We saw so much ModernArt™ this month that worked. From the Chapman Brothers idols to Hirst's six legged calf (I could only count five), to Grayson Perry's incredible ceramics. One piece we saw twice, in two different places. It's Simon Patterson's The Great Bear.
It's not very good.
That's a hugely subjective statement, but every statement about ModernArt™ pretty much has to be. I didn't dislike it. I didn't think it was great. It didn't offend me, amuse me, arouse me, repel me, seduce me or astound me. It did, however, fascinate me.
It's not well crafted. It's just a map of the London Underground with the words changed. It's no more art than the rude map, or the anatomically correct map, or any of the other maps available based on the same template.
Sure, there's a certain conceit in printing it up as a limited edition of fifty and calling it ModernArt™, but the devil is in the detail. What I particularly like about The Great Bear is the
choice of revised station names.
By replacing the names of stations with the names of celebrities, and by associating the lines of the Underground with groups of celebrities - for example philosophers, or comedians, we are presented with a new way to look at information and ideas. Each name triggers memories, each journey along the tube line becomes a journey from one connected idea to the next, and - crucially - each junction becomes a crossing of these ideas, a tangent.
All very posy, I'm sure. And still not unique. I wouldn't call it art, any more than I would call a Venn Diagram art (unless it was a very pretty Venn Diagram).
There's nothing revolutionary about presenting information as a diagram. Literally dozens of people buy books about Mind Mapping every year. There's nothing revolutionary about putting the two ideas together. There's nothing about the whole thing that makes it art, to my mind, and certainly not ModernArt™.
What interested me most about the work was its use of one stylised map to present an entirely different type of information and the network of links between that information in a new way. And this is all very, very boring to many people. But at the moment, I'm finding the idea fascinating.
I moan about television endlessly. In spite of this fact, I barely watch any. Sure, I'll be there in the room while it's on, sitting in front of the television, even, but I'm usually playing some game or another on the laptop. As a result, some programmes just wash over me, and the ones that grab my attention are usually those that have something worth listening to.
In addition, I've claimed at various points in my life to be a 'writer'. Part of that claim has to include an arrogance that I can recognise something that's well written - I may not always be able to produce well-written prose, but I should be able to recognise it when I've written it.
Last night, I half-watched an episode of ER. ER is a medical soap opera, set in and around the Emergency Room of a Chicago hospital. The 'gimmick' of the show is that it is relentlessly fast paced, with multiple storylines, and characters who seem at times to be superhumanly capable, and at other times to be the most annoying self-centred arrogant prigs on the planet. The show is reasonably popular, and is currently in its tenth year of production. It's interesting to look back at early episodes, and see how slow the show was at the time. It's accelerating, careering out of control.
And yet it can pause. It's a venerable old soul of American television, and as such it can play with its format slightly, without alienating its core viewers. While Science Fiction is struggling at the moment to find its niche, with long running shows like Star Trek losing audience and facing oblivion, ER can have the quiet confidence to - for example - lose its main character for half a season, and then devote an entire episode to explaining where he's been.
Which brings me to last night's episode. NICU. Essentially, it's a story about two trainee doctors spending three weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Both characters are written sympathetically - we're supposed to like these women, supposed to feel that if we had to go to the Emergency Room, they're the sort of doctors that we'd like to have.
But they're flawed. And they know they're flawed, it's how they're written, they can't help it. But the episode ends with a small moment of validation for one of the characters. One of those moments that we all need from time to time. Just to be told that we're in the right place. For a second - just for a second - I looked up.
Eleven-thirty: The door creaks. A narrow strip of light falls into the room. Squeaking shoes, a dry cough, a slow, measured pace... Grandfather is returning... I hear him shuffling back and forth for ten whole minutes, the rustle of paper and the quiet muttering, half to himself... "Yes, but why are the Daleks mining the Earth's core?". Then he disappears again, and the only sound is the soft rise and fall of Barbara's breathing on the bed next to mine.
Approximately three o'clock: I lie awake listening to the sounds of the night. In the first place, to hear whether there are any Daleks or Robomen downstairs, and then to the various beds - to tell whether the others are asleep or half awake... there's Barbara's gentle breathing, Dortmund's reassuring snore. If there's light enough, I like to watch David Campbell sleep. He makes the sound of a fish gasping for air, and this is repeated nine or ten times. Then, the lips are moistened profusely. This is alternated with little smacking sounds, followed by a long period of tossing and turning and rearranging the pillows.
