Saturday, 24 December 2011

"Things look pretty bad right now".

"Things look pretty bad right now". - Maj. Gen. Briggs, at Shiloh

A few things today.

My first week at the PR company has finished - it was informative, fun, exhausting and a great experience. I love being in the centre of London. On my lunch breaks I would walk around the streets by the Novello Theatre and remember those days spent queuing for student tickets for Spring Awakening, and all the people I met outside the stage door. Or the cocktails I had at the Waldorf with my dad. Or the time I bought that CD from a string quartet which were playing at Covent Garden, and the cellist kissed my hand. Or every time I've brought a guy to browse with me at Coco de Mer - partly because I actually wanted to go in, partly to see the expression on their face when they're met with a leather sex chair, complete with stirrups, or peacock-patterned silk and leather wrist cuffs. The latter I stroked lovingly the other day when accompanied by a male friend, saying, 'I'm not into this kind of stuff, but if I was, I would buy this. Isn't it beautiful?' The shock on his face was a reply amusing enough.

Listen to this:

I went to see Audience at Soho Theatre on Tuesday with a friend. I wanted to see this because I'd read articles and reviews about it, and my interest was piqued. Its run in Edinburgh this year sparked off an incredible amount of debate, from scathing reviews to complaints from audience members. What I am about to write will contain spoilers. Problem is, I'd read spoilers already so I knew what to expect, I knew what the crux of the piece was.

It goes like this.

You leave bags and coats outside the theatre, if you want to. Don't. They are later brought on stage and rifled through by the cast. I was expecting a lot of interaction, I was expecting boundaries to be crossed, so I wouldn't have minded should my bag have been picked. Actually, I kind of secretly wanted it to, because I had packed really nice knickers that day. But I could imagine that this invasion of privacy was one thing that caused raised hackles.

My friend and I sat quite near the back. The start of the play begins with an actress centre stage. She starts speaking, normally, and gradually we come to silence. It's a joke, it's deliberately patronising: her speech is a 'How-to' for theatres.
"If you want to cough, do it quietly", she advises, "If you have a coughing fit - go outside. Find a suitable time to come back in. But don't stay outside, because the people who you disturbed by clambering over them on your way out will have you in the back of their mind, wondering when you're going to come back. And if you don't come back, it suggests you don't like the play." She explains the mechanics of a curtain call, of an encore, how rustling sweet wrappers are a no-no, how it's okay to laugh, how it's not okay to respond to actors. "It's called a 'rhetorical question'", she explains, over-carefully. This is, of course, the point: everyone in this theatre are theatre-goers. We are seasoned, professional audience members, we know the rules, we know the ins-and-outs. We haven't won theatre vouchers from a random prize draw in The Sun, we have booked this specifically. Perhaps we heard about the hype. Perhaps we're drama students, interested in pretentious, experimental theatre. Perhaps we simply like the season's picks at the Soho Theatre, we trust the programmers, always come here. But we are professional audience members, in the same way that they are professional actors. So this speech is a nod to us, and to the theatre situation as a whole. There are certain rules that you go by, and Ontroerend Goed plan to flaunt those rules.

The woman sits down. You see a guy centre stage with a video camera trained on the audience. Accompanied by throbbing, dramatic music, you watch as the lights slowly dim and the picture on the huge screen behind the cameraman gradually becomes clearer: it's you. You watch as - always slowly, so slowly - an audience member's wrist is zoomed in on, left behind, someone's crossed legs, an empty space in the seating, someone's hair, their bag, moved over, left behind, and the camera pans over an anonymous face; you want to know where that audience member is, see their reaction, but you can't tear your eyes away from the screen; you can't tell in what direction the camera is going, you look at the people sitting near you, memorise the colour of their clothes - 'When I see a blue coat I'll know the camera is coming near me' - but the camera never actually hits you fully. And always the film-music in the background.
Then a voiceover. We are told statistics. 'There are nine of you who came alone tonight. The predominant colour that everyone is wearing is black. Fifteen of you are in a couple. There are ten homosexuals in the audience. There are seven fat people in the audience - you know who you are'. And so it continues.

