, as reported by the Repubblica Newspaper:
"un sincero ringraziamento va anche alla Regione Lazio per avere approntato un servizio di sanità e pronto soccorso all'altezza dell'evento"
[Translated: A sincere thanks to the Region of Lazio for having provided health and emergency response services to a level on par with the significance of the event...]
But when he quite notably omitted The City of Rome from his acknowledgements, journalists at the press conference asked whether or not he'd simply forgotten to thank them for their support. After all, you can't get to the Vatican without passing through Rome [or using its network of services]. His response?
"Il mio testo parla chiaro". [Translated: My text was very clear].
Ouch. Guess no nighttime prayers for Raggi and co.
If you can read Italian, you'll find an article about the Vatican's press conference here.
For an analysis about the perceived flop of the Jubilee year in English, go here.
I've lived in Italy for so long that it's become very difficult to draw the line when it comes to the love/hate relationship I have with the place. Since I moved down south to Lecce - a gorgeous baroque town near some great beaches - my faith in Italy has been restored somewhat, especially after four years living in Rome.
Rome is pretty much at the top of my Love/Hate list. Amazing city to visit for a few days. But a tough city to live in on a lot of levels because it's so disfunctional day to day. What makes it bearable are the Romans whose sense of humor I just love.
Anyway, let's not get too touchy feely about the place. It's on the top of my list and just beats out the Vatican. And people like the woman who lives in my building who sounds the intercom daily to complain about stuff I have nothing to do with. She takes about three minutes to get through her daily spiel by the way.
But back to the Vatican. Don't get me wrong, I loved Pope Benedict's red Prada shoes. And Padre Georg is a hottie, but, I hate pretty much everything the Vatican and its crew stand for. And I especially hate how it's a city state when it wants to be, but at all other times it mooches off of Rome, Italy and basically anyone that pays taxes in Italy.
My love/hate list isn't just geographic. The director Paolo Sorrentino for example is also in my top ten. He's a brilliant director who I think has the best eye in the business. But I'm usually left feeling really bummed about his scripts [which he writes] and how his work is always some variation of the story a middle age guy with rockstar charisma who is having some kind of existential crisis.
That said, even though Sorrentino's new series The Young Pope, pretty much follows the recipe to a T, it's really enjoyable. Jude Law (who is just made for Love/Hate roles) is fantastic as the newly appointed fifty-something pope who is not the sweet and charming leader the pretty face would have you believe.
I just finished watching the first series and I have to say I really liked it.
There are times when I found it a bit heavy going, and a little dramatised for telly, but for the most part, Sorrentino's take on the Vatican is really enjoyable.
Love the humour that sneaks into the script and the brilliant cast [especially Silvio Orlando who is amazing in this]. But if you're not convinced about watching a show about the Vatican,the visuals alone might convince you to get involved.
It's about as cinematic as TV gets. So, Rome, the Vatican and Sorrentino have basically bought themselves another year on my love/hate list while I await the second series.
Have you seen it yet? What are your thoughts?
For the second time this year, I've woken up to election results that have devastated (and blind sighted) me. Sure many people are celebrating the result, just as many are feeling the way I am.
What a devastating and divisive year this has been when it comes to all things politics.
The tone has been so low as has been the bar.
Though, I don't think that this election has had anything to do with positivity or our betterment. It's been about smashing things. For HRC the glass ceiling, for Trump, the system.
To those of you who voted for HRC and were rooting for her, my sympathies.
To those of you who have voted for Trump, all I can say is that I hope to one day be able to see what you've already seen in him and that it's a positive thing. Or that we survive him.
What a period!
Is it just me, or are you sweating the results of the election too? Are you quietly waiting for the numbers as if they're going to collectively reveal America's Mensa score?
Against this backdrop - and between a few sittings of Sorrentino's The Young Pope - I've been busy editing and refining my new novel #replacementsky which is now being proofed and edited by some fab BETA readers.
I'm hoping to have the final book ready to go by February.
Be sure to subscribe to my mailing list so I can give you a heads up before the book is released and a free sample chapter along the way.
Otherwise, come and join me over on Facebook for the occasional update.
I'll also be adding content to the #replacementsky tab on this blog over the coming weeks.
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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