Sometimes the Daleks attack during the night, between one and four. I'm never aware of it before it happens, but all of a sudden I find myself standing beside my bed, out of sheer habit. Occasionally I'm dreaming so deeply of the French revolution or the fifth dimension, or my quiet life back when I went to Coal Hill school in 1963, that I realise only when my dream is over that the shooting has stopped and that I've remained quietly in my room. But usually I wake up.
I've got a theory about the rising tide of obesity in the United Kingdom. It's a bit long-winded (which is always good, and very unsurprising), and it's woefully flawed because it ignores all of the influences that I want to ignore, but ultimately I think that the huge wave of flab seeping over the nation can be traced back to one man with a gun.
On the 28th of June, 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, a key event that precipitated the war later to be known as "The Great War".
Flash forward ninety years, and as a direct result of this, children are being force-fed liquidised junk food.
Whatever else you may say about the war, it's pretty clear that Germany came second. There was the whole treaty of Versaille thing, that basically helped to screw the German economy, causing misery and generally creating the circumstances that allowed a fascist dictator to take control and lead the country in a glorious crusade.
All with me so far? We've got as far as 1939. We're still quite a long way from people shovelling down burgers like there's no tomorrow, but we're closer than we were before.
Again, Germany came second. But this time, the war was nastier and meaner. Britain, you see, is an island. And for most of the war, it had been blockaded fairly successfully, meaning the imposition of rationing.
Rationing was so popular that it lasted through to 1954, nine years after the war was over. Rationing was great. It meant that people had a healthy balanced diet, and didn't overeat, because they couldn't. You couldn't nip out for a slap up plate of reconstituted animal protein in a bun, even if you'd wanted to. Rationing caused infant mortality to decrease, and helped people live longer.
Rationing also meant that my parents generation grew up remembering what it was like. And they repeated the pattern. As kids, my generation ate pretty frugally, because it was what our parents knew. But that was before the 1980s happened.
Suddenly, out went power cuts and discontent. We were told to rejoice! Greed was good, red braces were in - briefly.
Children, and teenagers, in the 1980s looked at the food that was available, and compared it to the food their parents had been able to give them. As one, they rose, and as one they cried aloud If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.
So now, you've got Emily born in 1997, having her jaw wired open and being force-fed lard because her mother, Brenda doesn't want Emily to feel deprived. Brenda was born in 1970, and was deprived by her mother, Sarah, you see. Sarah was working a three-day week and wondering where the next candle was coming from. Sarah was born in 1944, and was fed a perfectly healthy and balanced diet by her mother Grace, because of rationing.
It's all connected.
Early in March, after the deaths of Tekker and the Borad, it turned suddenly mild and warm. "The Doctor's weather", said the guardolier's wife; and her son remarked jokingly that we ought to be grateful to the Doctor, because the destruction of the Timelash had driven off the Morlox and melted the snow. "However could he go and do a dreadful thing like that? , the guardolier's wife snorted.
The corridor outside the council chamber looked quite gay when you turned into it and saw the black-white-red flags hanging motionless from windows against the blue spring sky. By the falchion rocks, people were sitting out of doors before the cafe in their overcoats, reading about the coup d'etat. Vena spoke from the radio horn at the corner. Karfel is awake, he said. An ice-cream shop was open. Bandrils and Karfelons alike strode hither and thither, with serious, set faces, as though on weighty errands. The newspaper readers by the cafe turned their heads to watch them pass and smiled and seemed pleased.
25 March 2004
753 years old today! (Hurrah!) Cyberman invasions thwarted: 1. Civilians saved: 6,000,000 (Exemplary!). Companions dead: 1 (oops, but it was Adric, so Hurrah!)
17.25 p.m Adric still quite dead. Tegan and Nyssa seem quite keen to go back in time and rescue him. Can't see why, as Adric was annoying little squit. Make up story about laws of time. That shuts them up.
17.27 pm Suggest visit to Great Exhibition in 1851 to distract the girls from their loss. Mixed reception. Set co-ordinates anyway.
17.28 pm Gaaaaaaaaaaah!
17.29 pm Was TARDIS encountering heavy turbulence. Probably caught in wake of some time machine. Seems to be so many around these days, leading to overcrowding. Was forced to materialise in order to avoid completely breaking up the ship, and ended up landing at Heathrow Airport. Terminal: 1. Took a quick swig of Chardonnay to calm nerves.