The tone changes, becomes more lighthearted. Stage-lights: the bags and coats are brought on stage and it becomes a mock-fashion show, always with the camera in the background. 'The person wearing the BRIGHTEST clothes in the audience is THIS lady!' The X Factor-esque announcer says with a flourish, as the camera pans to a woman in the fourth row wearing a bright blue Christmas jumper with a reindeer on the front. She grins embarrassedly, but the camera isn't on her for long. The pace quickens, the music reaches a climax, we are told, 'You are RARE, you are UNIQUE, you are one-of-a-kind. There is no one else like you in this world.' We are buoyed up, ecstatic, triumphant - the audience is comprised of individuals, we are not a crowd, we are separate people, God, doesn't it feel good?

And at some point we get to the crux of the show, all too quickly. After professing that he's 'the warm-up act', and 'teaches' us how to applaud after a show, one of the performers starts insulting a girl in the audience on the basis that she wasn't going along with the applause that he was teaching us to do. Convenient. He chose a young brunette who was in the front row and was, conveniently, very very pretty. (And all the while, you're thinking: Is she a plant?) He calls her a 'fuckface', a 'bitch', tells her how ugly she is - which is why he's chosen someone so attractive: to rouse indignant responses from the rest of the audience.
He spits in her face, "And you're just thinking, yeah yeah, he's picking on me because he needs someone to focus on in the audience. Well you're wrong, fuckface. I'm picking on you because you think you're impervious to this theatrical thing, you think you're so much better than the rest of us because you couldn't be bothered. I'm not picking on you because you're weak - and God knows you are - I'm picking on you because you're worthless", etc. He's making reference to the state of all of us being in a theatre! God, that's experimental! God, that's edgy!

But the natives are getting restless. Quite early on into this barrage, one audience members says, loudly, 'ENOUGH'. People turn around to look at who said it - is it a plant? Bright red, she says it again. And continues to say it. But the actor is in the midst of a speech. He's prepared this, and it seems to me like the company aren't prepared to be interrupted so early. They're prepared for an audience that sits in stunned silence until it reaches an unimaginably controversial stage where, finally, despite our restrained, polite British natures, someone manages to intervene.

Well, let me tell you, our British audiences ain't so quiet.

And that surprised me too. I wasn't shocked like everyone else because like I said, I'd read the spoilers and I knew this was the crux to the piece. Ever the interested drama student, I leaned forward with my chin resting on my hands, and watched it all unfold. The only thing which seemed to me to be effective was that you didn't know who was an actor and who wasn't. There were some who were obviously part of the company - but you didn't know if the person in the audience was that girl's friend or a stranger who honestly felt that she had to stick up for someone she didn't know. In which case, we're meant to feel all warm and fuzzy inside - the compassion of the human spirit! Despite the constraints of being in a theatre! But overall, there was something very artificial about the whole thing.

I read an article about the show, which mentions that they began showing it to Belgian audiences. Belgian audiences, for some reason, aren't as vocal as British. They knew they were meant to go along with it, thought, 'Okay, well, I can see you're trying to shock me, let's see what else happens'. But British audiences think, 'Nope, this isn't right. I'm going to say something'. I'm oddly kind of impressed that our theatre audiences do that. I can imagine that this play wouldn't work at all in America, because American audiences always have something to say. I'm surprised that British audiences are so vocal.

But there's more. Ignoring one audience member's complaint, the actor continues to the end of his speech (artificial) and says, 'Okay, I'll stop harassing her. If she spreads her legs'. This should be met with a gasp, a silence - he couldn't possibly do that, could he? How obscene! How controversial! Instead, this diehard theatre audience thought, Yeah yeah, think that impresses us? Nah.
Immediately, a woman in the front row said loudly, 'Oh, what the hell, don't ask her to do it. I'll do it - here you go!' and lifted her legs so those of us at the back saw her Ugg-booted feet kick the air wildly. That brought a laugh out of the rest of us, dissipating the shocked mood. I don't think the company was prepared for that. They've given us something shocking, and we've said, Yeah? So what? And they don't have a response, in turn, to us. But they continued. The actor gave money to a guy in the front row to start the chant, 'Spread-your-legs. Spread-your-legs'. The first guy refused, but the guy next to him took it and started the chant. Someone else in the audience called, 'For shame!'
Meanwhile, the girl is sitting there, legs tightly crossed - which we can all see, as the camera is trained on her crotch - in the middle of all of this. The guy chanting tries to pass the money along the row to her - the actor intervenes and gives it back to him. At the back, we can't quite see everything happening. It all seems a little bit absurd. Ontroerend Goed are trying so hard to demonstrate the point that we're all able to be manipulated, we're all under this theatrical contract as soon as we enter the theatre, to go along with the company's wishes, but we're not. We disproving, in real time, everything that the company is trying to state as irrevocable truth. We telling them to fuck off when they ask a young girl to spread her legs. We're showing them that yeah, we actually are an audience of individuals (in fairness, this surprised me too), and their claim about crowd-psychology just doesn't work. It all felt a bit flat.

