Wednesday, August 03, 2005

2005-07-28 008Has anyone else noticed how the only guaranteed way to drive up the number of daily hits is by not posting for a while? I guess it's something to do with letting the search engines catch up with a stable set of pages. But it is a little dispiriting to think that by the very act of blogging I'm ensuring that fewer people see it.

So what has been happening since the last bloggage. Um, well, I still haven't done the write up for the two exhibitions I saw at the Tate. Although I suspect both are now fairly unlikely, as the BBC spin-off Picture of Britain was a bit like the series (the digital photography version on BBC4 was better) except lacking in Land Rovers and Dimblebys.

I remember liking some of the pictures, but one of the problems with themed exhibitions is that it can be any combination of artists, collected in whatever way some gallery worker sees fit. And if one has read some of the blurb accompanying the images, then one knows that those who work in a gallery do not necessarily share the same thought processes as the rest of us. Or maybe I'm just a philistine.

One interesting note was the impact of the Tate's inclusively drive; they now have forms one can use to write new descriptions for the artworks (and presumably return completed for the Tate to print up if they choose). I only saw one of the final results, yet this DIY approach seems to have encouraged someone armed with a red pen to amend some of descriptions mounted next to the pictures. Dubious grammar was overruled, as was a reference to magnesium. I can't remember what the reference was about (presumably the chemicals used in the paint), except that someone had corrected it to magnesia, which as the picture didn't feature bits of metal probably was more accurate than just the elemental name. I'm sure a more accurate description could be found; I didn't find it as I stopped searching after I realised I was calculating oxidation states in an art gallery.

But I wasn't the only one calculating. Last week when wandering round the ancient capital I constantly heard references to two things inextricably linked (in my mind) to the current capital: Tate Modern and Wagamama's. Ok, so I know the latter has spread into the Home Counties now, but I still think of it as a place in Camden (or just off Lecky Square). And yet when wandering round the modern capital (or just a small Millbankish part of Pimlico) what was it that the natives concerned themselves with? Sudoku.

Every single member of staff in the Tate, who wasn't actively selling something, was huddled over a small scrap of paper with a pencil copy of a nine-by-nine square. Occasionally one would sidle up to a wall and have a whispered conversation which in another age would have communicated co-ordinates and sunk battleships. Suddenly an unobserved gap would grow an arm clutching bits of paper, and the latest task would be seized, as the spares are carried across the room and hooked backwards through a doorway. Unfortunately watching the workers was often more interesting than looking at the art.

And the sudoku mania possessed all the staff except, of course, one man who very obviously kept falling asleep.

So I wasn't that impressed with the Picture of Britain at Tate Britain. I liked the 1700s coloured ink drawings which could have been from the 1930s, but I forgot who did them. I liked the Hepworth chunk of wood at the end, but I'd seen it before, displayed better. I liked photographs of people in Norfolk (it could have been Suffolk, but it's all the same; big, flat, empty, with not enough trees nor hills), but that was mostly because they were huge and allowed me to compare how film and digital photography produce images on average differently (digital is like impressionistic pastels; the image is there, but it all blends into off-average noise. Instead of having A ,A ,A ,B ,B it renders it as A+,A ,A-,B+,B . Film is much more binary. Either the crystal is there or it isn't. It leads to cleaner, sharper images. They may not be any more accurate in depicting just where the edge is, but the graininess suggests strong forms, which creates more contrast and so more dramatic, more appealing images. But this could all be artefacts of the different printing processes. Think of what the human eyes likes. When you read a book, is it pools of grey creeping into a slightly less grey background? Or is it black on white?).

Reverting to the pictures at an exhibition, I found the theme too weak to carry through. The organisers had tried to create schools in the areas, so we saw how one style treating one landscape and another treated another landscape. There was no control group; there was no painter or style carried between the differing landscapes, so there was no effective comparison of what could be attributed to the style and the painter, and what to the landscape. And as showing the same picture of sheep on cliff which they've hauled out for either the pre-Raphaelites or the Art in the Garden (or possibly both), and which supposedly depicts the moral degradation threatening society in the wake of some church rift; it's stupid Victorian sheep. It's cloying, twee, determinedly moralistic and paternalistic, and it is unrealistic in that immensely detailed and cluttered way which only the ultra-Gothic Victorians could manage. Is it wrong to wish an ancient ram had just butted the artist over the edge?

