The-Lesson-1992

18 November 2016

RHYMES WITH NUKES, FLUKES, DUKES, KOOKS

That's it. I'm not posting about politics anymore. I've bought a ukulele.

The arrival of ukulele

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13 November 2016

SOMEDAY SHE'LL COME ALONG

I've been fantasizing about who would defeat Donald Trump in 4 years time and came up with my ideal candidate.

She would be black or Hispanic or mixed race. She could be of any or no religion. Her personality would contain ingredients of Michele Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, Odetta, Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Naomi Klein, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Moore, Angela Merkel, Bernie Sanders and a few others, but she would be uniquely herself.

She would be friends with people of every race, class, nationality, religion and sexual orientation. She would be thoroughly and accurately informed about social, cultural, economic, environmental and political problems at home and in the rest of the world. She would be able to identify every country on a map and probably speak one or more languages other than English. She would be unafraid, bold, outspoken, able to dish out as well as take criticism, but also kind, attentive, perceptive and observant. She would have a sense of humour. She would be able to sing and dance and write her own speeches.

She would transform politics by removing spin, soundbiting, sanctimoniousness, snobbery, sneering, suspicion, sneakiness, slander, subservience and scoundrelism. She would speak her own mind, in her own words, with intelligence, insight, foresight, inspiration and factual information. Some day she'll come along.

I borrowed parts of the image below from Paolo Uccello's St.George and the Dragon, courtesy of the National Gallery, Creative Commons licence.

Defeating the Dragon

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10 November 2016

THE PLAY'S THE THING: WHY?

Obama and Trump meeting in the White House today, making the necessary diplomatic public statements, with much hemming and hawing to conceal their true feelings. What strikes me is this: why the theatre? Everyone knows what these two men think of each other and have said about each other. Why couldn't they just have spoken straight from the shoulder and the heart? Just a few seconds of genuine unrehearsed sincerity would have instantly introduced a constructive note into the whole divisive election aftermath. Maybe Trump could even have apologised to Obama for his 'birther' and other insults - wouldn't that have been something?

I'm always bewildered by the theatrical aspect of political discourse and the fact that we generally collude in the fantasy that what is on the stage is real, whilst being aware that it is a play - the manner in which most politicians speak their lines makes this perfectly obvious. But occasionally, rarely, a politician comes along who doesn't play the game and who talks like ordinary people talk when they're saying what they actually think. Not that the content is necessarily better: sincerity doesn't guarantee truth or wisdom or wit. But at least you get to know who you're really dealing with.

Trump played the 'sincerity' role in his campaign, the ordinary guy, one of us. Except that he's not and it's a carefully crafted script by a very crafty individual who has been play-acting all his life.

Obama in the White House must have learned how to play the game but, listening to him and watching him, you can't help noticing that it's stressful for him to play it. In those moments when he doesn't have to act you can almost hear a sigh of relief. It's what makes him endearing, whether you have agreed with him or not.

The Obama family ring true. The Trump cortège will be 'reality' television in a White House setting. Anybody want to write the script?

Trump Family

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9 November 2016

CONDOLENCES TO AMERICA, TO THE WORLD

Victory for the racists, the mysoginists, the wall-builders, hate-mongers, fear-mongers, the fascists, gun-toters, bullies, demagogues, egomaniacs, money-worshippers, the ignorant of and indifferent to everything beyond their own barbed wire-protected enclave.

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4 November 2016

HOT OFF THE PRESS

Warmth and therefore joy are back, thanks to a sympathique, efficient, careful and knowledgeable young Polish-German heating engineer I had the good fortune to chance upon.

He instantly identified the problems (one of which, embarassingly, was spent batteries in the thermostat) and dealt with them all, no hanging about, in less than an hour, for a reasonable fee.

Home is toasty warm now and tonight I'll sleep gratefully, sending sweet dreams to all our fellow Europeans.

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3 November 2016

COLD AND PRIVILEGED

Up all night wearing coat plus scarf plus two and half sweaters plus tights plus warm trousers but still cold, too cold to get into bed because if I fell asleep I might not wake up early enough to phone boiler repair people.

My flat is currently excruciating because the boiler stopped working and it's all because a plumber I called about two weeks ago to fix a minor flaw (not a heat-cancelling flaw) did Something to the boiler. Something he explained at great length but with little clarity, involving a piece of rubber tubing and a bucket. When he was finished and paid he said he'd come back as soon as he returned from holiday because the boiler needed a new tap kit and he'd bring this. The pressure gauge went down to zero and stayed there but the heating still worked. This boiler has worked well for several years but yesterday it packed up - nice timing! Cold weather coincided. I've left progressively urgent messages on said plumber's phone, at first cheerful, then apologetic, then terse, then angry, then tearful etc. No response of any kind from him. Of course.