How does the story end? Well, the girl didn't spread her legs. I'm still not sure whether she was a plant or not. The audience seemed to be distinctly unimpressed. After that climax, they started a section where they tried to get us to go along with them. The music became upbeat, there were minor fireworks, the company members started dancing, party poppers, party cannons, funky lights, club anthems chosen to get us dancing such as Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' - always one to get the women on their feet - but only a few of us really responded. Perhaps if they had done this earlier, when we were feeling more cheerful, we would all be dancing. I didn't dance, although it's the sort of thing I would do. It wasn't due to embarrassment in front of all of these strangers, but it was due to the fact that that was what they wanted me to do, and so, out of a kind of perversity, I chose free choice! I chose not to dance, just to go against the point the company was trying to make. And are they surprised that audiences in general are choosing to do as I did? Don't they see that people love to think that they're going against the grain, and against rules? Or maybe what I did was what they expected, and I ended up playing along by sticking my bum firmly to the seat. (Although perhaps I couldn't help a cheeky shoulder waggle every now and then).

It's hard to know the point of this. The point isn't to shock, because I could easily have been more shocked. 'Fuckface' is pretty pathetic. Try 'cunt', and the whole British audience would have been on their feet shouting. That word still has some shock-factor in our desensitised society.
Maybe the point was to show how we're all part of a crowd, and how it's human nature to go along with what everyone else does? Awkward. 'Cos we just didn't. There were a few who joined in; most didn't, and sat vaguely bored or just dismissive in their seats. Was the point to draw attention to how we're mostly white, middle-class, male and regular theatregoers? To be honest, we knew that anyway. Don't try and elicit middle-class guilt from us: we're fully conscious of it, and it's not particularly new or clever to do so.

It was a short show, only an hour long. I'm not surprised it worked so well in Edinburgh. The Fringe Festival is comprised of theatre-goers, for whom this show was created, and drama students. No wonder Ontroerend Goed is the darling of the theatre intelligentsia - the people who love to see thought-provoking theatre and then discuss it in great detail over an espresso or a large glass of Merlot at a nearby independent cafe. It's perfect for that. But it doesn't make the transfer to London so well: something isn't quite right.
So I wasn't shocked by this play. It was thought-provoking, however - I and my friend went and got margaritas and smoked at a nearby independent bar in Soho. But I think we all know why that is - it's the sort of thing we do. Plus - pretentiously - I'd like to write an essay on it as part of my modern and contemporary theatre module.

Having said all of this, I think I'll go and see it again.


If you do nothing else today (but you probably will, it being Christmas Eve), please check out Winston Chmielinski. Beautiful paintings.

Have you heard of the Humans of New York project? Go and have a look: Portraits of the city's inhabitants are organised into locale. There are also brief interviews, these nameless photographs are given stories as well. It's an impressive project in terms of scale, but also fascinating seeing the colourful and wildly contrasting lives of people who live in New York.

 Marguerite Kelsey, by Meredith Frampton, 1928.

 Girl on a Divan, Berthe Morisot, about 1885.

After the Bath, woman drying herself, by Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, about 1890-95.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

I know, I know.
This is silly.

I have lots of excuses for why I haven't written a post in a long time. The main reason is that I have had a major post in my head for a while and I'm waiting for time to sit down and think about it, and also that it will be enhanced and coloured in after I've seen 'Audience' by Ontroerend Goed at Soho Theatre on Tuesday.

I'd also like to write about Berlin, but to be honest, a lot of it was spent meeting up with friends, in bed, having sex, dancing, and sleeping. I don't feel like I experienced Berlin in the same way I was planning to. Not that the Berlin I experienced wasn't amazing. I miss falafel, angry chicken, club mate and vodka, low beds, high ceilings, the cold, the smoky bars, good music.

Where else do you get a fried chicken chain whose tagline is, 'SO SO ANGRY', and whose menu includes 'Angry chicken', 'Friendly chicken', 'Furious chicken' and 'Sexy chicken'?

