Sunday, October 31, 2010

Philosophy is a vile and grotesque subject for madmen and drunks; I would not wish a philosophy degree on anyone whose sanity I valued the least little bit (unless madness were an improvement to them)... It is not for the poets.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bonjour Tristesse.

"I'd like to warn him, but he wouldn't understand - that I can't feel anything that he might be interested in, because I'm surrounded by a wall; an invisible wall of memories I can't lose."

I adore this.
Rupert Murdoch's reign of evil continues..

"This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-stayed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? , ” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer no.
The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but you will never be merely “pretty.”" - Katie Makkai

We are all alone, born alone, die alone and in spite of true romance we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely at least, not all the time but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness. - Hunter S. Thompson

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In this time of economic crisis, social disintegration and the omnipresent threat of 'terror' it's good to know that the Beeb are focusing their energies on the important questions...

Link to: "How is Keith Richards still alive?"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

..Isn't it funny how sometimes you can feel so compelled to let yourself spill across the page in black and white, but other times, when you really want to write, you just can't find the..

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Diet Coke Break

Diet Coke adverts featuring dolls like the one above have been around for a good few months now - the campaign started with a print advert featuring, (quoted from here "three talented, confident and sassy girls who are best friends that work together at a fashion magazine, Eleanor, Bernadette and Irene. Their lighter attitude to life means they inject their own passion, style and spirit into everything they do, and always come out smiling. These girls know how to lighten up!"

Quite apart from Diet Coke's mildly confusing insistence on referring to characters who are (apparently) 28, 24 & 26 respectively (roll your mouse over the pictures on this site to meet them!) as "girls", what is really perplexing about this particular ad campaign is that it seems to be marketing a product to grown women via the medium of small dolls. We all know that advertising is no longer really about selling a product, but selling an idea - by telling an audience that they too can look like a supermodel, become irresistible to the opposite sex, or find some kind of sense of happiness and fulfilment should they only care to buy the right car, make-up or perfume. But so far as I can tell, this advertising campaign seems to be holding up what are essentially 21st century Bratz dolls as aspirational figures to women in the 20-30 age bracket. Are we really that desperate to be infantilized? (actually, looking at some of the comments on this blog apparently some of us are - although personally I find something a little unnerving about grown women saying things like, "I WANT A DOLLY!!!"[caps in context])

Quote from the website:

"Bernardette is 28 and is the magazine's relationship correspondent. This is quite an ironic position, as when it comes to her own relationships she's pretty rubbish - there are too many boys out there to flirt with!"

"Irene is 24. She's the junior arts columnist. Her love of music and all things dance means she hits the town most nights and has many a tale to tell about her adventures out and about. She loves all kinds of music - but particularly anything she can dance to."

"Eleanor is 26-years-old. She is the magazine's fashion sub-editor. She lives, breathes eats and, well, wears fashion. She knows everything there is to know about it - every designer, every brand, every store, what's hot, what's about to be hot, and if it's not, merchandise it up a little until it is."

I can only guess at what "merchandise it up a little" is supposed to mean, but I find it fascinating and vaguely horrifying that Diet Coke is running a campaign aimed at grown women that assumes that the same thing will appeal to them now as it did 20 years ago when they were playing with their Barbie dolls. Hopefully a few of us have moved on since then - perhaps some of us might actually be working at magazines like the fictional one in these advertisements, although I'd imagine there is less time for jumping around dancing on desks to the song from Flashdance. And hopefully we have diversified our interests a little outside of boys, dance music and clothes.

There is a degree of mimesis involved in being a consumer. The representations of ourselves we see in adverts both shape and are shaped by our wants and desires. Cases of women trying to achieve the unrealistic physical proportions presented in adverts like this one are, unfortunately, commonplace. In a consumer society, our bodies have become, to some degree, commercial spaces. No longer are we expected to want to look like women who look like dolls, the middle (wo)man has been removed entirely. Things have come full circle and, at 25, we're little girls again - expected to be playing at having jobs, playing at having careers, and apparently, buying soft drinks thanks to slogans like "No problem is too big when you have killer heels!", or "It gives you a little lift... like platforms!"

Of course, the overt gender-oriented advertising by Coca-Cola was boosted into hyper-drive following the launch of Coke Zero - exactly the same product as Diet Coke but in a Black Bottle for Boyz, accompanied by EXTREME adverts about skiing and loud noises and smashing stuff up and kicking ass and stuff, you know, boy junk like that. AWESOME. Is there something morally wrong about marketing the same product as two separate products, solely defined by gender stereotypes? Personally, although I know some people would argue that advertisers are merely catering to a market, I don't think the relationship between consumer audience and advertiser is a one way street, in which adverts are shaped by consumers who dictate how their attention should be captured. Adverts don't just cater to target markets, they create and shape them. Evidently it is in someone's interest for boys to be boys and girls to be girls... my question is, do we really want to define our gender identities to suit the profit projections of Schweppes?

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BBC article about the hysterical enthusiasm of new mothers for a 'miracle cream' that allegedly gets rid of post pregnancy 'mummy tummy'

Isn't it funny how people are still prepared to spend lots of money on lotions and potions make their insecurities vanish away? It reminds me of fairy stories; swap a sack of gold coins for a magic spell and your problems will just disappear! It's almost as though, in today's world, the magician and the witch realised that if they teamed up and started casting spells that made everyones noses seem bigger, breasts seem smaller, bottom seem fatter, stomach seem lumpier and face seem uglier then they would be able to collect far more gold coins from humble woodcutter's wives desperate to look like the princess in the tower!

There isn't a set prototype we're all suppposed to match. If you've had a baby growin inside your tummy, chances are it's not going to snap back with the tautness of an elastic band afterwards. And if you want it to, I'd imagine that for most people it takes work and maybe tummy tuck operations - not a magic ointment in a jar. Bodies change after pregnancy. They change naturally as we age. Your body will not look the same as it does now in twenty years time. If you want it to, perhaps you best find yourself a nice tower and go to sleep for a hundred years, because living, loving, and having children WILL change your body and personally, I think that's ok.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Join the Dots.

....people keep surprising me by coming out in favour of increased tuition friend, teaching in an inner city London school, is struggling to find a way to make Economics interesting to teenage pupils. One threw a chair at her........all around me, intelligent students with 2:1 degree classifications struggle to find jobs....... All around me, everybody struggles to find jobs (except for contract work - no pensions, no rights) ..........all of the supermarkets are 24 hour, now...... In the last few months, two (educated) people have told me separately that they think we should consider Victorian Workhouses as a solution to the benefits problem...... In the last week, I have heard Dickens quote on debt repeated in two (separate) places .......No more quangos, privatised public services ........Small waistbands and long full skirts are in again...... Sometimes, I think in twenty years we will look back and wonder how we lost so much.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Friday, October 08, 2010

Light Night at the Hyde Park Picture House

Tonight was Light Night in Leeds; the less said about that the better - although I must confess to being frankly mystified as to how my friends and I managed to completely fail at having a fun night, despite the presence of such mischievous fun as vintage tea parties and cardboard gramophones, Victorian Ghost Tours and a room filled with origami. (I can only assume we must be dead inside.)

However, despite our curious failure to glean a semi-fun evening from a scenario that seemed to provide bountiful joy to others, I did manage to pop along to the Light Night event at the Hyde Park Picture House. Thankfully, this turned out to be a little more forthcoming, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I retired in my plush red velvet cinema seat, armed with complementary tea and sticky ginger cake, safe in the knowledge that I have not yet been rendered incapable of finding fun on a Friday night.

Showing this evening were the four films shortlisted for the Jarman Award (if you're unfamiliar, Dazed and Confused do a nice run down here)and they certainly provided food for thought on a ....

1) First up is the excellently/ridiculously named Spartacus Chetwynd's A Walk to Dover, which is apparently based on a similar pilgrimage made by Dickens' David Copperfield. It's a satisfyingly sideways montage of clips froma trip made by Spartacus and 3 friends, with lots of sped up footage of them doing silly things in fields wearing big hats, and an old woman reading (what I assume to be) sections from the Dickens novel over the top in a distinctively old womany way. On the slightly more serious side, there are some pleasing contrasts between the urban and rural scenery, and there's also a message buried somewhere not-too-deep about poverty and the uncomfortable parallels between the issues of poverty in both our own and Dickens society. In one of life's more ominous coincidences, near the beginning of the film (which was made a few years ago, 2005 I believe) the following quote from a Dickens character was used:

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

The reason why this caught my attention was because I had in fact read the same quote earlier this week, in a Guardian magazine article on Osbourne's ever-present looming cuts. It cannot be denied that the story of Dickens upbringing, and his experience of the shame of seeing his lower middle class family condemned to the debtors prison due to father's unwise spending habits, strikes a none-too-pleasant chord given the current economic situation (a none-too-pleasant chord, incidentally, that contrasted wonderfully with partchimp's rather pleasant discordant soundtrack, which erupts unexpectedly out of the silence of the film's opening).