So I've been sitting in the kitchen leaning against my electric oven, waiting for a new boiler repair person to arrive. But that won't be for another couple of hours, so I've been thinking, as one does.

I'm incredibly, impossibly, unfairly privileged. My suffering consists of a malfunctioning boiler on a rather cold day. I'm not homeless, I'm not sleeping on cardboard in the street, or abandoned, lost in a burnt-out jungle in Calais or elsewhere. Compared to millions of people nearby or far away on this planet I'm wallowing in luxury, unimaginably fortunate. So fortunate that it's shameful. Yet I'm dependent on the comforts I take for granted. Even temporarily deprived of them I'm ready to rage at the failure of people and technology to provide me with the instant and efficient services I demand, pay for and can't live without.

I know my shame is theoretical, merely a blog post to while away this cold time while I wait for warmth to be restored.

But still, I'm thinking.

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18 October 2016

IS THE INTERNET YOUR PARENT?

These questions ocurred to me today while on the bus to Camden Town.

Is posting on the internet our thoughts, our pictures, our stories, our rants, our activities, then eagerly, hungrily, checking for responses, is it a bit like being a child again, seeking parental approval or if not approval, any kind of response? Are all internet social media like metaphorical parents of whatever sort of child we were, and still are to some degree?

For my part I can answer a hesitant yes. Does anybody else reading this feel the same? I cross-post to Facebook and some people have replied over there.

16 October 2016

ODETTA

Same period of time (1962), same place. The only reason Reg and I are in Rome is because my sister Anne and her Italian husband Gerardo Guerrieri said  "Come. You can work with us!" when we were wondering what was next after our years in Paraguay ended (more about all this in my ongoing online autobiography).

So we're both working in the office of the Teatro Club, an extraordinary organisation created by Anne and Gerardo which brings international theatre, dance, music, myriad roads all leading to Rome. I'm designing posters for a forthcoming show by the Moisseiev Russian ballet company but meanwhile, Odetta is about to give a solo performance and I'm helping out backstage. 

Odetta  in Rome, 1962

Odetta, whose unforgettable voice I've never heard before and whose majestic presence overwhelms me, is standing calm and serene before her curtain call while I'm running around panicking in case I've forgotten something and catastrophe is imminent.

Odetta turns to me smiling like a Buddha and says something - why why why can't I remember her actual words? - something which means don't sweat the small stuff but so much more eloquent, in that voice, with that presence, so calm,like a shower of blessings. All my panic melts away and all the panics melt away and you have to laugh.

She goes on stage and she sings her songs and now all I have to do is put her records on and I'm back in that moment. If you've never heard Odetta, or even if you have, listen to her. This is from one of her blues albums.

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14 October 2016

MEMORY THE WIND DIDN'T BLOW AWAY

It's 1962. My husband Reg Dixon and I have left Paraguay behind and are living in a roof-top apartment in Trastevere, Rome's left-bank. In the evenings we often drop in at the Folk Studio, a cavernous musical haven for world citizens and restless locals, run by Harold Bradley, a hugely talented African American singer, actor, painter and all-around exceptional human being. His deep velvet basso profundo version of the old Gospel classic God's Gonna Cut You Down can easily persuade you Harold is God but he'd never cut you down because he loves you too much.

We've made friends with Harold and, since Reg plays the guitar and we both sing, sometimes we perform our American, English, French, Spanish or Mexican repertoire. Other amateur and professional musicians often come up on stage from the audience and, one winter night, a skinny kid wearing a casquette (you know, those flat caps) gets up there. 

To my shame, I can't now remember what he sang or even if he had his guitar but I know it was good. Reg and I and another man and the kid, who is extremely drunk and hilariously funny with it, go next door to a bar for some food. The kid's sense of humour is so sharp and so contagious that we are all falling about in blissful hilarity. The kid's name is Bob Dylan. He isn't yet very famous but his manager Al Grossman is with him protectively on that evening in Rome. I'm absolutely sure that Dylan wouldn't remember the incident but herewith my good wishes to the Nobel prizewinner, whether he'll pick up the prize or not.

Looking for a photo to include, I came across an astonishingly detailed account by Olof Björner of Dylan's comings and goings, including the trip to Rome. It says 1961 - I'm pretty sure it was 1962 but never mind, I've copied the relevant extract below. Also found a photo of Harold Bradley at the Folk Studio around that time.

Bob Dylan -circa 1962

Harold Bradley at the Folk Studio

Harold Bradley (centre) at the Folk Studio

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10 October 2016

ELECTION SCHMELECTION

Foolishly, I stayed up last night to watch the Trump/Clinton debate - if that word can be applied to the infantile slanging match I witnessed, my jaw dropping so low that it's still not quite in place.