 Ambrosia of the Gods. Plus vodka. Lots of vodka.

We saw this band at the new club Gretchen in Kreuzberg/Hallesches Tor. They immediately became my sound of November, and this song I have listened to nonstop.

At the club, while my friend was schmoozing with some of his old friends - music types - from the company he used to work for, I went off to the loo, lit myself a cigarette (smoking in clubs is still very novel for me, despite having done it when travelling). I met these two boys from London, chatted with them for ages, went back to dance with them. Then, hoping they thought I'd got lost in the crowd, I worked my way back to where my friend was, and didn't even say goodbye. You always meet people, where ever you are.

Term's ended and I'm starting work experience at a London PR company in London tomorrow.

Lots of good theatrical news lately:

The play I produced, 'The Accrington Pals', has been shortlisted for the International Student Drama Festival 2012. We're one of only 14 plays shortlisted so far, although obviously they'll keep seeing plays up until the March deadline. It means going to the festival in Scarborough in June next year if we get into the final shortlist. And the director and FIVE cast members have been shortlisted for the actor's ensemble! I am so proud of them.

And I got the part of Viola in Twelfth Night next term! Very excited to be doing Shakespeare again, haven't done a Shakespeare for ages.

More to come this week, hopefully. There's a theatrical post in the works. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The road ran downhill into Spain

 Back in London. It feels like coming home. And back in Sussex - and at this time of year, when it's cold enough that there's almost a frost, but warm enough for you to keep the front door open to let the brisk and fresh November air come honestly into the house, it feels like Bloomsbury, like the film Sylvia. I want to go to Monk's House, but I don't have the car. I want to walk along the Downs, to read Woolf, I want to paint in the garden. (I can't paint).

The Christmas market is being set up on London's Southbank. When I'm working there in December, I'll go there to get mulled wine after work and listen to the buskers.

It is the Southbank Jazz Festival this week. I went into Royal Festival Hall, listened to some conceptual European jazz, including a French woman leaning on the piano with her elbows while a Japanese woman went nuts on a drum kit. There was a photography exhibition on at the same time, based on news photos of the past year. There was one particularly arresting picture of a man being gored at a bullfight in Madrid. The bull was white, and had blood running all down its legs, and one of the bull's horns was hidden under the swirling serge of his cape, and the other horn was going right through the man's chin and out through his mouth. But apart from the blood on the bull's chest and legs (and you couldn't understand where that came from, although you looked for the wound), it wasn't gory at all. The toredor looked in pain, yes, but his eyes were tightly shut as if he was on a rollercoaster, not as if he had a horn gored through his face. The horn came peacefully out of his mouth as if it were meant to be there, his lips wrapped around the horn as though it had the perfect dimensions to fit into his mouth. That man was back in the ring only four months after the goring.
I want to see a bullfight before they are banned. I don't know if I would have the stomach for it, but I want to see one.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

'You don't like me as much as I like you'.

'I guess I've only just realised that you don't like me as much as I like you'.

You know you're an English student when you shudder and think, Oh lord, don't use the comparative. It's brutal.

In the meantime,

This is my new guilty pleasure.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Pleasure implies hunger, but hunger implies hope

Once you haven't written for a while, it's harder to start up again.

So I did Edinburgh - and how! - and then I did Europe. Berlin > Prague > Vienna > Venice > Milan > Barcelona > Zaragoza > Pamplona > Paris. I have never had more fun in my life. I have never met so many people in one summer, I have never felt so independent or powerful, I have never been so stingy with money, I have never been on such long train journeys, I have never eaten so much Pan di Stelle in one sitting or bought salmon paste in a toothpaste tube.

I miss both Edinburgh, and interrailing. But I'm going back to Berlin soon. One of the things I realised was how mobile I am. It seems silly not to have been aware of this to the same extent before. But I met so many Americans and Australians (so many Australians) who would say enviously, 'But you're in Europe! You can just hop across the Channel and go anywhere!' And I'd never thought of it like that. So now I intend to spend money, not on going out, on Vodka Revs on a Sunday night, or on new clothes, but on travelling. So one of the first things I did when I got back to York and earned some more money was spend it on cheap flights to Berlin. Damn it, I'm going to see the world.

I miss meeting new people every day. Forming friendships that quickly, because you had to, because you were only in the city for a night. The generosity of strangers.

I think it's that time of year again - we're back to Autumn, and the streets are wet in the mornings, and the sky is white all of the time, and you can see your breath, and the tip of your cigarette burns the same colour as the leaves. So it's back to Louis MacNeice's Autumn Journal, and a Hemingway biography and I don't have time to read as much as I would like, but I recently spent a small fortune on books and can't wait for the time to indulge in a big pile of them.

 'When we are out of love, how were we ever in it?'

'So on this busy morning I hope, my dear,
That you are also busy
With another vintage of another year;
I wish you luck and thank you for the party -
A good party though at the end my thirst
Was worse than at the beginning
But never to have drunk no doubt would be the worst;
Pain, they say, is always twin to pleasure'.

And Halloween has come and gone, as well. My favourite holiday of the year and I didn't really do anything because of rehearsals and being tired. I wanted to carve pumpkins, to make jelly and cakes and a Halloween punch, to make sugar skulls and a pinata, to put candles everywhere to light the dead back to earth.
We had trick-or-treaters, as well. I have never gone trick-or-treating, or seen trick-or-treaters in my life, having always lived in the middle of the countryside where the nearest person is really far away and anyway, everyone is just too conservative Conservative, and it's just not the done thing.

It was freaking awesome.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

C Venues

Day Five in Edinburgh. And it's fucking awesome. The city is beautiful right now - I'm in an internet cafe with the sun streaming onto the street in front of me. We have the morning off (a blessing). I can't wait for the festival to start proper. At the moment all I'm doing is sawing and drilling (turns out I have mad skills with a drill - who knew?), which is leagues away from the admin-based Client Services work I'll be doing once the festival is underway.

I'm knackered, but I wouldn't change any of this. I have met some incredible people, had very little sleep, done a lot of drinking, spent too much money already (gulp) and learnt so much. Bring on the next 5 weeks. I'm writing down quotes as I go - not going to forget any of this.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

It's summer. And this only means one thing. It never rains but it pours.

Right now it's gloriously sunny outside - hottest day of the year. I'm up to my eyes in work, rehearsals, books, plays, meetings, everything. It's the end of term. The play I'm producing has been cast, which is thrilling. I'm gearing up for Edinburgh, trying to work out where I can go travelling in September. Have been offered work in New Zealand but not sure if I have the funds to get over there, which is gutting.

I wish I knew what I want. I've got the whole summer ahead of me, therefore I want to be alone and independent. But sometimes people change that.

Thou hast nor youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.

     Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
     Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
     I was neither at the hot gates
     Nor fought in the warm rain
     Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
     Bitten by flies, fought.
     My house is a decayed house,
     And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,
     Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,
     Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
     The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;
     Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.
     The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,
     Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.

                           I an old man,
   A dull head among windy spaces.

   Signs are taken for wonders. "We would see a sign!"
   The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
   Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year
   Came Christ the tiger

   In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,
   To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk
   Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero
   With caressing hands, at Limoges
   Who walked all night in the next room;
   By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;
   By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room
   Shifting the candles; Fraulein von Kulp
   Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles
   Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
   An old man in a draughty house
   Under a windy knob.

   After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
   History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
   And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
   Guides us by vanities. Think now
   She gives when our attention is distracted
   And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
   That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
   What's not believed in, or if still believed,
   In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
   Into weak hands, what's thought can be dispensed with
   Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
   Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
   Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
   Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
   These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.

   The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last
   We have not reached conclusion, when I
   Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
   I have not made this show purposelessly
   And it is not by any concitation
   Of the backward devils.
   I would meet you upon this honestly.
   I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
   To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
   I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
   Since what is kept must be adulterated?
   I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
   How should I use it for your closer contact?

   These with a thousand small deliberations
   Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
   Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
   With pungent sauces, multiply variety
   In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do
   Suspend its operations, will the weevil
   Delay? De Bilhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled
   Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear
   In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits
   Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,
   White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,
   And an old man driven by the Trades
   To a sleepy corner.

                       Tenants of the house,
   Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

Have you heard of Robert Mapplethorpe? He's a photographer whose work is currently being curated by Pedro Almodóvar in an exhibition in Spain. He died in 1989 yet his work still feels current: it's edgy and honest and - in my opinion - can't be dated. I personally love his portraits, his nudes. I'm always one more for the human form than for landscape or still-life. I think there is nothing more interesting to look at than the human body. 

