Why smart songwriting is huge in Sheffield and guitar-pop thrives in Glasgow: You hear where you live? An interesting look at how geography may help shape your taste in music – whether you are aware of it or not.
Meanwhile, it’s nice to note that Hillary Clinton wants to share her political views with the part of the American public who are devoted to gossip magazines: Hillary Clinton: My Worst Outfits!. Not only is it low-brow journalism – it is also low-brow journalism that panders to stereotypes (i.e. why is nobody asking John McCain to go through his fashion mistakes?) and makes the vast mistake of underestimating women voters.
Finally, I followed the Beeb’s The Genius of Photography when it was aired last year and was very pleased when I found Jörg Colberg’s blog where he writes eloquently about fine-art photography. His What Makes a Great Portrait? stands out as a wonderful meditative essay on portrait photography. Not only does he cite many examples of portrait photography (and I should point out that some of these may not be entirely safe for work as they include nudity and violence), but Colberg explains why he thinks some photos work better than others. It is hugely inspirational and educational for an amateur photographer like myself.
Oh, and a music recommendation on the fly: Alaska in Winter is on constant rotation in our home. So gorgeous.
Heard sung outside on the street at around 9am: I do, I do, I do believe in faeries...
I finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s excellent The Road yesterday. Its sparse, exquisite prose reminded me of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead as did the preoccupation with love and tenderness. However, while Gilead is about a place and staying there, The Road travels through nameless towns, through woods and across mountains. It deals with a world where there are no places or localities – insofar as ‘place’ is situated in time (cf. Foucault and the discussion of space/place) or in memory. McCarthy’s book is bleak, austere and shockingly beautiful. It is also a strong contender for Best Read of 2008.
Speaking of which, one of the best reads I had last year was the flawed but absolutely fascinating The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas. I just picked up her PopCo and I am somewhat reassured by reviewers insisting that despite the ghastly cover, it is ‘intelligent and witty’.
Finally, astute readers with stalkerishly attention to blog-details may note that I have re-designed Fourth Edition and that it now bears an astonishing resemblance to a certain blogspot blog I kept years and years ago. What can I say? I’m retro.
Since I last had an MRI scan (mid-90s, if I recall correctly), technology has allowed the patient to listen to the radio during the scan. Unfortunately this meant I was forced to listen to a talk show debating killing stray dogs and then people suffering from claustrophobia. Not ideal listening material for someone who likes dogs and is trapped inside a snug plastic tube for 40 minutes.
Today is also Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Tuesday – here in the UK. I made pancakes earlier today and served them Danish style with butter, a touch of ground cardamom and granulated sugar. Multi-culturalism r us, yo.
Let’s be positive! My downstairs neighbour is not a hypersensitive man who complains that I ‘type too loudly’. He is not a schizophrenic albino who loves Celine Dion and talks to his absent father whilst hiding from the people in the walls. He is not a Norwegian couple who argue until 4am, then shag and who will eventually leave me with two desert rats called Legolas and Gimli. Let’s face it, I survived all those people, so why should I be so grumpy about him being a hippie stoner who puts the same prog rock song on repeat until 2.30am.
I must be getting old. Well, I did take up crocheting the other week..
The plot outline: 18th century Britain. Catholics and Protestants live side by side uneasily. The young poet Alexander Pope is heading to London to make his name. He encounters a situation he’ll later immortalise in the wonderful mock epic The Rape of the Lock. So, by all accounts you get literary history in the making, the (in)famous flirt between Lord Petre and Arabella Fermor (as immortalised in the poem), religious troubles and a look at the early 18th century landscape. Ms Gee knows a helluva lot about the period and therein lies the real problem of this book.
I cannot enjoy it as fiction. The characters speak wonderfully witty early 18th century English but they all speak in the same manner. There is no distinct turn of phrase, no subtle nuances to their voices and after a few pages it begins to grate. The characters are not fleshed out, they never leap off the page and the plot drags. Furthermore, because Sophie Gee has her characters repartee so beautifully, the more modern phrases she occasionally employs spring out and annoy. As an expert writing on the literary and political landscape of early 18th century London, Gee convinces, though. I wish she had written a nice, witty treatise on that subject – she has apparently written academic articles on the matter – but it’s not very likely that little book would have made it to my little secondhand bookstore.
The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art: “the world’s largest collection of anatomically correct fabric brain art. Inspired by research from neuroscience, dissection and neuroeconomics, our current exhibition features three quilts with functional images from PET and fMRI scanning, a knitted brain, and two fabric pieces interpreting single neuron recording.”
Their disclaimer amuses this soon-to-undergo-MRI-scan woman: “While our artists make every effort to insure accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation, neurosurgery, or single-neuron recording.”
Oh, Copenhagen. How I do not really miss thee but then again I do.
Recently I found Copenhagen Street Style – a Danish blog trying to capture all the hip young things gracing the streets of Copenhagen. Copenhagen is peculiar in the sense that you tend to see muted colours everywhere – black, beige, brown and the occasional daring navy – so I actually do applaud CSS’s decision to feature people who dare break away from the safe colours.
It is just a shame that the featured fashion victims dare-devils haven’t got a clue what they are doing. I get the idea of deconstructing fashion – actually, I also get how deconstructing fashion is circa 1998. I also get the idea of anti-fashion in the sense of reclaiming fashion and style from the hegemony of big bad cooperations and leading fashion editors. But anti-fashion is as much about knowing the semiotics of fashion as it is about rejecting tokenism. And, judging by the majority of the photos on CSS, these so-called fashionistas really do not have a clue. They are concerned about looking ‘cool’ (which in its own right is embracing the idea of fashion as the idea of ‘cool’ changes rapidly) and ‘edgy’. Sadly they just end up looking like prats who are groping in the dark, to quote a well-known poet (or, in the case of the people pictured, like sad fans of the Reynolds Girls).
For your amusement (or horror, depending upon your sensibilities), I also would like to draw your attention to: