Graham Higgins Illustration - Literate Graffiti Dept.

Archive for February, 2010

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February 27, 2010

27-2-10 Ballard

“…I feel that the balance between fiction and reality has changed significantly in the past decades. Increasingly their roles are reversed. We live in a world ruled by fictions of every kind – mass-merchandising, advertising, politics conducted as a branch of advertising, the preempting of any original response to experience by the television screen. We live inside an enormous novel. It is now less and less necessary for the writer to invent the fictional content of his novel. The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality.”

J.G. Ballard, Introduction to the ‘95 edition of ‘Crash’

Ballard writes pretty much the best summary of his project as a writer in that paragraph. I’ve posted it in several forums and mails over the years because it seems almost a statement of the obvious once it’s articulated.

I mentioned in one of my early attempts at blog a line from ‘A House Is Not A Motel’ from the Love album Forever Changes: the news today will be the movies for tomorrow.

Look at TV documentaries and even news broadcasts, increasingly presented in a montage of reenactments, graphics, illustrative images shuffled into reportage, post-editing effects, reporters gesturing insanely, offering opinion and speculation against location shots intended to suggest that being near the scene of the news represents being near the truth of the story.

As recently as 1985 it was possible to present A. J. P. Taylor’s ‘How Wars End’, a series of TV lectures comprising an academic in front of a camera delivering a dense stream of information without notes. Taylor was at the time in the early phase of Parkinson’s Disease and incipient amnesia and even so was able, and given the time, to elaborate a detailed case, which also speaks for the assumptions made by TV execs about the quality of attention brought to the series by its viewers.

I first read Ballard’s ‘Crash’ when it was published in 1973 and was mesmerised by its bleak romanticisation of the car as status accessory and environment. In effect he had only elaborated on the motor industry’s sexualisation of its product reported in Vance Packard’s surprise best-seller on Ernest Dichter’s motivational research contribution to advertising ‘The Hidden Persuaders’ (1956). It was Dichter who alerted the ad agencies to the role of ‘the car as Mistress’ to the predominantly male decision-makers in the purchase of the ostensibly ‘family car’.

Ballard also played with the cultural location of the car in a 1970 exhibition, ‘Crashed Cars’  – just that, salvaged car-wrecks presented unadorned as art.

What a disappointment David Cronenberg’s movie of the book was. The creeping unease in the book emerges from the relentless anonymous banality of its settings and trappings; Cronenberg presents Vaughan, the ringleader of the cell of car fetishists as a bug-eyed obsessive rather than a charismatic sociopath and e.g. substitutes a staged car-crash reenactment for the book’s references to filmed car-crash tests as specialist porn.

Re-reading the book it seemed that Ballard had transplanted a kind of 19th century nature-mysticism and transferred its romanticism from Wordsworth’s ‘impulse from the vernal wood’ to adoration of polypropylene mouldings and ‘instrument binnacles’, high-rise blocks and underpasses.

This found echoes in the Ultravox track ‘My Sex’ and most iconically in The Normal’s barking electronica, ‘Warm Leatherette’.

I just remembered a TV documentary I once saw about Japanese car-manufacturers’ methodical research to break into the US car market in the 70’s. A designer recalled a car show he attended as a junior,with the Head of his Design Dept. Observing his boss’ gaze over one particular new model, he asked what had caught his attention, expecting to pick up some esoteric detail of car appraisal.

‘I’m imagining’ his boss told him ‘a sunny Sunday afternoon, washing the car on my driveway, and how a good sponge-full of soapy water would run off those curves.’

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February 26, 2010

26-2-10 Buckets Of Mail

A couple of evenings ago my mail software began a delivery of what turned out to be 391 old mails. I put it down to whimsical software, a leaky pipe at the server, One Of Those Things. Set about clearing them from amongst the old unsorted mails and another 370 began flooding in. As I cleared those out another 370-odd showed up in the loading-bar and I stopped them, hoping that it would all be OK in the morning.