I think I love the shapes he makes with bodies most of all. He doesn't let the models speak for the photograph; the beauty of the photograph does not rest solely on the athletic bodies of the men, or the slender, muscular frames of the women. It rests on what he's done with them, which is more than other artists who photograph or paint nudes do. He contorts the bodies, picks up the light in the skin tone, in the shadows cast by skewed limbs. He places them in interesting situations, yet the photograph is never cluttered but remains classical-looking. What strikes me most is the candour of the photograph, the lack of make-up or artificial light. Yet he does pose the models - but it seems to be out of an artistic and very real interest in what they the visual effect will be, rather than in order to make a statement or lead the spectator to some conclusion. His is a very accessible artwork - they can mean something to everyone, and he photographs across the spectrum of styles. I think his photographs are earthy and truthful, and that's what I personally appreciate in photography - not a reliance on the setting up of an artistic scene.

   I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
   Since what is kept must be adulterated?
   I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
   How should I use it for your closer contact?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Jerôme Mesnager - street artist of those dancing, jointed figures I saw on the streets of Paris.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

I've never been a millionaire but I just know I'd be darling at it. ~ Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


Semantically speaking, the word 'slut' doesn't mean: 'I enjoy my body and sexuality; I enjoy dressing how I want to dress; I am the embodiment of Girl Power, or its Noughties equivalent'. It means, and has come to mean, a woman who sleeps with a lot of men for payment. I see the word as synonymous with whore, in terms of the profession, not the insult. Therefore, I think 'SlutWalk' is erroneously named. It should rather be called, 'Empowered Women's Walk', 'Sexually Confident Women's Walk', 'The Stride of a Woman Who Does Not Want to Elicit Remarks or Unwelcome Attention from the Opposite Sex Based on What She is Wearing'.

In fairness, that last one doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

But what I dislike about the movement, apart from being precious about linguistics, is that it's a case of Us against Them. Women against Men. Because it is entirely sensible to equate the few chauvinistic men who are actually derogatory about a woman's body, with the men who don't give two ticks.

There can't be anyone who disagrees with the basic sentiment behind the movement. No one can admit to thinking, If you dress provocatively, you deserve to get raped. That is the extreme notion that the SlutWalks are responding to. But that's almost ludicrous - it's more the grey-areas around that idea that are being explored. It's the receiving attention from a builder, from a white-van man; a wolf-whistle, a catcall. Note: just because there's a repetition of animal imagery in the names for these things, doesn't mean that we are being reduced to animals.

Obviously, there are different degrees of it. Once, I was running along the main road in the sun (never again). I was hot, sweaty, wearing a strap-top and itty-bitty shorts. I got a whistle and a honk from a car full of guys. When that happens, I just sort of roll my eyes and smile: who cares? 50 metres on, they've forgotten you. In a horribly patronising way, I think, Well, at least I've entertained them for, oh, the space of about 10 seconds. Poor  boys, they're so overwhelmed by the sight of me. Men are very simple, really, aren't they? (...And other condescending sentences).
However, on that same run, a van went past, slowing as it neared; the window rolled down and the guy inside said the most disgusting comment: something along the lines of, 'Yeah, I want to stick my cock down your throat! You'd fucking love that, wouldn't you? Or my big cock up your ass or in your wet pussy!' Typing that now makes me feel sick. And I felt objectified (I hate to use the word 'objectified': it holds such connotations of what I like to term 'big muff feminism'. And it shouldn't). I stopped in my tracks, and the van pulled away and sped up. I burst into tears, and walked home. So clearly, the difference lies in the severity of the comment. A catcall? Doesn't mean a thing. Prolonged attention? Annoying, but you can just ignore it. A deliberately foul-mouthed, perverse comment designed to provoke? That's different altogether, and that is what I personally would protest against. I was hurt, and outraged, and appalled, that these men thought they had the right to talk to me like that. As though I was something that could be commented on, without thought for my feelings. One of my personal problems - and it's slightly embarrassing sending this out into the cybersphere - is that I have been naturally endowed, and so that gets me unsolicited attention. I'm used to it. It doesn't matter. Most of the time it's harmless. But when I get comments like that, presumably because I have breasts 'like a pornstar', end quote, (but all real, baby), I realise that what I hate most is the feeling of powerlessness. If I am wearing a short skirt on a summer's day, and I get a whistle from a group of guys riding past or whatever, I can think, yeah, I instigated that because I chose to wear this, knowing that I look good (or at least, feel good in it). If I'm covered up, or if I'm not seeking attention (i.e. I'm on a run, my face is bright red and my hair is greasy 'cos I've been saving it up for a shower after the run) and I get it anyway, then there's a sense of powerlessness, because I didn't want that attention. When I'm on a run, I'm concentrating on my time, on my breathing, and god damn it, I am wearing the most supportive boulder-holder Bravissimo has to offer. I don't want attention from anyone.

