Posts from 24th May 2005
Roving reporter Alix spots a poll on the Isle of Wight website: Who’s Wuthering Heights is better – Bronte’s or Bush’s?. Cross-discipline wranglings in the area! But why this area???
I’m thinking a bit about childhood tastes at the moment*. What I’m quite interested in is the moment at which a kid gets the level of visual sophistication which allows them to identify a visual effect as ‘rubbish’. Be it a bit of cheap SFX, or poor animation, or a badly constructed set, there’s a point at which the suspension of disbelief departs.
Actually even calling it ‘suspension of disbelief’ is wrong – there’s no disbelief to be suspended. There’s an awareness (beyond an age I can’t even remember for myself) that what’s being watched isn’t ‘real’ but there’s no sense that certain things are being wilfully ignored by young children.
I’m not sure older children suspend disbelief, either: when they notice something they dislike they can turn against it very quickly. I kept watching Dr Who** in the late 80s out of habit and despair at the show’s apparent decline: when I returned to it as an adult I was shocked to find that several late episodes were regarded as very intelligent, well-acted near-classics. All I remembered was the naff designs and crappy lumbering monsters.
Watching old TV shows as an adult I’m able to ignore the quality of the effects at will. The circle seems complete – from ignoring crappiness unconsciously, through being hypersensitive to it, to simply not factoring it in critically. But occasionally I still get an odd jolt. In one particular old Who episode, a supporting villain was aged into a skeleton. This terrified me, my only real behind-the-sofa moment. In my memory not only was the effect wonderful but the whole tone of the scene was creepy and dramatic. In fact the effect was awful, the actor hammy and the scene played at least half for laughs. So how did I fill in those gaps? I thought of this while watching Saturday’s episode, with its morphing CGI gas mask faces. “Wow, that’s a bit ropey” I thought, and then thought that a 6 year old watching would never forget it. This isn’t a nostalgic wish to be less sophisticated, more groping for where and how ‘sophistication’ develops.
*OK, for several years now.
**come on, you knew it was coming.
The tabloids often stumble across a decent pun (I remember the Freund or Foe headline for a Spurs vs West Ham game some seasons back that sadly can never happen again). But for each of these there is a counterpoint in Chop Souey and Kieran Dire. Over and over again.
I find the reports themselves aren’t too dissimilar to the broadsheets, although the format is rather fractious and complimented by more action-orientated photographs. Paragraphs are generally shorter and punctuated with brassy headings, ‘Cruel’ and ‘Giant’ for the cup final on Saturday though the references are oblique.
What I like about the tabloids are the player scores. Objectivity and memory are minor factors in determining these marks out of ten. Cross-referencing to the report itself is another reconciliation process fraught with auditing issues. It goes something like this: All players score sixes or sevens unless, scored a goal = eight, sent off = four.
Earlier in the season, Juan Ugarte of Wrexham scored 5 in a 6-4 win. The NOTW gave him an 8. I also remember the same paper giving the Czech tackle monster Tomas Repka a zero after one shite performance. And it flattered him.
I’ve been giving a little thought to what I like and dislike about football match reports.
The best ones translate like an impressionist painting; expressing the feel of a game without becoming bogged down in the minutiae of corner counts and possession. Chronological reporting or (more crass) obvious bias are the worst and I generally find that last gasp equalisers or late winners skewer the report as (I guess) it’s mostly written by the final whistle and balanced towards the result after 85 minutes or so.
The stretched analogy is another process which irritates me. At its best, say Stuart Hall fixing on Imperial Rome or a Russian Circus and wrapping his report around it, you’re carried along in the slipstream. Delivery plays a part of course, but others stretch the theme until it snaps under tenuous pressure. I recall a Bradford City report from the Sunday Times incorporating Peter Mandelson, the US election and Angus Deayton. The game itself barely got a mention and Bradford were relegated that day.