Currently as long as the Mail window is up I get batches of 50-70 every few minutes. A pattern has emerged, we’re working through every mail I’ve received or sent over the past three years and as I type we’re up to February of last year. I feel like The Site Administrator’s Apprentice, mopping up as the  dogged server empties buckets of mail into my lap.

I presume that eventually we’ll get to whatever new mail I should’ve received over the past couple of days so as I type I note each new incoming batch and clear it (March 2009 as I write).

[Friday evening]…and I’m relieved to report I’ve arrived at current mails, status quo restored. I’m not a reflex Luddite but if I were, this would be why. Nowadays military bombardments are intitiated and economies crash thanks to software inelegance: human error rendered in binary code and running intercontinentally at computer clock-speed. ‘Oops, wait a minute…’ is an era in digital time.

Never abashed at the occasional homage au fromage I’ve filled time during mail-dumps to practice Till There Was You and A,You’re Adorable on the ukulele.

Picked uke has a pretty music-box sound for some songs I probably wouldn’t do otherwise. Sounds Of Silence is another (Me’n’Julio and Mother And Child Reunion are obvious strummers); As Tears Go By is another though no-one would mistake my rendering for even late-period Marianne Faithfull and The Stones original is plainly an embarrassment even to themselves.

On the bus to have my blood-tests on Wednesday, picked up the Metro free paper where Dave Gorman is interviewed.

“The country tilts at an angle and my pub quiz trivia fact is that, looking at the proper lines of longitude and latitude, Edinburgh is further West than Cardiff”

Say wha…? What a different idea we’d have of this island if it routinely appeared on maps tilted, as the man says, at an angle. Did the original cartographers make it sit up to save paper or to make it resemble the silhouette of Britannia?

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February 25, 2010

25-2-10 Acousticocteaux

Adlestrop

Yes.  I remember Adlestrop—

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly.  It was late June.

The steam hissed.  Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,

No whit less still and lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Edward Thomas

I took a holiday in the late 80’s to visit some friends who had a dairy farm in central France, near a tiny town called Herisson (‘Hedgehog’), aiming for some air, quiet and the prospect of some brainless physical labouring. It worked in all three respects and fulfilled its prospect of a memorable mental snapshot album. God gave us memory so we might have roses in December.

At that time I had a maroon plastic Walkman for company and limited rucksack pocket space for tapes. The two I played repeatedly were the Jill Gomez/ Vernon Handley version of Canteloube’s Songs Of The Auvergne and a home-taped Cocteau Twins duo of Victorialand and Blue Bell Knoll.  I can’t even remember if there were others; these two seemed perfect throughout and overlaying their soundtrack on the experience was a good way of retrieving it to this day.

One of my tasks was to clear out a slurry-drain from the cowshed to a corner of a foreign field. That involved shovelling leaf-debris, compacted cowshit and soil from a few metres of ditch at a time, working back toward the shed and then breaking the dam of undug stuff to let gallons of pungent slurry flood into the cleared stretch.

I had one of my ‘Wow, Me Here Now!’ moments one early morning, resting on my shovel, thigh-deep in ditch, looking out over miles of dew-silvered fields and forested hills and valleys receding in the kind of ariel perspective you see in landscape painting, paler and paler into near-monochrome graphite blue, to the soundtrack of ‘Tchut! Tchut!’ from the Songs tape. I was making my road-movie.

In a space between tracks I stopped the tape and dropped the earphones round my neck, thinking that I was doing as Joyce Grenfell’s Women’s Institute Crafts-speaker claimed when making ‘useful and acceptable gifts from beech-nut husks… taking Nature’s gifts and impwoving upon them’.

The sound, more a sensation, of miles and cubic miles of still air under a clear sky makes all incidental sound into Debussy’s description of music : silence interrupted. A farm dog barks somewhere, cattle low (you’re reminded what a good verb that is), crows sound like themselves and all around the air is beaded with misc. birdsong.

I thought about that final verse of Adlestrop as I sat in the damp grass on the edge of the ditch and settled my mind from Be Here Now to Be Now, to Be. I find that aiming for transcendence or bliss makes my mind ambitious. You can’t ‘do’ Be [yes yes, I know Frank Sinatra could do-be do-be do]. I can settle in the right setting to be perfectly content, which really amounts to the same thing. Right at home on this planet, thank you very much.

The Cocteau Twins got under my skin the very first time I heard them: Hazel, on a John Peel show in 1982. Wax And Wane followed soon after and I was smitten – bought the 12” Lullabies EP and the Garlands album. 23 Envelope, the graphics wing of the 4AD label had got just the right off-kilter bleakness and fragility of the Cocteaux’ sound. No-one sounded quite like them, though many have since tried to catch that wall of mangled guitar-tone and battle-drum rhythm. No-one but no-one approaches the sound of Elizabeth Fraser’s voice cooing and yelling, feral and fragile. That first album was scary and cold in a way I’d only encountered in Ligeti’s choral pieces and Penderecki’s Dies Irae.

I kept in touch through their drip-feed of EP’s and listened as their sound grew more lush in Head Over Heels. The Treasure and Victorialand albums could be regarded as a double; they could be soundtrack to a movie of Gormenghast, spacey, fragile arrangements that if not strictly acoustic had that air about them; music for isolated castle vaults and chambers.

On my holiday, the vocals of Jill Gomez and Liz Fraser seemed to call out to each other between The Songs and Victorialand. Blue Bell Knoll was another thing altogether.

By the time BBK was released I’d taken to looking out for news of each new release and made bus-trips into town to snatch them up and bring them home as they arrived in the shops if possible, so I put needle to vinyl sound unheard and the first, title track burst over me in rolling wave of heroic optimism. It’s a joyous affair and if I had to choose a favourite Cocteaux album that would have to be it.

If I had to choose a favourite track Blue Bell Knoll could be the one, but I still carry a torch for ‘Those Eyes, That Mouth’ on the Love’s Easy Tears EP. My copy turned out to be a slightly dodgy hissy disc so I looked forward to it turning up on cd sometime and it finally surfaced on the retrospective Lullabies To Violaine Vol.1. I think of it as the voice of Edith Piaf in heaven. Bliss.

There have been times in my life when I’ve been so low that I didn’t want to play music I love for fear that the time and the music might forever be bound together. I’m happy that I have a choice of three albums that take me back to a sunlit French panorama viewed from a grandstand seat on the edge of a slurry ditch.

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February 24, 2010

24-2-10 Insect God

No idea why this came to me today, a memory of Susan, my partner in the Berlin Years, asking out of the blue ‘Do you think insects have religion?’. Susan was good at the curveball question, not so much aimed at getting an answer as seeing how you answered it.

There’s a slim volume creepy-crawly story ‘The Insect God” in one of the Diogenes Press Edward Gorey box-sets I own, The Vinegar Works. Here’s a prime cut of Gorey’s signature Victorian Gothic :-

“They removed the child to the ballroom, whose hangings

And mirrors were covered with a luminous slime;

They leapt through the air with buzzings and twangings

To work themselves up to a ritual crime.

They stunned her, and stripped off her garments, and lastly

They stuffed her inside a kind of a pod;

And then it was that Millicent Frastley

Was sacrificed to The Insect God.”

Some time in the mid-70’s  I owned Michael Mantler’s splendidly ominous free-jazz tribute to Gorey, ‘The Hapless Child and other inscrutable stories’ that rendered The Insect God in appropriately keening buzzings and twangings, vocals by Robert Wyatt. The music is similar to Soft Machine (yes I was a Soft Machine fan) in which Wyatt’s voice was a humanising element in the intense noodling.

Bun-faced children are always coming to grief in the Gorey ouevre. The Gashleycrumb Tinies, also included in The Vinegar works, is simply an alphabetical list of infant mortalities ‘A is for Anna who tumbled downstairs, B is for Basil, molested by bears…’ etc. I can’t remember offhand which of the tots ‘died of ennui’ but that was the page where I LOL’d.

I remembered too a Sufi story of the revered master walking in the gardens of his mosque, instructing his students, when he tumbled and fell prostrate on the gravel path. His acolytes hastened to raise the revered cleric but he waved them away.

