Sunday 29 April 2012

Art Shows Around the World

Barbican, London 
to 12 August
Bauhaus: Art as Life

The last big London show about the Bauhaus was in 1968, when the pioneering German art school, where Kandinsky and Klee taught, had been almost forgotten. It was very popular, and designers seized on the geometric designs of Josef Albers to create tiles that ended up in 70s kitchens. The Bauhaus (1919-1933) was originally dominated by a weirdo called Johannes Itten who was into head-shaving, vegetarianism and folk art. After he left, it became a shrine of pure geometry and modernism under Walter Gropius. Its influence on the look of our surroundings is obvious. (It was eventually closed down by the Nazis who thought modernism was degenerate.)

Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
Alfred Wallis: Ships and Boats
to 8 July

Afred Wallis (1855-1942) was a Cornish fisherman and self-taught painter. He is described as a "primitive" and it's said that artist Ben Nicholson "discovered" him. He met the members of the artists' colony in St Ives, Cornwall, and, as somebody said, the influence went all one way. There would be no "St Ives School" without Alfred Wallis. His paintings (in boat paint on wood and cardboard) of the sea, ships, beaches, houses and farms are superb.

Yuan Space, Beijing
Andrew Wyeth
to May 12
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center May 24 - 30
Christie's New York early September
Around 40 works by the American Realist (1917-2009).

Vienna Museum
Gustav Klimt
May 16-Sept 16
It's the 150th anniversary of the painter’s birth, and the Vienna Museum is putting its entire Klimt collection on display for the first time. There will also be shows at the Albertina (sketches to June 10); the Leopold Museum (letters to June 19); and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, where a walkway will give visitors a closer look at Klimt’s paintings displayed around the museum’s central staircase. Klimt painted fashionable ladies as gold-spattered Babylonian goddesses (the Germans excavated from 1899 to 1917).

Royal Academy
Johann Zoffany: Society Observed
to 10 June
Zoffany (1733-1810) was a great portraitist, who recorded the social lives of his sitters. In his famous work The Tribuna of the Uffizi (1772-78), most of the well-off gentlemen gazing at the artworks are portraits. A group of dudes are more interested in the back view of a classical Venus; a sculpture of a native American in the foreground (America had just won the war of independence) is naked but dignified. Zoffany himself is on the extreme right (the traditional position for an artist who wants to put himself into his work). His sitters all wear the fabulous fashions of the time, which we may find odd (though the Victorians thought they were just toooo cute!). The women’s hairdos are not as extreme as the fashion plates. People are individuals, not just the “18th century face” a la Lely or Lawrence. He painted some great pictures of the theatre (with Macbeth in modern dress) and the current balletic style of acting.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Too Appropriate Metaphors III

And inappropriate, and unfortunate...

The potato is so much a British staple that it’s easy to forget its South American roots. Alys Fowler, BBC1, Our Food

There are 600,000 more wind turbines in the pipeline. Janet Street-Porter, One Show April 23, 2012

Proposals for scores of huge incinerators have ignited a new planning row. Times April 9, 2012

Planning laws signal end of road for out-of-town shopping centres.

The clammy attentions of the recession had recently slammed shut its 90-year-old doors. Metro March 2012 on café/restaurant Fitzbillies. Inappropriate and unfortunate. Clammy attentions?

Banks must bolster their capital cushions

The tragedy that erupted in Japan a year ago... (There was an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear accident - but no eruption.)

Huge blow to British windfarms (I’ll huff, and I’ll puff…)

This is the wrong time to float the idea of a royal yacht. (paraphrase January 17, 2012)

Sunk cruise ship’s captain was “showboating”. Unfortunate headline, January 17, 2012

Water is the lifeblood of the river. Countryfile December 10, 2011

For the Hindus the Ganges is a living goddess, and streams of pilgrims, old and young, as well as tourists, flood towards the river to worship. Sandra Boler, Independent April 3 10

Seeing a buzzard catch a rare phalarope is “in bird-watching terms, like killing two birds with one stone.” birdwatcher in Times Jan 16 09

The discovery of the preserved bodies “breathed new life into” Arctic exploration. (The idea of artificial respiration is too near the disinterred remains.)

The centre of activity of the marketplace has changed ... quicker than any other slowdowns. Guardian Sept 20 08

The history of the aquatics centre shows a risible approach to cost control and that the games’ organisers seem to be willing to spend money like water. Report on the 2012 Olympics budget quoted in The Guardian April 30, 2008

Why spend astronomical amounts on so-called scientific research to go to another planet?