Back to the SlutWalks. Marching through Newcastle in your bra and pants doesn't really make a protest. All it does is make you so cold you have nipples that could cut glass. Their message that women should be able to wear what they want without getting any attention is a bit unreasonable. If you're on a night out and you're wearing a bodycon dress and your boobs are out and your legs are out then who can blame the poor boys who can't help staring? It's hard for them, really it is (no pun intended). They're designed to love half-naked women, and you've just got to be sensible. Don't wear very little and then get on your feminist high-horse when some silly tosser makes a remark. If someone is downright rude or plain disgusting, that's when you are allowed (in my opinion) to get angry.

Personally, what I find frustrating is when it's hot outside (living in Britain, I am rarely placed in this terribly awkward situation) and for the sake of comfort, one wears a strap top and skirt, and you get a revolting comment. My response is to feel, What can I do? I can't help how I look and it's hot. I refuse to cover up in this heat simply to avoid idiotic remarks. Again, it's that sense of helplessness. I'm not ashamed of my body, because I work for it (although, admittedly, the whole breast thing is due more to divine intervention), so why should I cover it as though I were? But I am not dressed up for you, I am not seeking your approval, so please don't assume that simply because I am female, that gives you the right to comment on my body.

What's more, attitudes about this are different in different countries. Are there SlutWalks in Europe, in Asia? Or is this, as I suspect, an Anglo-American phenomenon?

We all know I'm a self-confessed Francophile, in all of the cliched wine-drinking, Sartre-expounding, little-boulangerie-in-Montmartre-you-won't-have-heard-of-darling, ways. But the reason I love the Continent?* It makes me feel good about myself. There. I've finally admitted it! The sole reason I love Paris. In Paris, men come up to you and talk to you. There's something flirtatious about it. They are actually trying to charm you into bed with them. The fact is, they know that they have the advantage of being French - of being tanned, rolling their 'r's, living in a romantic capital and being able to say, 'Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?' with the correct pronunciation. But if you tell them to leave you alone, they will. Guys have come up to me, talked to me, flirted with me for a bit, but when I've said something along the lines of, 'Okay, but go away now', they do. You don't get whistles or catcalls in Paris. If a man fancies you, he'll come up and talk to you. There's something unashamed, unabashed about the way French/Spanish/Italian men treat women on the street (maybe not French/Spanish/Italian women, probably only shy English tourist girls who are bowled over and flattered by the attention - and, oh, how cunning! of course, the men know this). A sly honk from a car full of lads on an English road has something a bit pathetic, embarrassed and pervy about it. I want to say, If you are actually interested in me, come up and talk to me. European men I have spoken to at least attempt it. Even if their mind is only on the prize, at least they're willing to endure the awkward small talk beforehand, to work for it a bit. It's brave of them. Especially because I titter, 'Oh, you're so sweet! ......but no.' (Does it ever work for them? Do they actually expect English girls to wilt and flail and blush and swoon into the nearest hotel with them?)

The important thing is not to equate a lewd comment with rape. They should not even come into the same sentence. Verbal interference is so far removed from physical interference. Touching is never, NEVER allowed. And I don't know one decent guy who actually thinks that it is. Luckily, I've rarely been prey to this.This is what strikes me the most about the SlutWalks: the aura of over-reaction that is so often associated with the feminist movement. Of course there was going to be, and quite rightly so, an outcry over that policeman who said that a woman should expect to get raped if she wears provocative clothing. But rape is a very, very different ballgame from a middle-aged scaffolder whistling at someone because he's bored and he's been on the same scaffold for three hours. The SlutWalks do not make a difference to anything, and I fail to see their aim exactly. To publicise a message of 'Rape is never acceptable' seems to be stating the obvious. And if they are preaching against catcalls and casual comments received on the street, who are they preaching to exactly? The men who would potentially be the ones making those comments? It all seems to me to be making a big fuss for the sake of media attention. Simply put, they want to be on TV. Making noises because they can, because they like the sound of their own loudspeaker.