‘Wait… I find I can understand the language of these ants!’

He asked them, ‘What is the nature of God?’

They replied, ‘He is very like an ant… but he has two stings!’

A lot of the Sufi stories read like stand-up gags which on reflection expand like self-inflating life-rafts into something more substantial and useful. Zen-master tales often end with a whack on the head or a kick up the rear for the student who believes – or pretends to understand – bs just because the Master said it. The truth that can be spoken is not the Truth.

My Children’s Bibles – oh yes a few of them – showed flaxen-haired Max von Sydow meek and mild, patiently explaining His Father’s Word in the simple familiar imagery of the parables to spellbound Galilean crowds or well-behaved children. Good stories, but not a lot of laughs. It would be rude to laugh in church.

Sometimes my mind skims the surface of my memory like a pebble over water and the next ‘plip!’ was an image that came to me when I was trying to distinguish between what are often shothandedly-termed ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ religions.

I was brought up in a Scots Episcopalian tradition, not rigorous but very definite on matters of naughtiness in conduct and rudeness regarding body-parts and functions, and attended a C of E school and church. I was a proud star Sunday School student and Bible stories were as familiar as Anderson’s and The Grimms’ (we had an edition unsettlingly illustrated by Mervyn Peake; in my storytelling phase I did a version of The Grave Mound inspired by the picture of the peasant on watch turning to the reader  as a long shadow points across the rough grass in the foreground towards him).

I was also brought up with the Bible as Kings Regulations. There was always a chapter and verse reference to cover God’s Word on any given topic. The road to Heaven was like a route map – ‘Take thou the M42, then must thou the left hand path of the A435 exit take, and at the third exit thereafter shalt thy path lead thee nigh on Alvechurch…’ All you had to do was keep on the narrow path and follow instructions. It was a wonky sat nav with an intermittent signal, which is why you could find yourself – doh! – in Alvechurch itself if you didn’t tune in with appropriate fervour, calling on the celestial RAC for guidance to get back on the Alcester Rd.

It occurred to me that by contrast the tack taken by Buddah Gautama in particular was more like one of those bees’ wiggle-dances. The scout who’s located a nectar-load returns to the hive and by contact wiggles out instructions about the direction it’s just returned from; if the others follow their innate navigation system sort-of in that direction it’s pretty much in their nature to arrive at the goodies.

Alan Watts, who I read a lot in my student days, used an image of God knowing each of us as we know our own individual brain-cells. We all partake and participate as little transient glims of a vast consciousness but are foolish to claim to know the Mind Of God. He also introduced me to this short, ringing quote from Coventry Patmore:

‘Shall I, a gnat which dances in Thy ray/ Dare to be reverent?’

OK, I’ve had enough insects for today and/because already I can think of more specimens caught on my fly-paper memory (and good god I realise I’m old enough to remember the gruesome fascination of flies expiring on the butcher’s fly-paper strips) but obvious as it is, it would be a dereliction not to include the poster-boy of ontological insecurity, Chuang Tzu and his Greatest Hit:-

“Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awoke, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming that I am now a man.”

See ya later, lepidoptera!

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February 23, 2010

23-2-10 Another 1 Down

‘Sounds like you’ll be XH (11)’ – without a doubt my top crossword clue, and I was.

There are crossword superstitions such as that compilers use Across for their doozies and Down for fillers. Happily there were enough Down clues for me to get that one without waiting for the answers the next day; one of those occasions when enough letters stack up for you to start raking your brain for anything that will fit and then the clue lights up.

There are crossword clue conventions to daunt or infuriate the novice – indicators that the answer ‘sounds like’ something described, or that the answer is there in front of you, distributed between the end and the beginning of two words in the clue – for which there are primers elsewhere.

I perfectly understand the impatience of habitually convergent thinkers who feel that this is a lot of effort invested to achieve the most trivial of results. I can see why they might be, in the solution to the opening example…

X aspirated.