Recycling of animal protein in feed proved recipe for disaster Guardian October 27, 2000 (But the Guardian may always be doing it on purpose.)

Ski slope injuries "hurt NHS" Guardian headline March 24, 2004

As the smoke clears at the devastated detention centre, a Standard investigation reveals how officials ignored the warnings that they were sitting on a powder keg. Evening Standard July 23, 2004

Too Appropriate Metaphors I
Too Appropriate Metaphors II

Sunday 22 April 2012

More Movie Music Cliches

What sounds like human voices singing “Aaaaaaah!” = giant crystal, beam of light

Camera pans round room, fade down people chatting, keyboards clacking, fade up melancholy music playing - CUT to view of cemetery, or aged-up character on verandah of old people’s home, or black screen with white message in courier type:

The Westchester Globe and Echo closed six months later.

Or camera pans round room as office workers grin and raise champagne glasses, visuals go blurry, fade down chatting, fade up fairground carousel music.

Near the end of film/documentary: foreign train comes towards us in slow motion through forest of wires to doomy music. Sometimes overlaid with blur, as in heat-induced mirage.

Discordant, modern harpsichord noodling = quirky character burgles a house for altruistic reasons.

Suspicious characters play Bartok's Mikrokosmos on the piano.

Flute plays pentatonic tune, drum joins in = Native American takes gun out of suitcase and starts to polish it. He will turn out to be a policeman.

Pachelbel’s Canon (17th century) = We’re at Lindisfarne, talking about the Ven. Bede (8th century) 

Urgent drumming = cheetah chases antelopes, gibbons swing through forest canopy, herds of wildebeest gallop to waterhole where one of them will be killed by an alligator in slow motion.

Pianist starts playing sentimental tune on honky tonk piano, electronic swirls introduced underneath, swirls crescendo, piano becomes increasingly discordant: generalised menace.

Upward appoggiatura on bamboo flute, long-held overblown note: we are in the Amazonian rainforest.

Three random Swanee whistle notes, in descending series: we are in the Amazonian rainforest – 400,000 million years ago.

Harp: water weeds wave.

More here.
Mini e-book here.

More movie music clichés here. 

And here.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Yet More Movie Cliches

I’m not mad - I saw it! No, you’re not mad! You’ve been… drugged!

More movie cliches here.

When looking for the illegal immigrant/reluctant witness/murdered man’s brother, the unlikely detective finds him standing on a load of boxes on the back of a lorry. He doesn’t jump down - they hold a long conversation from these positions. (Subtext: this is a noble, trustworthy blue-collar worker. Sometimes he or the brother is a poet or has a PhD.)

The villain gets a potential victim to write an ambiguous “suicide” note.

In any 40s movie involving a concert pianist, someone shoots someone else on a grand staircase. The pianist plays nothing but overwrought romantic concertos.

If someone falls into molten lava they sink slowly (like Gollum). Actually they’d float – but suffer terrible burns.

When a suspect is found in his bedroom, frantically grabbing stuff out of drawers and throwing it into a bag onto the bed, the cops are about to call. Ding dong! Ah! This must be they!

Ageing, ill singer/wrestler/ventriloquist/comedian with drink problem is persuaded to make a comeback. He/she dries out and starts punishing regime of working out/rehearsing. Falls off the wagon but is talked back onto it again by sidekick/confidant who is masterminding the whole thing. They have a sick but somehow touching symbiotic relationship. On the night of the big concert/fight several things can happen: after a painfully unfunny prologue, the comic turns in a performance of stunning brilliance on the violin. (Charlie Chaplin). After a long, maudlin, talky scene the singer performs sitting on the stage because she can’t stand and wows the audience. Are they applauding her just for still being alive? (Judy Garland) After demolishing his opponent, the wrestler collapses in the dressing room and dies of a heart attack. (Night and the City) The comic dies in the wings as his protégé sings/dances. (Probably Charlie Chaplin again.)

A vulnerable protégé gets revenge on a bullying mentor. Bully, The Prophet, Heathers, Othello. (Don’t the bullies ever foresee the possibility? Are they subconsciously inviting death by cop? Don’t they ever see the movies?)

Sunday 15 April 2012

Inspirational Quotes Part 12

Having failed to make a convincing punk in his teens, at university Harry Enfield decided to dress in suits and go about scowling at everyone. Guardian Jan 2012

The subtext is that external economic factors can never be the cause of someone’s unemployment, the problem must somehow lie with the individual. Guardian February 1, 2012, on an organisation that tries to get the unemployed back into work. (For unemployment read any problem, and delete “economic”.)

