Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa…

The most famous work of art in the history of the world resides in the Louvre. I got within 20 feet of her famously enigmatic smile, for perhaps 30 seconds of contemplation, before someone with an iPad above his head stepped in front of me to take a photo.

So, I retreated disdainfully to observe the scrum from a distance.

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The Mona Lisa must also be the most photographed and reproduced artwork in the world, yet people had travelled hundreds – possibly thousands – of miles just to turn their back on her and to take a selfie.

Why?

I can’t believe that I was the only one who wanted to just stand there and take in her beauty for a few minutes. That’s all I wanted – not just to prove that I had been there, but to introduce myself to the old girl, to tell her how much I’d read about her and how much I admired her.

I left with Nat King Cole’s classic playing softly in my head:

“Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there and they die there…”

Fable Gazers…

gahiouwakyptaqhtr5ezSome friends are looking for funding for their literary podcast company, Fable Gazers.

Not being on any social networks, I’m limited to emailing a few people and putting the details here for both of my regular readers!

Fable Gazers was developed to produce crafted narrative podcasts with our own special twist. We plan to build stories from fact and vice versa – all with a journalistic edge and sense of fun that will inspire obsession in people who adore podcasts. If that’s you, and you love podcasts like This American Life, Serial, S-Town, then help us by donating or passing this page link on to your friends. We need your help to edit, produce and release our two podcast series.

With fab interviews with some incredible guests like Stephen Fry, romance author Harriet Evans, film producer Andy Paterson, as well as original music from a large community of musicians, we’re building our boutique podcast company and we want you to be a part of our journey.

Sounds interesting no?

Find out more and make a donation.
🙂

 

A failure in representation…

Apparently, TV in the UK is ‘failing to represent society‘. This is problematic for me for a couple of reasons:

  1. For the most part, TV programming in the UK appeals to those with the lowest artistic and intellectual capacity. The schedules are crammed so full of utter tripe that the whole nation comes to a standstill just to watch people baking cakes during prime time. When did we all get so dumb?
  2. If you are part of an under-represented demographic, do you really want to be a part of the above? Do you need to swim in that stream of steaming effluent? Will adding another shade of skin to the dispiriting catalogue of crap that is fed through our TV tubes enrich your community?

Surely you’ll just be sucked into the mire with the rest of the loons who are content that Chris Evans and Claudia Winkleman earn what they do for just turning up.

You’re best off staying clear of the whole miasma…

 

Writing in coffee shops…

It turns out that people on their MacBooks in coffee shops are doing exactly what you think they are doing: What are people really working on in coffee shops?

OK, so it was in Dalston (for those outside London, it’s basically hipster central!) but there were no real surprises. Everyone is doing something ‘creative’, from trying to find a novel to go with the title of their novel, to writing haikus (is this real I ask, but then decide that it’s too real not to be).

Part of me thinks ‘Good on them for doing something artistic with their time!’ But this is admittedly a very, very small part of me. The rest screams ‘Twat!’ in the highest register possible in my tortured internal voice. I can do notebook-in-a-pub myself, but laptop-in-a-coffee-shop is just going too far. I can’t do it, even at my most pregnant with ideas; it just has to go into the notebook or the notes app on my phone (another reason not to get rid of it).

Maybe my cynicism is misplaced and East End coffee shops really are quiet generators of innovation and creativity. More than likely though, most of this crowd are doing what most people do: they desperately want to get that book written, but there are too many distractions to do anything substantive about it. But getting the laptop out and sitting in front of it is at least part of the battle: the real trick is to keep writing…

Epiphany…

laughing_foolSo January shows her cold face again and we move into our lifeless and ennui-sodden post-Christmas slough of despond. Though the days are mercifully short, they are grey, heavy and wearing on the soul. Now one really feels the chill of winter.

It’s not even anything to do with the weatherman though – its a visceral and heartfelt season of reflection and near despair. The festivities are over and – unless we get a holiday in the sun booked quickly – its back to the drudgery of everyday existence.

Not watched the news for a week or so, not had to commute or do any real work, but the prospect of getting back into it is only slightly less welcome than the though of of being hit by a speeding car.

Where is all the possibility that should be whispering into my ear? Where is all the promise of the new – the sun on the horizon, the adventure and the fortune?

I’ve never been a quitter, hence my inability to stop drinking. But this year is slightly different. I don’t do new year’s resolutions. It’s all as much a cynical marketing ploy as mother’s and father’s days as far as I’m concerned – the chance to sell gym memberships, organic food and exercise equipment that won’t see any use beyond the 1st of February. But this change of year has brought about an unbidden sense of contemplation and evaluation. My father always jokes that “Every day is another nearer the gaping pit!” In middle-age, however this is less amusing and has come to resemble a dire warning.


Flashback!

Just looked at the pages in my notebook as I write this and remembered a time at school when it was a relief to come to the end of one page of ‘foolscap’ paper (does anyone call it that anymore?)

A quick consultation of the dictionary app on my phone says that it’s chiefly British, is also called ‘foolscap octavo’ and sometime ‘foolscap quarto’ when used in a book. The name dates from 1690-1700 and is so-called due to the watermark of a fool’s cap used on such paper. Needless to say that I saw no such ornamentation on the paper at my comprehensive – perhaps it was evident in posher schools, or just something consigned to the past. But, it was the size of the paper (A4) that was particularly dreaded. It was especially bad when being given ‘lines’ for some infraction or other. Of course, 100 lines involved the same amount of work in whatever size of paper, but the difference in scale seemed like comparing Silbury Hill to Mount Everest in the young mind – almost as if there were so much more effort involved.


Anyway, the January epiphany is here, literally and figuratively. We get through the familial and social obligations of Christmas only to feel the sting of the unfulfilled and of creeping antiquity once the quiet sets in. And every year, despite everything, we’ll get through it.

Of course that is, right up until we don’t…

 

Talking out of her arse…

mythomaniaI’ve been taking my time over reading Peter Conrad’s Mythomania. It’s a kind of spiritual heir to Roland Barthes’ Mythologies, containing themed essays on our current culture of consumption, narcissism and skewed reality.

I can proudly state that although I’m aware of who the Kardashians are (I don’t live in a bubble), I’ve never seen any of their TV shows and don’t even know what Kim’s voice sounds like – despite, thanks to the internet, having seen most of her body parts. In my mind, she sounds like Rosy Perez; all squeaky, nasal and New York, but doubtless I’m wrong in this assumption.

In any case, I don’t have any intention of finding out.

Conrad’s invocation of Barthes in his description of the Kardashians did, however, have me chuckling into my bowl of Weetabix this morning:

“On another occasion, Kourtney cattily remarks that Kim’s bottom might have become a bit too callipygian – or, to quote Kourtney exactly, she may have too much junk in her trunk. Khloé dismisses the objection […] ‘Her ass makes money, honey.’ Barthes said that myth enabled mute objects to speak, and in these impromptu poems Kim’s backside attains what he called ‘the oral state’.”

It’s a beautiful summation of the vacuity of the reality celebrity, where the doyenne of the cultural form is seen to be talking out of her arse.

Peter Conrad’s 21st Century Mythologies podcasts are available on the BBC Radio 4 website.