Personality manifests in the most incidental of details. There have always been shorthand dividers of sheep from goats like: are you a cat person or a dog person? Stones/Beatles; Hancock/Goons; Lord Of The Rings/ Gormenghast; Bach/ Vivaldi?

Now we have a crossword/ sudoku – divergent/ convergent – divide. I’ve not cracked the satisfaction of the number game although I have a couple of arithmetic workbooks and will occasionally spend an hour doing exercises to remind myself of percentages, decimals and fractions procedures.

Crosswords send my brain crashing about in the undergrowth, nosing around in the leaf-mould of half-forgotten facts and vocabulary for answers or bits of answers. Language habits are thrown into disarray, dismantled and inverted; definition and allusion are interchangeably valid. Idly accumulated scraps and fragments of general knowledge find their use, like salvaged spare components stored in the shed.

Psychology has the term TOTs – tip of the tongue syndrome – for that sense of knowing/not knowing something, knowing you know it, ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’ it but not being able to flush ‘it’ out. We talk about storing information in the brain, as if a bit of memory has a location like a file-card in a drawer or an arc on a hard-disk but we know that information in the brain involves a particular combination of electrical charges between constellations of cells firing a factoid into the arena of consciousness. The factoid in fact isn’t ‘there’, it ‘happens’.

I think it was Socrates who railed against the spread of general literacy eroding the need and thus capacity to learn and remember. Fortunately someone recorded that thought. I’d have forgotten this, written five years ago I notice:-

Usher Author Touches Down(6)

To prey covertly. (6)

Sentence the dictionary? Penny admission!(6)

Doggerel paté? Yep, Rot! (6)

Smashed chinaware almost to a T. (6)

Ye Port in a storm (6)

51 Down, still haven’t a clue

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February 22, 2010

22-2-10 Connections

Taking a break from arm-wrestling with the dense text of ‘Conceptual Issues In Psychology’, an exhausting but enjoyable read that’s more philosophy than psychology, I turn to a book on Christian Counselling which I picked up in our Oxfam bookshop.

The bits about counselling practice are pretty sound and commendably clear, predictably primarily about Rogerian person-centered counselling. Given Carl Rogers’ theological training it’s not surprising that he encourages the counsellor to ‘play God’, being a compassionate attentive non-judgemental listener and adviser. Exercising these qualities shouldn’t present any problem in principle to the altruistic humanist.

My problem with the handbook is at those points where the author takes line-break and thwacks the ball into the long grass of Biblical reference. Fair enough, that’s what he contracts to do on the cover, which is why I’m not naming the book to single it out.

The prompt to write about it is that I was reminded of the ‘method’ of The Alpha Course, hours of which I watched on-line after I was invited to attend one. I’m not even going to put up links to these vids because if I could find them anyone with sufficient interest can. I was reminded of George Carlin’s line ‘If there really was a God, would he let a guy like that explain him?’

What the book and the course share is a consistent confusion between similarity, parallel, connection and proof. The counselling practice is designed for its particular faith-community who are primed to see connections between practical solutions to mundane difficulties and What The Book Says. If the client-group wasn’t self-selecting you’d spend more time clarifying the theology than addressing the psychology. The subtext is to demonstrate that The Bible is, in addition to history, poetry, theology and injunction a handy counselling manual featuring the Arch-Counsellor. The sleight-of-hand occurs when the usefulness of the chapter-and-verse reference as an illustration is zingo!bingo! transubstantiated into proof of truth. In lieu of a priori truth-conditions to satisfy, this dot-to-dot correspondence between counselling session and Gospel study is equally open to descriptions such as tautologous, teleological, self-referential,  perhaps even disingenuous.

A striking example in Alpha of the theological cart obstructing the philosophical horse is the final invitation to speak in tongues. The Biblical authority for this is that the Disciples in transports of grief after the crucifixion spoke ‘in tongues of angels’, i.e. incomprehensibly. Set aside possible secular interpretations of this phenomenon, the exercise is rather like inviting students to sit in a wheelchair and ‘speak’ through text-rendering software in order to understand A Brief History Of Time.

