May 26, 2017

“Paris,” French TV series on MHZ

Those wanting to improve their ear for current spoken French might enjoy Paris, a 2015 French tv series currently available on MHZ network. The first few minutes are confusing, but try to finish episode one of the six episode series. A seemingly random cast of characters will quirkily cross paths in the next 24 hours.

A woman who is a union rep for transportation workers will deal with her troubled husband, her transgender son/daughter, her soldier son and have a private meeting with the Prime Minister of France. The PM will deal with a runaway son, his distraught wife, his staff, his frenemy, the current Attorney General and political intrigue of all sorts. The Attorney General will inadvertently deal with his pregnant housekeeper, his journalist wife and the transgender son mentioned above. The pregnant housekeeper’s ex-con Muslim husband will get a job working at the funeral home owned by the brother-in-law of the female union rep.
You get the picture.  We are shown a kaleidoscope of people in Paris from working class, to wealthy and powerful along with very shady characters involved in strip joints, gambling, burglary and smuggling young women across the French border. All will become part of the woven tapestry that is Paris.

Every person depicted is somewhat an anti-hero with both good and bad qualities on display, but you will marvel at how the plot knits all of their lives together. In the process, you do get a sense of a day in the life of Paris, albeit a day that is transfused with love, crime, politics and high drama.

For a monthly fee, MHZ is available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.  Here are some other articles I have written about MHZ, the streaming service that caters to lovers of European dramatic television programs.

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/03/mhz-is-now-streaming/

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/10/mhz-choice-launches-on-oct-20/

Apple TV Generation 4

I finally bought a flat screen Samsung Smart television after quelling family resistance to installing something new.  Yet, nostalgia has kept us from wheeling the old tube tv to the dumpster.

I must admit that television is now a much more vivid and engaging experience which is a bit of good thing, but with its dark side, too. Binge-watching is a little too easy. Especially with Siri.

Did I mention that I also bought the Generation 4 version of Apple TV?  The system is now voice-activated with Siri being all too happy to find your selected program, especially if it means buying it from itunes. She is quite the sales clerk.

The only real set-up needed is to download free and paid apps for anything you may want to watch. For example, PBS and CNN apps were free; the MHZ Choice, Netflix and HBO Now apps simply connected to my existing paid-monthly accounts.

The remote-control allows you to swipe to make selections, hold down a button to summon Siri or punch Menu which takes you back to your previous page view.

A nice feature is your iCloud photo gallery can be run as a slideshow on your tv screen. I’m still discovering ways to use Apple TV, but Siri alone has revolutionized how I watch television.  Imagine being able to talk to all of your appliances?

Apple, please come up with an equivalent to Amazon’s Echo so I can tell Siri to turn my lights on, lower my heat, switch off my oven or set my alarm clock. And then put Siri into a robot that can do my laundry while I watch my Apple TV.

Beck is Back!

Like Wallander, another Swedish fictional detective, Martin Beck has had several incarnations in film and television. I have been following the 34 episode tv version, Beck starring Peter Haber.

Based on ten books by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, the first three seasons of 8 episodes each feature Martin Beck tackling socially relevant crimes with the help of his volatile police partner, Gunvald Larsson played by Mikael Persbrandt. Beck is just an ordinary guy, never glamorous, sometimes gruff, but always dogged in his pursuit of the truth behind crimes.

Thanks to MHZ Choice for streaming the original three seasons and new Beck material including Season 4, at just 2 episodes and seasons 5 with eight episodes. It’s so good to be back in the world of Martin Beck, albeit in Sweden.

https://mhzchoice.vhx.tv/beck

The Churchmen, French TV show on MHZ

Last week I wrote about a French tv series, but I just can’t resist telling you about another unique program called The Churchmen, a French television show with religion the over-arching theme, available on MHZ Choice.

The Churchmen (Ainsi Soient-Ils) is set in a Capuchin Seminary in Paris as we follow five seminarians studying to be priests. Ho hum, you say. Drama abounds as these young men grapple with their teachers, their families, secular friends and with major issues in their lives.

A young seminarian from a wealthy background keeps breaking his vow of chastity with other women, including his sister-in-law; another middle class fellow comes to grips with his attraction to other men; a musically-talented seminary student is tempted to join a band with an attractive female vocalist; the young man from the poorest background wants to redeem himself through religion after having served prison time and been guilty of murder. Never have I seen issues of religion and belief so artfully woven into a dramatic program.

The Churchmen, to be sure, gives a warts-and-all view of the Catholic Church and its personnel, but it humanizes the seminarians and priests who struggle to uphold their personal and institutional beliefs while remaining a positive force in the world. Elevated thought, indeed, for a television program that does not merely entertain.

Montalbano and The Young Montalbano, Italian detective programs

I’m trying to learn more Italian right now and, short of visiting Italy, watching television shows “in italiano” seems to be the next best thing.

Inspector Montalbano is a beloved Italian detective tv series based on the best-selling books of Andrea Camilleri. The episodes began appearing on tv in 1999 and are slated to continue airing through at least 2017 or 2018. I have been watching old episodes on MHZ Choice. http://watch.mhzchoice.com

Salvo Montalbano, charmingly played by actor Luca Zingaretti, is the middle-aged Chief Inspector of Police in Vigata, a fictional town in Sicily. Supporting characters include Mimi Augello, his womanizing deputy, bumbling police officer Catarella, his stalwart assistant Fazio  and Pasquano, the dead pan local coroner.