“Father Dowling’s evil twin turns up again, and causes more mischief”
Posh food and steeling the nerves to buy it
Visiting Brindisa, the very lovely purveyor of quality Spanish goods in Clerkenwell, on the way to the first night of the Beijing Opera at Sadlers Wells, was always going to feel like something a woman with much more expensive shoes would do. Still, I manfully knuckled down to it, and managed to buy some nice chorizo, manchego cheese and bittersweet paprika without breaking down in gastro-social anxiety; not without effort, as a silver fox businessman (in his suit and tie) breezed through shedding ’50 notes while discussing the evening’s dinner with his (presumable) trophy blonde on a high-end mobile.
I had naturally trained for this boutique experience, having wandered around Fortnum & Mason‘s food hall the other week after taking in the recent Jenny Holzer exhibition off Berkeley Square (I find that combining culture with epicuriosity is beneficial, if conducive to terminal smugness). The piles of beautifully packaged tea, the extensive range of mustards, the vats of buffalo mozzarella: all this overloads the senses like a very expensive hangover. There is something very pornographic about it the whole experience, but maybe that’s just my middle-class anxiety showing. I will admit to getting freaked out by the 57 flavours of balsamic vinegar available at even the humblest of supermarkets, so the range of shiny boxes, packets and bags of exotic and potentially delicious goodies to be found within these exclusive temples to the guts are bewildering.
It’s really the quality of the bags and packing that set quality epiceries aside from the common herd (in experiential terms rather than product quality – to a certain extent, you do get what you pay for foodwise): Fortnum & Mason’s precious duck-egg blue in heavy-guage matt plastic (lovingly filled by one assistant wrapping while the other rings up the cost behind a nice oak counter), Selfridges‘ the familiar strident yellow, Brindisa’s fetchingly translucent so a hint of the products purchased coyly reveals itself. Until fairly recently, Krispy Kreme doughnuts were only available in the UK from a concession in Harrods, and a flat logo-strewn box awkwardly poking though a flimsy transparent bag and bruising commuters’ knees on the tube was a sign of the rich ironist popping home to host a terribly chi-chi dinner party. Now that every Tom, Dick and Tesco has a proprietary cabinet prominently displayed, one has to wonder if the same cachet applies.
Reading this http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/features/cfinch/finch5-18-05.asp catty, and bitchy review of the new Johns show by Charlie Finch, of Caluga and Most Art Sucks fame, caused me deep anger. Not only because it seemed to be homophobic, but also because it is so canonical and not very creative—below an iconoclast like Finch?who is usually a complicated and astute critic. But the assumption that from the beginning, was that johns work was queer work?that his discretion and dislike of interpretation could be viewed as being closeted?that all of his work was queer work, and that the work got worse because of his hermeticism.
Now that his newest colleges, is his most sexual, the only work that directly concerns issues of male bodies working together queerly, people are on the attack. What happens if this is the only work that is gay?what if before this and after this, johns work was about formal concerns, about repeating colours, shapes and found objects reclaimed as high art. Could we talk about it in relation to classical connections to copreality (targets), or what language recreated as painting looks like or a wry comment on hi/lo classicism (The Ballantine).? Does every man who sucks cock make every peice of art about cock sucking ? Up to this series, it was not clear at all that he sucked cock at all. (and with the subject matter, title, and ambugities—the new works called Catenary (which is the muscle that holds up both the penis and the labia) is much closer to Matthew Barney’s Cremaster (which rises the testicles), a rampantly phallicly agressive peice towards women)
It is like what Rauschenberg said about Hughes assuming the Goat in the 1959 combine Monogram was about sodomy?namely wondering why he didn?t get run over more often, suggests the wry dismissal of critical tactics that both encounter. This is because, in the case of these two, the critics take the literal and refuse either the symbolic or the formal.
What if he is shallow? Am I letting him off the hook? Is it not just banal romanticism that we assume that every work is a coded work about the author?s deep personal trauma? Maybe Johns refuses to acknowledge biography because it rewards shallowness?