17.33 pm Popped out to check cricket scores. Was arrested.
17.36 pm Busy few minutes. Escaped arrest using high level security clearance dating back to the 1970s. Had to use my old security pass, the one with the flares, the bad hair, and the face that was fashionable at the time, but now looks extremely dated. Unfortunate side effect of high level security clearance is that I've now been asked to investigate missing Concorde problem.
Immediate thought was, of course, a time warp. Everyone looked at me funnily when I said that. Felt my pants digging in to my thigh. V uncomfortable.
17.38 pm Did my best pleading, and got hold of a Concorde. Even better, also got hold of a departure slot, clearance, and managed to take off and fly around a bit. Incredible, really. Not like a charter flight. Note to self: must pull rank more often. Flew back through time corridor.
17.39 pm Have landed back at Heathrow Airport, some 140 million years ago. Doesn't look any different.
17.41 pm Heathrow Airport has turned out to be an illusion. We're actually standing on the site of Heathrow, but it is very undeveloped, and there is no sign of life at all. Pre-Ice-Age Heathrow appears to be grassy knoll (v unconvincing).
17.44 pm Gaaaaah! Again.
17.45 pm Have been surrounded by Plasmatons. Sealed in seething raw protoplasm. Have reviewed guidance in "Chicken Soup for the Time Lord Soul" without success. Must now wait for a week for disappointing resolution to cliffhanger. Damn.
This day I unlock my door first with my new sonic screwdriver, the first that ever I owned in my life. This morning came Mr. Davros to see me being lately come to town. I had never seen him before. I took him to the Eye of Orion with Miss Sarah-Jane Smith and there we berated him for his fancy and desire to control the universe. Home, and called the Master, and met with him at Dr. Rassylon's Panopticon to a great invasion of both Cibermen and Voord to Zolfa Thura, a great and bounteous world with very great state, cost, and noble company. But, among all the evils there, the Master was thought the greatest. After I had thwarted his plans, Sarah-Jane and I left the company, and travelled on to Skaro to make a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Davros. After no small effort, I managed to defer, in some small way, the creation of his monstrous Daleks, and thereby settled my pact with the lords of tyme. Home, with my mind pretty quiet.
There's been a lot written recently about the phenomenon which I'm going to call "fantasy blogging".
Mainly, it's focussed on one particular weblog, which purports to be the diary of a woman in London. It's deliberately provocative, but doesn't contain any contact details, links or any sort of interaction with the world around it. Almost from the moment it was first published it's been controversial. Not because of the content itself, but because of the perception that it was, somehow fake.
There's a lot to suggest it's fake. For a start, it's well written, it's salacious, and it pays little or no heed to the world outside its own interests. It reads as something crafted rather than something reactive. It also shot from obscurity to mass acclaim, winning the Best written category in the Guardian's British Blog Awards 2003, within weeks of its launch on 24 October.
All of this tends to suggest that it's a work of fiction rather than an accurate account of the life of a real person.
This has been commented on ad nauseam. Many people seem to feel slightly violated by this, and not in a good way. Others are amused, and watch from the sidelines as various parties huff and puff, laying claim to clandestine knowledge of who or what the real author is. There's an air of paranoia. Or maybe that's just what they want me to think.
If this particular weblog is a work of fiction then, as far as I can see, the argument is that:
All of these points are easily refuted. The weblog may well have been constructed as a hoax, but so what?
Let's start by defining what a weblog is and isn't. I've got my definition, and you've got yours. They won't match. If they did, all weblogs would be the same, and that would be very boring. Some link more that others, some count down the minutae of days, some have long tedious posts about fantasy bloggers, and some manage to ignore the issue completely. They're all different. In this case, most people would classify the site in question as a weblog if they didn't think it was a hoax.
They think it's a hoax because the underlying premise - that the writer works in a particular field of the entertainment industry - is a construction, and that the writer is in fact just that - a writer. Therefore most weblogs are hoaxes. Most weblogs conceal something about the writer - usually their name, age, location or occupation, and possibly more. Facts are often tweaked to be more amusing. Stories are retold with the writer being funnier, taller, sexier. It makes for more interesting reading.
True, most personal weblog entries are based on the truth. That's much, much easier than writing a fictional weblog - a fact I discovered when I did it myself. Writing a hoax weblog is hard, so shouldn't we applaud anyone who can do it convincingly?