Moving on. While in London, and in the Tate, I also went round the Reynolds exhibition. Much more fun. Better laid out (no more crowds looking at right angles through other crowds) and better lit. And there's a unifying theme to it all other than because some unknown entity decided it should be so. Because there is similarity in the work displayed the differences and influences can be seen more clearly.

The exhibition is a collection of Reynolds' works detailing the great and the good and associated daughters, wives, prostitutes and actresses. Some of them are pompously aggrandising (actually make that most of them), some are fun, and some seem to have a hint of mockery. And some just make the sitter look rather drunk (I can't find a copy of the picture I am referring to, but it shows a young woman leaning forward with the end of her finger in the corner of her mouth, in a style later adapted by Dr Evil, but with the most ridiculous expression of [false] naivety on her face).

EDIT: Found it. It's suitably titled The Hon. Miss Monckton. There's something eminently slappable about her*.

*Not that...condone...recommend...der de-der de-derr.

Anyway I much prefer she of her husband's uniform or one of the actresses (who looked better in the profiteering print of the picture than the actual picture).

One probably ought to see both exhibitions, but do Reynolds afterwards, as to put him before A Picture of Britain would be like drinking wine after tasting the dessert; the good is drowned in the comparatively bad.

There now be a minor comic interlude in which Anyhoo realises he has lost his phone. [During the following scene the set reacts to the protagonist's actions, drawers opening when a door is closed, books shifting a shelf when files are moved]
Anyhoo searches frantically for his phone, cursing his ability to tessellate shapes and thereby exist in an environment more interlocked than a bedlam cube, although one which contains a great many small holes and niches ideal for holding small and expensive items either fallen, dropped or left in periods displaced attention [indicated by small spots of golden light tracking down the backdrop, stopping and fading out at fixed points].

Anyhoo continues his search as his mind enters a frenzied quest to remember when he last had it [the parallel lights falling vertically over the backdrop multiply and speed up, becoming cyan tinted green. Rip-off? Let them sue. The music rises in pitch with a battle between a piano and violin, both staccato].

Anyhoo thinks of the obvious [pulse of bright light as dropping spots turn off, replaced by low reddish pink blanket across stage. Staccato music ceases, low cello and bass build slowly together]. Anyhoo walks to a phone [lights rise up the backdrop, yellowing as they brighten]. Anyhoo picks it up and dials [the stage is lit as if in sunlight].

Anyhoo discovers it has gone straight to the answerphone [lights collapse to stage level, in a jumble of crooked angles and red and yellow hues. Bass and cello strummed, ending in single screech from violin].

[Low lights diffuse and become sludgy green. Cello and violin play dolefully] Anyhoo emails brother asking if he's send it in his car [stage lit from strong blue-white entering from stage right wing. Triangle tinged erratically].

Anyhoo paces [lit only at ankle height by diffuse off-green lights. A small red spot slowly fades in as it travels up his body] Anyhoo realises there might be somewhere unchecked. Anyhoo runs off [stage left, in red spot]. Anyhoo returns shortly afterwards holding car keys to someone else's car, walks across and leans over [into stage right wing, music gradually builds as more instruments start to play].

Anyhoo turns back [pulse of light, thunder], throws keys off to the left and raises phone now in his hand [music mounts as lights brighten and whiten into a cone centred over Anyhoo].

[Music quietens and becomes tremulous] Anyhoo turns the phone on [choir appears out of nowhere and starts singing something suitably epic]. Anyhoo is startled as the phone beeps [music and choir staccato]. Anyhoo is confused, and then with another beep the phone turns off again [complete darkness and silence]. Anyhoo plugs the phone into the charger [stage lit only by the lights of the phone and charger, curtain slowly descends, two minute bell sounds].

And now that you are all sitting comfortably again (it's a figure of speech ok? We all know that half the audience have their legs jammed in at odd angles because the seats are too tightly packed. Blame the malnourished ancestors, the miserly builders, and people working on averages), I'll begin.

So, reverting way back up the page, why have I not posted anything for a while?
A. Because all the emails following on from those I gleaned some of last week's topics from have all been full of really awful "I'm not putting my name on this" jokes.

