Monday, April 23, 2018

About Brain of Britain

I shall be stumbling onto your airwaves (assuming you listen to BBC Radio 4) at 3pm on Monday, April 30, for a heat of the evergreen quiz show Brain of Britain. Do listen, at the time or on the blessed iPlayer.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

About Picasso, sort of

I went to the Picasso 1932 exhibition at Tate Modern yesterday and was going to write something about it but on the way there my attention was grabbed by a different kind of art; dear old, dreamy, enigmatic René Magritte, ripped off, recuperated, to sell yet more glossy, vacuous apartments.




Anyway, my righteous indignation had eased a little by the time I got to the power station, and the Picasso show was good, a tightly packed capsule of life and creativity. We saw the ebb and flow of his little obsessions and what prompted them – he was seriously into octopuses for a few months – and the sheer volume of fact was delightful, from the make of his car to the fact that Carl Gustav Jung, of all people, wrote a really vicious review. And yet it was still tantalising in the details it missed; we learned that Picasso skipped the opening of his first Paris retrospective to go to the cinema – I wanted to know what film.

And, of course, the whole thing was sponsored by a big accountancy firm. So, maybe capitalism won in the end and we just have to live with the big dull flats and the bad Magritte clones. But I wouldn’t want to break the news to this enigmatic figure, for whom it’s still, clearly, all about the pictures.


PS: From Hyperallergic, more about what happens when art and capitalism and gentrification coincide.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

About bloody Morrissey



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

About research

Academic research is mainly a matter of finding stuff that people have already written about (so you can include proper references) but got wrong (so you can justify your own pathetic existence by disagreeing with them).

Saturday, April 14, 2018

About spaghetti

I’m generally allergic to anything that hints at the “modern art is bollocks, a three-year-old could do that” flavour of philistinism but this made me giggle.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

About words and things

From Benjamin Woolley, Virtual Worlds: A Journey in Hype and Hyperreality (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992):
In the commonsense world of science and especially mathematics, ‘words’ really do not matter, because they represent no reality, they float above the surface of it. In the world of ‘theory’, however, the very opposite is true. Reality exists in language, in history, in culture, in all the contingencies of human action and creativity, in the very substance of Hamlet’s being, in ‘words, words, words’. A universal, objective reality, and the science that seeks to reveal it, was the great sustaining myth of the modern age. The question is, then, what happens to it when the myth is punctured, when the paradigm has shifted?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

About silence

I haven’t seen the movie A Quiet Place yet, but the concept sounds fun and anything that shows up the noisy eaters has to be good. That said, it does reinforce the idea that silence per se is vanishingly rare; removing sound only reveals more sound beneath, as these Quakers found when they squeezed their 30 minutes of quiet into a podcast.

But, as usual, someone got there first:

Sunday, April 08, 2018

About the NME (RIP, etc)

Paul Morley, one of the old NME hands mourning their alma mater in Record Collector:
Post-Wikipedia, writers spend about nine-tenths of their piece setting out facts and received wisdom before saying anything original. Back then, we could make it all up. You didn’t know the “facts”. Didn’t really need them. I remember doing an interview with the Monochrome Set, in which I numbered them, one to six. What mattered was the words, the making up, that colouring in, which became the truth, the narrative of the music.
Now, this may feed into our modish hysteria about Fake News, and also confirm the prevalent belief that Morley is nowt but a posturing pseud. But surely it’s preferable to the recent banal prattlings of another NME alumnus; or the Best of British list, so male, so white, concocted by listeners to a radio station that once had vague claims to being alternative, whatever that might mean.