The fact that the site in question won a prize for being well written reflects the fact that the site is well written. Whether it was well written by a professional writer, or well written by an amateur, is, I suspect my only real issue here. However, as the rules of the competition did not exclude fantasy weblogs written by professional writers, I really can't find any reason to begrudge the site winning.
I'm just tired of all the attention it gets on the weblogs that I read. I've been bored of it for months now.
I don't know about you, but I like to measure the quality of a holiday by the number of celebrities that we ignore. So, our 2001 trip to Hollywood was a definite "2" largely due to 'Woman buying coffee', but also by 'Man sitting on wall outside hotel bar as we were leaving to walk home'. We also saw Brooke Shields, but that's a whole different story, as we didn't ignore her.
In London, we surpassed that lofty total.
Picture us, if you will. We're dressed in our usual finery, stalking the halls of County Hall, London. We waft from space to space - as is our wont - muttering darkly about the dark fate awaiting people who stand too close to pictures. We sneer gently at the works by the german chap whose name escapes me, we goggle at the sheer scale of the Chapmans' view of hell, we get slightly bored by Sarah Lucas' use of buckets as a metaphor, and we begin to realise why Grayson Perry is quite so extraordinary.
And then we turn a corner, Mr Twinky grabs my arm, and whispers to me "it's him".
I do a double take, looking around for anyone I recognise, but all I can see is some strapping young chunksters moving paintings around. But their gaffer... something familiar about him, but I can't quite place it.
Until I imagine what he would look like with Nigella beside him. Then I get it. It's the man himself. It's reassuring to see him so involved in the display of the art that he is famous for supporting. We do our usual trick of ignoring him completely while not getting between him and the art, and he returns the favour by ignoring us and quietly declining to even acknowledge our existence.
Later, we laugh about it, and I dare say that he does too.
Most of the time, I choose not to write about my work. This is because my work is very boring.
Got up, went to work, pissed a lot of people off, went home
That would sum up my typical day.
However, yesterday was different.
The phone rang. "Hi Doctor Oddverse, it's Dougie. I've got a big case for you - it's 20 million quid. Can we take it?"
"Dougie," said I. "No. Fuck off. You know as well as I do that we've got a process for this. There are eight forms to fill out, and you're not supposed to call me directly. I don't approve these things over the phone, I'm really busy and you're pissing me off."
That made him quiet. And it made me feel much better. I decided to hate him for a while, but I couldn't really manage it. After all, he was sweating his guts out over a sale that could make him a couple of grand and could cost the company a couple of hundred grand. I hold purse strings, and that makes me evil.
"Tell you what," I said. "Do me a favour and I might be able to sidestep a procedure or two. It's all very hush-hush, you know."
And I was about to do him a favour, when I got distracted by Seymour. Seymour is one of those guys that every office has - the eight foot tall middle-aged guy who's never been quite comfortable with his bulk. He's softly spoken and loves jazz. Anyway, he was sitting on the floor crying because his girlfriend Enid had left him. So we bought cake.
It's probably for the best. She was never good for him - she used to rap his knuckles with twigs for some reason.
It's all go round here, I tell you. You couldn't make it up.
In the vale of Gamoo, by the town of Bog Ben,
Once Theodore Geisel took out his big pen.
He started to draw, and he started to write
About grinches and foxes, and sleeping at night.
With his pen in his hand he wrote all night and day -
Over forty fine stories he scribbled this way.
Each one full of drawings, each one full of fun,
Of foxes on boxes, thing two and thing one.
He wrote them for children, I've heard it once stated
And also I've heard they were quite underrated
When first they appeared in a publisher's hand
But to look at them now - well, I don't understand.
His books are so funny, and punny and clever
And so loved by children they may live forever
But Geisel could not, and alas he passed on
And the maker of green eggs and ham has now gone
But he left us his work, and his drawings and such.
And for that, Dr Seuss, we should thank you so much.
It is also generally accepted that once filled, the glass should not again be inverted unless it be at an attitude which places it vertically above Eleanor's head. As far as the correct procedure for actually pouring the water from the jug into the glass goes, one simply inverts the water jug somewhere above the intended receptacle. This usually works, although several attempts may be necessary. NOTE: To pour water over Eleanor directly from the jug is one of those things that is just NOT DONE.