In 1984, when some of you were still in swaddling clothes (swaddling??) I won a Guardian competition for political montages and got a bottle of champagne (not Bollinger). Below is a new version of my montage - I simply changed the faces and the context - and further below is the original. I rest my case.

Trump-Clinton debate-9-Oct2016

Guardian-1984-my-montage

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29 September 2016

UNORTHODOX RELATIVES

What is the title for someone you're related to but not actually related to in terms of DNA and stuff of that kind?

For instance: this beautiful young woman whose birthday is today and who happens to be on a quick trip to London from her home in Vancouver and so of course she came to see me because not only are we sort of related but we also like each other very much and she could, sort of, be my daughter because she is the daughter of my ex-husband and his third wife - I was the second - and her step-brother and sister are also, sort of, my step-children. Well, whatever the title of our relationship, it's great and we had a wonderful lunch at a local pub and talked of almost everything under the sun, apart from the weather.

Although she looks like a teen-ager, Valerie is also a brilliant lawyer.

Valerie, 29-09-2016

Me-and-Val-2016

Val-and-me-2016

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19 September 2016

RULERS

Rulers: I hate them. Especially the measuring kind. I'm good at DIY in general, always have done my own putting up/taking down shelves, painting, plastering, caulking, basic electrical stuff, self-assembling furniture (even when instructions are in ancient Greek), repairing broken things and so on. However, my bête noire is/are rulers. All those fine little lines between actual proper numbers are beyond the pale. I more or less ignore them. A piece of cardboard marked wherever marks are needed is much handier.

So here we are, latest box construction in full flow, and I just happen to put the big ruler (centimetres) against the left side of the box, and then again on the right side.

Well, as you can see in the two photos below, the height of the left side is 41 (minus two-ish little lines) whereas the height of the right side is 40 (plus four-ish little lines). Conclusion: the left is higher than the right by a certain number of little lines. Now I don't mind some roughness, I often prefer it. But if one side of the finished box when hung on a wall will be noticeably higher than the other, it will drive me nuts. Therefore it must be corrected. Unfortunately I have been extremely conscientious and every bit of wood etc. is firmly glued to every other bit so lowering one side is out of the question.

No worries! As usual, I'll bluff my way out of measurement by improvisation. I will...erm...simply build up the top of the shorter side with some clever packing. Or maybe lower the higher side by planing the hardboard down. Or maybe......

box, left side

box, right side

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16 September 2016

PABLEAU NO.4 IN PROGRESS

Sometimes I find ready-made boxes but I'm building this bigger one from scratch using what materials are on hand - an old stretcher for the frame, odds and ends of wood, hardboard and balsa for the sides. Lots of cutting, glueing and sanding. Solid but not fancy.

Pableau 4 in progress

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13 September 2016

REFLECTION

Pableau box No.3 is finished, titled REFLECTION. I haven't managed to get a good photo showing its angles, depth and reflections. Would need special lighting, or something. Here's the best I could do so far.

Reflection

pableau-box3-Reflection

Pableau3-Reflection

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11 September 3016

PABLEAU 1 ALTERATION FINISHED

Finally altered the child's face to look more or less like I wanted. Not touching it anymore. Working on  new box now.

How-could-she-know_finalversion

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7 September 2016

SONG FOR SEPTEMBER

That picosong link is so tempting, makes it too easy to indulge one's secret (not so secret) desire for performance.  Here's my own very abbreviated take on a timely favourite.
  September Song

There's nothing like the original Walter Huston version, heard in the movie clip from September Affair with Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotten. I could do without Fontaine's sugar-saturated smirk but Cotten's expression is good.

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1 September 2016

UPLIFTING

The posters are up at Uplift.

I mentioned a while ago that I'm one of the winning artists in a poster competition organised by Uplift, the company which is converting the former Pizza Express building on Kentish Town Road into a cinema. The brief was to design a poster for your favourite film and I chose Bicycle Thieves.

This morning Uplift invited the winners to gather at the site where the chosen posters (beautifully printed and mounted on wood panels) are displayed on the hoardings which conceal the construction-in-progress - the cinema itself won't be ready before next year. The artists were photographed with their posters and interviewed by the Camden New Journal (out next Thursday). 

One reason for my choice of this film was that my brilliant late brother-in-law Gerardo Guerrieri worked on the script so of course I mentioned this to Dan Carrier, the journalist for CNJ. Will post his article about all the posters when it comes out next week. I arrived late to the gathering so didn't meet the other artists, unfortunately, but I hope the CNJ article will show them all.
Meanwhile some photos I took this morning.

My poster for Bicycle Thieves at kentish Town cinema hoardings

My poster, Kentish Town

Kentish Town cinema un construction

Notice from Uplift re cinema posters

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