Or maybe it can, but either way, this film is good irreverent fun.

2)Middle Sea by Zineb Sedira. Lots of shots of a man walking around or standing still (mostly standing still) on a boat. Some genuinely awe inspiring footage of waves shot from a moving boat, but other than that I struggled to find anything that struck resonance with this one. Not my cup of tea, sorry. (There are some nice thoughtful photographic shots of desolate places on his website, though.)

3) Ben Rivers' contribution is entitled A World Rattled of Habit. He describes it simply as "A day trip to Suffolk, to see my friend Ben and his dad Oleg..." It's a strange little film, with a dry sense of humour that I think would probably get lost in translation on a mainstream audience, but I don't think he's trying to appeal to the mainstream so that's ok. It's essentially a short film about a pretty fascinating old character; the kind of man who, when people hear about him and his latest escapade or bold pronouncement, people must just surely chuckle to themselves in a bemused fashion. You can imagine phrases like "He's one on his own, that one", or "nothing would surprise me", passing peoples lips on a regular basis, and exasperated daughters-in-law (or similar) throwing their hands up in the air in defeat over his refusal to conform to the laws of the household when he comes to visit. He's certainly an interesting old bloke with some pearls of wisdom to impart. What makes it work is the obvious affection the film maker has for the old man, which really comes through in the work and gives the whole piece a rather warming effect, despite a few unnerving shots (jerky footage of man smiling, eerily holding old painting of a girl, close ups of Oleg eating etc) which I suspect were thrown in there to satisfy the darker elements of the director's sense of humour. Generally nice.

4) Emily Wardill's The Diamond (Descartes Daughter)is a strange, jerky, mechanised, amusing little piece consisting primarily of shots of an imagined scene from a film that the narrator, having unsuccessfully attempted to track it down, has decided to recreate herself. What really makes this film is the story and ideas conveyed by the running monologue, delivered in a almost mechanical Swedish accent and toying with Marcusian ideas about the distance the machine puts between human and action. It is artfully constructed and self referential, with the mechanical voice occasionally experiencing glitches and blips, and with a good measure of stoic humour thrown in the mix too. I liked the fact that, beneath the mechanical quality, there was actually a great deal of emotion running somewhere close to the surface - present but obscured, rather like our own plight in a world of distant internet communication. It was a strange little film, and not a great deal actually happened, but it worked because it engaged you and not only asked questions but led you to formulate your own. Basically, no complaints here.This was probably my favourite of all the films shown, and apparently it won, so there we go.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Link to the Guardian website - a gallery of images from a collection selected by Sarah Maple, which will be auctioned with the aim of raising money for the all day Feminism in London event on the 23rd.

This contribution, by Chila Burman, is probably my favourite because I think it works better on an artistic level than most of the other pieces I've seen so far. It's bright and fierce and cool and strong, and there is so much going on in it if you look closely -I love art that you can stare at for ages and still find new things you didn't notice at first (did you notice the swastikas?). I also really like the fact that she's dealing with facts such as the problems raised by Capitalism and Globalisation; at the end of the day, I think that oppression comes in multiple forms but often arises from the same hegemony of entrenched values and if we want to fight inequality it's important to be aware of how pervasive it is in our society! But apart from all that, I think I just like this image the most because it's so joyful - bright colours make me happy :-)

Chila Burman on her own work, taken from her website:

"Challenging stereotypical assumptions of Asian women, my work is informed by popular culture, Bollywood, fashion, found objects, the politics of femininity the celebration of feminity; self-portraiture exploring the production of my own sexuality and dynamism; the relationship between popular culture and high art; gender and identity politics."

On another note, although it may lack the colourful joy of the previous work, David Rusbatch's contribution certainly gets the point across:

(Kate Nash's piece, dealing with the treatment of women in the music industry, is also worth a look, and very endearing.)

[syndicated here:]

Friday, October 01, 2010

Oh, and we also care deeply about Britain's undergraduate Quantative Surveyors - so much so that one we met this evening is asleep on the sofa downstairs. We hope he does not steal tvs or smash fine china.
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I want to found a small self sufficient, style conscious enclave existing entirely within the bounds of my own bedroom. We have a stout yale lock at the door, and there is a small split level hallway which could easily be fashioned into some kind of moat. I have an ornamental fireplace, lots of DVDs, a reproduction banksy on the wall and a large selection of vintage clothing and a set of gel pens in most colours including pastel, glitter and metallic varieties. If you want to come join us, we are non-partisan and we are mostly one person so please get in contact: