Archive for the ‘Such people’ Category

I am glad to see that Waterhouse’s charming painting of Hylas and the Nymphs has been returned to the Manchester Art Gallery!
After having been removed by stern feminists, who had vowed it would never return.
Heavens, what a bunch of kill-joys. No more cakes and ale! It turned out that the public was outraged, and made their views very clear to the city, which sulkily put it back.
Years and years ago, I wrote a thesis about the Pre Raphaelites–not a very learned one, this was art school after all. But how I loved those paintings, and what a thrill to see some of them on the wall at the Tate, years later.
Lovely things, if not perhaps number one in the taste department.


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I continue to read the wildly inappropriate series by Steven Erikson, dripping with gore and ghastly violence. I have even–to my shame–introduced my dear friend Cathie to the Dark Side. She too has descended into the depths of this terrible addictive series.
What can I say–è più forte di me.
So today I was listening to a scene where some unbelievably horrid violence has taken place, and the Dark Lord ShadowThrone–once ruler of a mighty empire on earth, and now God of the Realm of Shadow—appears once the battle is done. Cotillion, dark Second to ShadowThrone, is with him, and somehow the conversation strays to…ShadowThone’s mother: “every time we end up in the same room I can see the disappointment in her eyes, and hear it in her voice. “Emperor? Oh, that empire. So now you’re a god? Oh dear, not Shadow? Isn’t it broken? Why did you have to pick a broken realm to rule? When your father was your age…” Aagh, and on and on it goes! ​”
​Cracks me up!​

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I finally watched the movie to blame for those oddly decorative Guy Fawkes masks appearing at every tiresome pep rally of a couple years back–V for Vendetta.

The story involves–oh, I can’t be bothered to tell the story. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing–it is based on a comic book, ludicrously unbelievable, and touting a repugnant concept of politics–so why, why was I continuing to watch such silliness?
Simply, those astonishing actors, filling the screen with their lunatic energy and panache. As the repellent dictator, John Hurt was mesmerizing–his baleful face, all wrinkles and bad teeth, spitting virulent hatred–projected into the huge screen in the conference room where sat his minions, resentfully regarding him.

There was Stephen Rea, as the dogged detective, and wicked wicked Tim Piggott-Smith (whom I remember so well as the heinous Ronald Merrick in The Jewel in the Crown)–oh, and Stephen Fry, Roger Allam, Sinead Cusack–this movie is a feast of fabulous acting.
With, I’ll admit, a completely silly plot. But it is after all based on a comic book.
Intelligent entertainments based on brilliant works of art are rare. This will do until the intelligent, brilliant one comes along.
PS. RIP, John Hurt and Tim Piggott-Smith. Both died this year.

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There was a story in yesterday’s paper about Ghost, a Swedish heavy metal band whose mystique is one of dread satanic evil–they are nameless, always perform masked, and their lyrics are laden with pentagrams and demonic possession.
It appears that the mystique has been somewhat compromised due to a recent spate of litigation–the associate Ghosts have been suing the Head Ghost for back pay, and the process has exposed the normal tawdry details that every traveling band has to deal with–laundry arrangements, heated discussions about food, etc.
It so reminded me of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon night in Terry Pratchett’s Guards Guards:
“I call the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren to order,” he intoned. “Is the Door of Knowledge sealed fast against heretics and knowlessmen?”
“Stuck solid,” said Brother Doorkeeper. “It’s the damp. I’ll bring my plane in next week, soon have it–”
“All right , all right,” said the Supreme Grand Master testily. “Just a yes would have done. Is the triple circle well and truly traced? Art all here who Art Here?…
Image result for swedish band Ghost
Well, you know how it is–the mystic black robes of power need to be cleaned from time to time, and NOBODY wants to be the one sitting in the laundromat after the show.

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Last week the radio opera was Nabucco, Verdi’s grand reworking of the biblical Nebuchadnezzar story. As it happens, I had just come across this very man, in the midst of a giant history of the ancient world. He is famous for going completely crazy and thinking he was an ox:
“he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.”

In the opera, the madness is the result of a spectacular bit of blasphemy–“Non son più re, son dio!” (I am not KING, I am GOD!)–whereupon there is a giant thunderclap and the next thing you know, there he is on hands and knees eating grass.
In addition to this crowd-pleaser, the opera features the famous Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (“Fly, Thought, on Golden Wings!”) which you will probably recognize if you hear it. Not, so far as I am concerned, with any particular enjoyment. The opera ends with Nabucco converting to Judaism and the bad queen poisoning herself. What can I say–Verdi, after all.

The book in which I came across the mad king (History of the Ancient World, by Susan Wise Bauer) is a valiant attempt to find humans in history–the author eschews the passive voice, to which she attributes the stultifying tedium of many historic texts: “Civilization arose in the Fertile Crescent…” As much as possible, she quotes from texts and inscriptions, and often, amidst all the turbulence, plotting and war there is a sudden and surprising glimpse of a living breathing human being.
Mostly, I will own, phenomenally NASTY living breathing human beings. The instances of ghastly violence are numerous, a rich source of stories for all our modern day fabulists–red weddings, beheadings, blindings, betrayal, and general mayhem: all carefully set down on the clay tablets or carved onto plinths and obelisks.
WITH illustrations.

Here is Sennacherib the Assyrian king, telling of his victory over the Elamites:
Like the many waters of a storm I made the contents of their gullets and entrails run down upon the wide earth. My prancing steeds, harnessed for my riding, plunged into the streams of their blood as into a river. The wheels of my war chariot, which brings low the wicked and the evil, were bespattered with filth and blood. With the bodies of their warriors I filled the plain, like grass.
You don’t want to hear the part about what he did to their delicate body parts (=tearing them like the seeds of cucumbers in June).
These non-stop wars always end with a city being burned and the inhabitants either massacred or led off in chains.

You know, it occurs to me that the one business guaranteed to succeed in ancient times would be chain manufacturing. Well, that and weapons manufacturing.
Not so different from today, actually…

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I JUST had time for a quick grocery shop on Thursday evening before my ballet class, and darted into the store, grabbing that handy dandy laser gun, and scanning the needful items before popping them into my bag–sultanas and dried cranberries for the morning oatmeal, coffee beans, cans of beans for the neighborhood food drive, all neatly packed and ready to be paid for at the register.

But when I scanned the gun at the register up came that glum message:”HELP IS NEEDED WITH THIS ITEM”. What that means is that the system thinks I am a THIEF and a company employee must come over and rescan a random sample of the items in my bag in order to foil my fiendish plot. As I was a little pressed for time, the system naturally chose that moment to bring the club down on my innocent head.
An indolent youth ambled to my side, took the radar gun and began aiming at a paper of bar codes.
Time went by.
Nothing happened.
I spoke with some heat to the lad, saying that I was in a HURRY. He responded in disapproving accents, explaining that it wasn’t working.
I am a mild tempered lady, polite to a fault, always ready to see the other fellow’s point of view.
HOWEVER. It had not been a great day, and I did not want to miss my class.
Comrades, I am ashamed to report that I found myself overwhelmed by a sudden impulse of rage. Snatching up my so carefully filled bag, I upended it into the cart and let the raisins, the coffee, the canned goods so virtuously assembled, all tumble out. Out I marched in a storm of ridiculous vexation, ignoring the rude exclamation of the inept youth.
Sigh. We are none of us perfect.
So today I returned to the scene of the crime, and reassembled the items. As I left that place, I pushed a dollar into the Salvation Army bucket, which was being managed by a man inexpertly playing a TUBA of all things. He was playing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and I found myself silently singing along–through the years, we’ll always be together, if the fates allow.
But the fates didn’t allow.

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The mouth flaps

Today in a meeting the study director revealed a plan to hold an unplanned workshop in January. Taken aback, I asked for more detail, and suddenly found myself telling the team that workshops “make my soul recoil in horror”. Which they do, but usually I manage to politely mask the reaction.
No harm done however, a general chuckle, and the study director wrote it down to tell her husband.
SHUT UP HOPE, is what I tell myself.

But do I listen? NO.

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