As charming as the original series is, I have liked The Young Montalbano, the tv prequel even more. Michele Riondino plays Montalbano as a young man who has just been appointed police chief of Vigata. The episodes show the origins of his chilly relationship with his father, his first encounters with his co-workers, and how his job has negatively impacted his love life.
Both Montalbano and The Young Montalbano are highly entertaining with stunning cinematography and clever plots, but the prequel has a bit more heart. Six new episodes of The Young Montalbano will premiere on MHZ on May 17, 2016.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Kayaks on the Chicago Riverwalk

Some of you have been reading my Culture Beat blurbs since my tenure at the Fairmont Hotel and Convito Italiano many moons ago.

Here are some recent Culture Beat blog posts and their links:

The cell phone headset that has improved my connectivity:

LG Tone Pro Wireless Stereo Headset

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/lg-tone-pro-wireless-stereo-headset/

The little speaker that makes my phone or iPad a portable stereo:

Jambox speaker by Jawbone

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/jambox-speaker-by-jawbone/

My favorite site for foreign tv streaming:

MHZ Choice launches on Oct. 20 (updated blog post forthcoming)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/10/mhz-choice-launches-on-oct-20/

The show you may want to watch to see women in political power (in Sweden):

Those In Power: a Swedish political tv drama on MHZ

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/02/those-in-power-a-swedish-political-tv-drama/

If you want to delve into charming French literature, check out:

The President’s Hat and The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain (in English)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/12/the-presidents-hat-and-the-red-notebook/

A book I’m recommending if you like science and business:

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/elon-musk-tesla-spacex-and-the-quest-for-a-fantastic-future-by-ashlee-vance/

Need some food items to add a little zing to your healthy diet?

My current favorite taste sensations (triple cherry blend, rice tortillas, dill relish, sauerkraut)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/my-current-favorite-taste-sensations/

If you are trying to cut down coffee jitters and acidity, try this ayurvedic tea:

Raja’s Cup: the anti-oxidant coffee substitute

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/rajas-cup-the-anti-oxidant-coffee-substitute/

When your sweet tooth hits, candy from a home-grown company:

Terry’s Toffee and Wackerpop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/10/terrys-toffee-and-wackerpop/

Stores that both amateur and professional chefs adore:

The Spice House: Seasoning the World

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/the-spice-house-seasoning-the-world/

Balsa Mela and Italian Herbed Salt at The City Olive

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/balsa-mela-and-italian-herbed-salt/

My favorite chain restaurant:

Lyfe Kitchen

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/03/lyfe-kitchen/

The delightful Chicago attraction that not everyone has visited:

Chicago Riverwalk from LaSalle to Lake Michigan (updated photos soon as construction continues further west)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/category/outdoor-fun-in-chicago/

Chicago’s classy classical record label:

Cedille Records Celebrates 25 Years as Chicago’s classical record company

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/cedille-records-celebrates-25-years-as-chicagos-classical-record-company/

One of the best apps for listening to customized radio:

AccuRadio: Hand-crafted by music lovers-not by a computer

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/accuradio-hand-crafted-by-music-lovers-not-by-a-computer/

My favorite app for news on your iPad or tablet:

Flipboard, a new way to get your news fix

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/02/flipboard-a-new-way-to-get-your-news-fix/

The best app for checking out other opinions on movies and tv:

Metacritic, when you want to know what the critics think

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/07/metacritic-when-you-want-to-know-what-the-critics-think/

Some of my favorite apps for finding sheet music, paid or free:

Printed Music in the Digital Age

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/printed-music-in-the-digital-age/

Best app for electronic music storage:

Sheet Music at Your Fingertips: ForScore

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/07/sheet-music-at-your-fingertips-forscore/

The best fake book for song standards on your tablet or desktop:

iRealPro app for your portable device or desktop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/irealpro-app-for-your-portable-device-or-desktop/

More apps for the musically inclined:

Music App Happy

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/music-app-happy/

The Heavy Water War tv series on Netflix and MHZ

Co-op productions between countries are increasing, witnessed by the Norwegian/Danish/British collaboration, The Heavy Water War, now streaming on Netflix and MHZ. The six episode series tells the story of the Norwegian factory that made “heavy water” in the 1940’s, seen from four different angles.

We are introduced to the head of Norsk Hydro trying to keep the company running while appeasing the occupying Germans. We also follow the character of Leif Tronstad who leads a Norwegian team of saboteurs tasked with destroying the “heavy water” operation in Norway. The different perspectives are rounded out with scenes of the saboteurs training at a Scottish camp and of the German scientists racing to complete the bomb.

To be sure, World War II continues to be the topic of several European television programs.

Film buffs will recognize the based-on-history story as being the general plot of The Heroes of Telemark, a 1965 British movie starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris.

Those In Power: a Swedish political tv drama

As we enter the home stretch of U.S. presidential campaigning, Those In Power, a six-episode Swedish tv series about women in politics might give us some perspective on the political machinations occurring in other countries, namely Sweden.

Based on a trilogy of bestselling books by Hanne Vibeke Holst, we are introduced to Charlotte Ekeblad, a young woman who is made Minister of Environment in a Social Democrat cabinet that is decidedly older, white and male. Ekeblad’s mentor is an older female party leader named Meyer who is secretly suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

We see Charlotte dealing with backstabbing staff, condescending party members, a husband who is feeling neglected and pesky journalists who examine her every move. Episodes 3 and 4 grippingly deal with a wife-beating man in line for prime minister. The final two episodes focus on Meyer who is campaigning to be the first female prime minister as she deals with an assassination plot on her due to her Jewish heritage. The country is also under threat from a terrorist organization.  Whew!

Along with Borgen,  a Danish political tv series, Those In Power does a fantastic job of showing us that power and politics can be entertaining in any language. If you need to own the series, Amazon has all 6 episodes for $299.99 or you can watch it on MHZ for $7.99 per month. http://www.mhzchoice.com