The results also highlight the self-presentational value of first names and underscore the importance for parents to choose positively valenced first names for their children. From Unfortunate First Names: Effects of Name-Based Relational Devaluation and Interpersonal Neglect. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2012

Fine sentiments – they are all very well. Agatha Christie character

Women should leverage their sexuality to get promotions, make sales, get high-earning husbands—great legs help with all that stuff. Blogger and businesswoman Penelope Trunk

But as with more important things in life - girlfriends, your health - you only appreciate them when they're gone. BBC Jan 2012

Henry Irving learned “ghostwritten speeches to pass as cleverer than he was”. Writer Roz Kaveney

Notice how players turn after every point only to their coterie of chums in their ever-present entourage for approval: this consists, at least, of their trainer, hitting coach, psychotic parent, and partner (or, depending on their sexuality, what the BBC likes to call their "good friend"). (Patrick McCarthy, Guardian June 27, 2007)

Out in the real world, nerds collect in certain places and form their own societies where intelligence is the most important thing. Paul Graham

Unpopularity is a communicable disease; kids too nice to pick on nerds will still ostracize them in self-defense. Paul Graham

You might think it's a good idea to keep your head down and do the work you're assigned. But most organizations actively try to grow their next generation of leaders from today's individual contributors. In fact, many companies have an implicit "up or out" policy that requires employees to participate, collaborate, grow and advance. You need to be seen and heard.

What I am learning is that the lifestyle I have been leading has a limited shelf-life. Self-confessed sex addict who had multiple brief relationships

As a prettier woman she would have encountered a better social reaction to her gender transition. (From page on transgender people at

Inspirational Quotes Part 11
Inspirational Quotes Part 10
Inspirational Quotes Part Nine
Inspirational Quotes Part Eight
More here and here and here. And here. And here too. Yet more here.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Inspirational Quotes Part 11

I was condemned to live amid that lower level of school society, beneath even the swots. These were the shy, the gangly, the awkward; people whose voices had not yet broken; the pyromaniacs - and worst of all, the people who actually liked classical music. Here, cooking cheese on toast over a Bunsen burner, I would live in a Dantesque limbo, surrounded by the wonkily bandaged, spectacle-wearing acquaintances (who are probably now making millions by genetically engineering onions). Even joining the Christian society in a last, desperate attempt to meet girls bore no fruit. John Runcie on life with broken glasses, Guardian Feb 17 03

Rudeness is often permissible and sometimes mandatory. @ahaspel

As soon as I changed my email address to a less foreign name, I started getting invited to interviews. Agata Wasziewicz-Schmidt Dos Santos, Independent January 10, 2012

A study revealed that Kevins – along with Mandies, Chantals and Justins – struggle to get dates on dating websites. “Mails sent from an Alexander were clicked on 102% more times than those from a Kevin,” said the leader of the study, at the Humboldt University in Berlin. SEE the woman freelance who got loads more work after she called herself Richard and called her website Men with Pens.

Looks are a big part of how our [lives] pan out. Sarah Burge, who gave her six-year-old daughter liposuction and breast augmentation vouchers as Xmas/birthday presents.

Display rules, which tend to become habitual once learned, are used to mask, exaggerate, diminish or inhibit expressions in specific cultural contexts. Paul Ekman, New Scientist

The lingo of lingering and lost friendship is an interesting one. To 'de-friend' is to cease contact - perhaps because you fear the person is really a 'frienemy', or because of a reduction in 'mutual chatisfaction', but usually because, consciously or unconsciously, you just let it happen. To 'contract Palzheimer's' means to let a great pal drift from the mind, as a result of the passage of time, lack of time, relocation, a new 'friendscape' and/or changed values. John Hind, "What's the word?," The Observer, December 14, 2003

Inspirational Quotes Part 10
Inspirational Quotes Part Nine
Inspirational Quotes Part Eight
More here and here and here. And here. And here too. Yet more here.

Yet Another Guide to Facebook

Problem: Facebook’s interface is not brilliant – it’s too cluttered. Solution: Perhaps if we all keep complaining… But you can do some decluttering yourself. Read on.

Problem: When you join FB and friend people you were at primary school with, they bombard you with Farmville requests.

Solution: Go to a Farmville request and hover about the right-hand corner – a down arrow will appear. Click on it, and you’ll see an option to “Hide all from Farmville”. Select it.

Problem: I love my friends, but I don’t want to view all these funny videos about cats they keep posting.
Solution: As above, find the down arrow next to the funny cat video and click on it. You’ll be given the options:

Unfollow Post
I don't want to see this

If you select "I don't want to see this" you will now be given a list of reasons why you may not want to "see this".

You can't filter what you see from friends any more. (Dear Facebook, why not?) You can only decide whether someone is a "friend" or an "acquaintance". Those who post too many funny pictures of cats may be downgraded.

LOOK OUT!!! If you post an update to a group such as "Family", FB will assume that you want everything you post from then on to go just to "Family".  Switch back to "Friends" with a test post. (You can't change a post's destination once posted.)

Problem: You join FB and friend one person who happens to be a Mormon. “And now 20 Mormons want to be my friend!”

Solution: They aren’t requests from Mormons – they are friend suggestions from FB. All it knows about you is that you know a Mormon. Friend a few more people.

Problem: I’m still seeing too many status updates.
Solution: Make a group for your family, and one for your close friends (select Groups from the menu on the left). When you go to your “friend group” you’ll only see updates from close friends.

Problem: I keep getting emails from FB.

If you go to your own page (click on your name), you’ll see a down arrow next to “Home’. Click on it. You get these options:

Account Settings

Privacy Settings

Log Out


Click Account Settings, and go to Notifications. Here you can “change which applications and features can send you notifications”. You can even turn off all email notifications.

Problem: A friend or family member has disappeared from my timeline.
Solution: Interact with them (comment, like a comment, like a picture) and they will reappear.

Top left of the screen are three icons for Friend Requests, Messages and Notifications. They reveal their identity if you click on them, but NOT if you hover over them. If you have any requests, messages or notifications a red spot will appear on the appropriate icon with the number of requests, messages or notifications. (And I never noticed that - duh! And now they've moved to top right!)

Friend YR writes:  I thought posting a pix or a link was enough for ppl to see it, apparently you also have to share it! Dah! (And if you set up an Event, you have to Invite people to it. Oh.)

That useful box with short-cuts to your friends' activity has reappeared top right. Your browser box needs to be quite wide to see it. Also there's a list of friends below it - the green spot shows if they are online and available for chat.

Latest update: Of course this is a guide to "curating" your Facebook experience.

Update Sept 2014: Facebook has become less confessional and chatty, and what you see in your "newsfeed" is determined by FB's algorithm. It likes a newsfeed full of pictures and links that your friends have liked or commented on. Perhaps it's time to "like" fewer things.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Whatever Happened To...? 13

poppy seed rollsbrie and apple baguettes
mood rings
pet rocks

oxtail soup

potted shrimps
canned frozen orange juice

Surprise dried peas

Mivvi iced lollies

Victoria sandwich cake

Afro hairdos
huge tins of assorted cocktail biscuits

saying “but of course we will never want to read books/newspapers/magazines on screen – it would be too tiring”

not being able to buy milk in shops (It was delivered in glass bottles by a milkman, or you bought in in cartons from a milk machine.)

blue fizzy lemonade (80s)

advice to serve cereal with fruit (and photographs of same labeled “serving suggestion”). As far as I know, nobody ever did.

tea ladies who came round your office with a trolley at 11am and 3pm, dispensing milky coffee and tea (it was all you got)

trellis wallpaper
picture windows
(please bring them back)

people who thought Facebook and Twitter were evil

the kind of music that sounded better when you were stoned

hot desking (and doing without email because reading emails takes too long. Remember memos? And how do you arrange a meeting without email?)

files that were just a spike on a piece of wood
people talking on two telephones
terrible silent movie compilations (“when cahmedy was king!”)

hysteria - apparently now just as common as in Freud’s day
Leslie Halliwell’s Film Guides (imdb - and TV stopped showing old films)
Rosa Luxemburg “She was everywhere in the 80s.” Matthew Sweet

worrying about the sound from Sony Walkman headphones, institution of silent (Walkmanless) carriages on trains

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday 2 April 2012

Inspirational Quotes Part Ten

Just be yourself - you can do anything as long as you want it enough.