B. Because Archgirl was so effusive in her praise for this recently discovered blog that whatever I posted was always going to be a disappointment (but in mitigation, the original stimulus for last week's postings on jittery police and CITC cases on trains hasn't been repeated, which is probably a good thing).

C. Because I still had to do the Tate thing which I had been putting off.

D. Because I was converted into a not so little bundle of rage by some blatant plagiarism on Flickr. I would point you to my initial cringe-makingly pompous response, but fortunately it's been wiped when the copied image it was attached was belatedly removed. And I'm not sticking the back-up email on here as it's embarrassingly over the top (threatening criminal and civil prosecution was a bit too much, except I didn't explicitly say that. I merely wrote "you may be liable to...", which doesn't say it will be by me, and anyway he may also drown in an accident with a vat of molten mint choc chip (or have his suitcase flung off a train)). Speaking of people writing to complain, was anyone else surprised by David Sucher's effort? Somehow I expected more from him. Maybe it just means he's too nice (and never had two obsessive parents teaching him to write letters). And yes I'm fully aware that here is not the place to pick on someone else's grammar and structure, and yes I did just start this run-on sentence with an "And" and then compounded it by adding "yes" which I then latter repeated within the same line, which is possibly why correcting other people might seem a little hypocritical (even if most of the time I'm hypercritical, but usually only about myself).

E. Because I was feeling foolish for only just connecting the name of Anchorage (Alaska) with the fact it had a port (who knew?).

F. Because I was thrown by someone from long ago (not that long, but it's the modern age; one has to keep up with the times, yah, dahlings? And fashion drives us ever forward into the vortex of hedonism and consumption [and suddenly I've gone from over-priced "retro is so passe"* shoes to TB). This someone turned up because I apparently made mention of her misspelt name (well honey, if it's in the bit that says Name: who are we to argue?). Anyway, she posted the following on her new site: [Anyhoo] reminds me of an annoying habit an ex-boyfriend of mine used to have...

Nice. I dread to think what it is, so I won't ask.

Oooh, gorgeous sunset (well, gorgeous light from said sunset), but at a distinctly less gorgeous time of 8.38 (BST). I know compared to midwinter that's very late, but compared to midsummer it does rather ram home the point midsummer was way back when.

Another interlude. The [landline] phone rings. I run to beat the machine. I'm greeted with a very nasal American "Hi, this is Diane from Holiday Rewards". Click. Oh no, not again. I thought they'd given up.

But now I'm feeling remorse for not actually bothering to find out if it was a pre-recorded message or a highly practised person, and not just leaving the handset beside the phone to try racking up their phone bill by some fractional amount (how long before they start using SkypeOut or some other VoIP?).

Oh, and while I remember, through sticking more pictures on Flickr (hence the plagiarism problem) I have discovered it's not the quality of the pictures taken, nor the quantity that matters: it's merely the act of uploading them. No one says anything for weeks, or even looks at them, and then as soon as I start uploading new pictures people comment.

Flickr also seems to have added yet more functions, including ranking pictures according to their interestingness (and I've yet to figure out the formula behind it) and allowing clustering when searching tags. But LondonDan covers this better.


* Someone I knew at college once said that. Irony didn't even appear on the list of trace elements. And she was a goth (a fashionista goth: who'd have thunk a movement harking back to the Late Georgians could be capable of spawning such a thing?). [BMUS]

He used to say "anyhoo" instead of "anyway". A lot. I mean a LOT.

And my name is spelt (spelled? I can never remember which is right) correctly in my profile, although you DID get me going briefly.
For the record, the whole anyhoo thing only happened because "anyway" was already taken (hence the stupid bit in brackets which I keep meaning to excise). But fairly distinctive names are good.

Which brings me to my other point...
Somewhere on one of the past sites it had that spelling. I remember it because I always read it (and typed it) as Dwyer and then had to correct myself.

But as I said, distinctive names are good, even if they are spurious.
Distinctive names are annoying. My maiden name - Padden - was quite unusual and my dad's family quite prolific (for want of a better word) and whenever I told anyone my surname they'd always say "oh, any relation of X Padden" (not actually "X", just using it to represent one of a number of names) and I'd always have to endure a highly embarrasing anecdote about one of my uncles or - worse - my dad.

Sorry, that was a bit boring.
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