*Tongue-in-cheek, right? Paris definitely has loads of art galleries and pretty buildings and bookstores and... stuff. And it's the most beautiful city on earth, yah?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Day through three it has transferred Stasu aluminium flakonchik from under validol
Half filled with a white powder.
- Hold, Sanych, from сеpдца отpываю. For cleanliness I do not warrant, but mysha
Has died from one grain - I caught it longer. Hе heat up also itself on language not
Try. From you becomes...
- Gee whizz! You know, I, perhaps, it directly in it flakonchike
With tissue paper I will stick, and from above ordinary salt nasyplju.
- And to open as you will be? If the need - so it forces to open it
Business is silent and imperceptible.
- And I to a paper will paste a thread and on the top of it I will deduce - have pulled a thread
The piece of paper has torn, trjasanul flakonchik - and salt with poison will mix up.
- Hu-well, pационализатоp, look itself not travanis. Still something
It is necessary?
- Hе, I to myself have made the rest. In, estimate...
Stas has put on a bench of boots and, having bent down, has pulled for hardly appreciable
Scaffold small knot on a heel. After it has jumped out narrow and thin, length with
Palm, the two-edged edge which is coming to an end small - in three fingers,
The rounded off basis instead of the handle.
ZHenka at once recognised in it ground on a stone nozhovochnoe a cloth and
It was twisted in a smile. Having noticed a sceptical view of the friend, Stas has held back about
The second same, but twice a smaller edge, vshitym in a collar top
Canvas shtormovki.


I'm gonna travel the world.

Laptop broken for a while; things are back on track and hunky dory. Lost all photographs ever taken, all music, all documents. But there's always more to photograph, always more to listen to.

Monday, 9 May 2011

corydon & alexis, redux
d.a. powell

and yet we think that song outlasts us all:  wrecked devotion
the wept face of desire, a kind of savage caring that reseeds itself and grows in clusters

oh, you who are young, consider how quickly the body deranges itself
how time, the cruel banker, forecloses us to snowdrifts white as god's own ribs

what else but to linger in the slight shade of those sapling branches
yearning for that vernal beau.   for don't birds covet the seeds of the honey locust
and doesn't the ewe have a nose for wet filaree and slender oats foraged in the meadow
kit foxes crave the blacktailed hare:  how this longing grabs me by the nape

guess I figured to be done with desire, if I could write it out
dispense with any evidence, the way one burns a pile of twigs and brush

what was his name? I'd ask myself, that guy with the sideburns and charming smile
the one I hoped that, as from a sip of hemlock, I'd expire with him on my tongue

silly poet, silly man:  thought I could master nature like a misguided preacher
as if banishing love is a fix.   as if the stars go out when we shut our sleepy eyes

Friday, 6 May 2011

"Respectability. That's what did it. I found out some time back that it's idleness 
breeds all our virtues, our most bearable qualities - contemplation, equableness, laziness, 
letting other people alone; good digestion mental and physical: the wisdom to concentrate 
on fleshly pleasures - eating and evacuating and fornication and sitting in the sun
- than which is nothing better, nothing to match, nothing else in all this world
but to live for the short time you are loaned breath, 
to be alive and know it - ..."

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

doors - part two

And welcome back to part two of our series on doors. For your viewing pleasure today, we have specimens from the Chateau de Versailles and the Cimitière du Père Lachaise.

A look out through the glass doors to the gardens beyond, and the lake where you can rent a little boat for an extortionate price for about half an hour. (So worth it if you have a half-naked, hot man to row it for you. I speak from experience. Less worth it when you are with your mother).

Rusting metal; this deep green was everywhere in the cemetery.

I love the way the metal changes colour as it tarnishes. 

Lots of the graves haven't been tended for decades; it's sad when someone has clearly broken into a grave just to - what? Sit there, drink, smoke? There would be beer cans or fast food wrappers thrown through the broken window of a tomb just like this.

With this one, I tried to get the light coming through the stained glass window behind it. We went late afternoon, when the sun was dipping, so a lot of these photos had a lovely amount of golden light: perfect for getting shadows and softness. We got there just before it closed, so we soon saw the woman on the little cemetery-mobile drive round, blasting her horn and telling us in French through a megaphone to get out because the gates were closing.