You have to be realistic about this profession. At drama school, I remember thinking: ‘I will never be Juliet. I will always be the nurse. Ruth Jones (above), Dec 2011

Underneath my attempts to appear bubbly, I was hard... Dawn Eden, Sunday Times January 14 2007

Drink and drugs provided a mask for me to hide behind. They meant I could pretend to be the bubbly Kerry everyone loved. Kerry Katona, Indy January 23, 2007

Start the year on a positive note; write your thank-you notes today. Follow the 4-sentence formula:the gift, the gift, unrelated, the gift. Patricia Fitzpatrick @NewYorkManners

You’re thirty-eight, and you haven’t got a wife and children. Why not? The Killing I, Mayer to Vagn

Gen Y likes assignments, they like feedback, they like meetings, group efforts, and after-work happy-hours. Business guru Penelope Trunk

…from an evolutionary point of view, placing our children advantageously in the adult social world is more important than their mere survival. That involves a great deal of social training in the teenage years, not to mention looking after their economic interests as young adults and providing them with the right kinds of social opportunities, marriage partners or even business breaks. It may begin with finding them godparents; it runs on into finding them jobs with friends or relations, and ends... with lavish weddings. Robin Dunbar, How Many Friends Does One Person Need

Inspirational Quotes Part Nine
Inspirational Quotes Part Eight
More here and here and here. And here. And here too. Yet more here.

Sunday 1 April 2012

More Movie Cliches

Most political movies are terrible, and particularly painful to watch if you are right of centre. They all feature a scene of Tory men eating a sumptuous dinner before asking the ladies to retire so that they can smoke cigars and persuade the Freemasons in the police force to join a plot to murder the hero. The Iron Lady does, I’m afraid, contain a sumptuous-dinner-ladies-retiring-cigar scene. (Danny Finkelstein Times January 11, 2012)

The Syndicate Bold Mellor’s characters are … a bit off the shelf. The two brothers, desperate for cash… the frizzy-haired, kind-hearted syndicate head, the firm but fair boss, the greedy girlfriend, the naggy mother, the wide-eyed blonde child, the unfaithful, venal husband, the beady-eyed policeman. A cast this strong can sketch these characters with little effort. And yet short of holding up flashcards: “good-hearted but tragically ill”, “wants to do the right thing but doesn’t know how”, “finds it easier to relate to dogs than to humans”), they couldn’t be more unsubtle. And the plot, I’m afraid, suffers from the same flaw. The story of the brothers, for example, is just frustrating. Handsome brother is in debt owing to his pretty but extravagant girlfriend; she has fallen out with his overbearing mother, and taken herself off home with their son. Meanwhile, the other brother, who has a bit of a problem with Class As, hatches a plot to rob the supermarket where they both work. (They do, but also win the lottery…
Sarah Vine, Times, 2012)

StreetDance 2
The plots of hip-hop movies are as rigid as Japanese Noh plays and this pretty average British example makes the usual progress from hero humiliated by rival, the gathering of a new crew around Europe, the rapid training for a big public confrontation, the last minute setback, and the final triumph featuring a major dancing innovation, a fusion of Latin and street. The hero, a white American hanging around the predominantly black London street-dance world, is a morose fellow; the 3D is moderately imaginative; Tom Conti plays the usual token adult, in this case a wise old Parisian cafe owner.  (Philip French, Observer, 2012)

Tanya Gold books a holiday in a former mental hospital on an island in Venice: The ghosts will rise and overwhelm the luxury hotel. We will team up with a group including a security guard/handyman, a hot woman, and a mysterious man who would normally be played by Geoffrey Rush and is the cause of all spectral anger. We will die in this order – my boyfriend, me, then Geoffrey Rush, with the hot woman and the security guard/handyman as probable survivors, floating on the lagoon, due to their hotness.
(Guardian, 2011)

Mini e-book here.

More clichés here, and links to the rest.

Cycles of Acceptance

Every new technological advance especially if social (blogging, twitter, the Internet, mobile phones, Facebook) does a “Fry's five boys”:

Cautious approval
I’ve adopted it!
Five prominent women say it has changed their lives
Its days are numbered (apparently)
It’s as dead as disco (allegedly)

Or: geeks invent a way of chatting, discussing, debating, getting help, making friends. Nobody wants to know. If you mention it, people look blank. Twenty years later when everybody has a computer and mobile a clunky version of the same thing is invented and it becomes this year’s must-have.

Something similar happened to the third series of Spiral (Engrenage). When in came out in 2011 people "discovered" it. Was it or wasn't it better than The Killing? (Maybe they were children when 1 and 2 came out.)

And Catherine Tate. I used to watch her on cable...

I can't talk about her because nobody else has got cable.
Her second series is on terrestrial.
And everybody discovers her.
But she's their discovery, not mine.
"Am I bovvered" - it gets boring after a while.

More Cycles here.