Björk’s musical roots, Powell's history lesson, and Tarantino's rude awakening

Björk’s musical roots

Björk’s music began as a defense, says Matt Allen in . The singer/songwriter grew up as a shy, lonely kid in Iceland, where dark winter days shaped her moody, avant-garde vocals. “I was very introverted, but I was always singing or humming in the back of the car,” she says. “I wasn’t really writing songs then, I was just making noises. They were very private and nobody could hear them. I used to walk across two neighborhoods to school and I would sing all the way there at the top of my lungs. When I was walking up a hill, I would make lots of private noises. When I reached the top, I would belt out a chorus.” Björk didn’t think her warbling was odd at all. “Really, it was just a way to cope. I was on my own a lot or with my younger brother. I just thought it was something that everybody did.” All that noise-making led her to compose her first song when she was just 7. “I remember walking between my grandfather’s light shop in Iceland and the local hospital. In the winter it was always very dark—nobody could see you. I would sing at the top of my voice to battle against the elements. It was very comforting. The song had no lyrics; it was just melodies, but it was about the darkness and the snow. I was a moody f---er, even then.”

Powell's history lesson

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Colin Powell has come to believe that democracy is not for everyone, says Walter Isaacson in GQ. As secretary of state, it was part of Powell’s job to promote President Bush’s message of self-determination and representative government around the world. But in Middle Eastern capitals, he found that this idealistic vision didn’t have universal appeal. “When I dealt with the Arab world, the word ‘democracy’ frightened them,” Powell says. “A Saudi leader said to me, ‘Colin, please, give us a break. Do you really want to see Jeffersonian democracy in Saudi Arabia? Do you know what would happen? Fundamentalists would win, and there wouldn’t be any more elections.’” Powell heard the same thing in Egypt and in other Islamic nations. “They all were saying, ‘Take a look at our history and where we are. You can talk to us about reform, but don’t tell us to become Jeffersonian democracies tomorrow. It’s not possible.” In hindsight, Powell has come to doubt that America can remake the world in its own image. “We have a tendency to lecture and perhaps not think things through. We have to be careful what we wish for. Are we happy with the democracy that Hamas gave us? There are some places that are not ready for the kind of democracy we find so attractive to ourselves. They are not culturally ready for it and they are not historically ready for it.”

Tarantino's rude awakening

Quentin Tarantino has had his first taste of failure, says Sheryl Garratt in the London Telegraph. After a string of box-office hits, the writer/director bombed this year when audiences ignored his latest offering, Grindhouse. “It was shocking,” Tarantino says. “I was depressed for a month. It was like I had a broken heart, like somebody broke up with me. And somebody did—the American public!” But he blames only himself. “It was too expensive. That’s the bottom line. I got too precious, I got too into the characters. I kept adding more and more. And all that s--- is now in the trash. I should have known better.” Already, Tarantino says, he can sense a change in Hollywood’s attitude toward him. Previously, people would send him scripts, hoping against hope that he would deign to sign on. “They were always coming from the attitude of, ‘Here’s The Green Lantern! You can do anything with it. If you want to rewrite it, fine!’ But now I’ve had a flop, and all of a sudden, it’s ‘We’ll have Quentin for this because he’s for sale now. He’s on the ropes!’” Seeking consolation, he called on Steven Spielberg, who early in his career had his own flop, 1941. He told Tarantino that a director can be judged only on his body of work, and that all the great ones sometimes fail. Tarantino has taken that advice to heart. “I can now officially say, ‘I am in Hollywood—that I’ve done the thing.’”

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