In this rapture-taster one is encouraged to simply begin to voice syllables such as ‘Aaa… Baaa’ – hear what they’ve done there? – and see what happens. I suspect that a spontaneous run of phonemes such as om-biddle-ting-tong yip-bam-boo would be deemed insufficiently reverent.

More rigour, vicar?

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February 21, 2010

21-2-10 Breathwork

A couple of enquiries about the breathing-exercise I mentioned using in my post-op haze.

Very simply: breathe out/ breathe in. Apart from the emphasis on ‘out’ that’s the entire zen simplicity – no counting, no mantras, minimal metaphysics. Well, maybe a little mysticism if you substitute the instruction I was given to visualise my body absorbing prana (sort of ‘life force’) rather than oxygen. As I’m not a medic or a chemist, both words are equally magical notions.

As it happens, quite recently while my systems were being monitored in hospital I was encouraged to use in-through-the-nose, out-through-the-mouth (‘slowly enough to disturb the flame but not blow out a candle’) as the best practice for absorbing oxygen, so that’s the exercise translated for the mystically-challenged.

There are a few conceptual extensions to this. Briefly, the focus on the out-breath is because that’s chucking out toxins; I think of my singing as harnessing the exhaust-system to decorative effect.

You visualise the in-out not like a linear piston-action but as an elongated ellipse from air-vents in the head down to the solar plexus and you don’t so much direct the cycle as observe it working as it does while you sleep without ‘your’ help, thanx very much. Likewise, how do you ‘know’ you’re thirsty? When you drink, how do you ‘know’ you’ve had enough?

Anyway, breathe out, or empty out as far as you can without pushing. Pause and relax for a moment to sense that still emptiness but don’t try to make it a feat. Like lightly touching the floor of the pool when you dive, this marks the bottom of the elliptical breath-path.

Don’t decide to breathe in – through the nose, with its built-in filter system – but note that this happens quite naturally in its own time, so let it. At a certain point you’ve taken in an adequate slug of air; as you relax into the rhythm of it there’s a tendency for the cycle to become slower and deeper anyway. Don’t be greedy; you can’t hoard air, so don’t suck.

Again, as you sense the top of the cycle, pause to visualise all that wholesome nourishing prana distributing itself into your body, but don’t hold your breath.

I was told to note the cool incoming breath and the ‘burnt-off’ warmth off the exhaust.

Just as the simplest buddhist meditation is ‘simply to observe the thoughts which arise’, i.e. note that a lot of what flickers through your mind is brain-chatter, this breath exercise is about letting go, putting ego and will in their place. That controlling You isn’t as indispensible as it would like to think.

A final topspin came from the observation that our very first breath is In and our last will be Out, so every breath represents a little Life.

Anyway, when I spent long hours stunned with meds and too bruised to be bothered to move very much, this exercise was extremely calming and gave me a stick I could toss for my mind to go and fetch to stop it whimpering and running in small circles.

Note to self: Never again the Boots Sport! Men!! spray deodorant. It turns to white powder on contact with air, like a small foam fire extinguisher. Any not caught in the armpit speckles all southward clothing and the carpet. The only sport-like exercise is running around with the hoover.

Quid-shop generic chemical fragrance from now on.

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February 19, 2010

Tidying

OK, This is a new start in a more conventional set-up, thanks to prods from Sue Jones, visiting Good Sense consultant. I try to maintain a panel of responsible adults for guidance; patience and forbearance desirable though in practice essential.

The pages to the right may eventually migrate over here to find their way into archives but for now…

Thanks to those unexpected readers who’ve made themselves known; a surprise and a reassurance to know you’re dropping in. It raises my game a little and reassures me that this isn’t entirely scribbling on the wall.

Another surprise is the amount of time one spends housekeeping: clearing out all those good wishes from enthusiastic readers urging me to smoke lots of cigarettes, stock up on a pharmacopoeia of cheap drugs and view videos of girls! girls! girls! – these invitations with handy inventories of parts of said devotchkas’ anatomical regions.

I resist the urge to join debate with, for instance, this keen student.:-

“It is more than word! I think, that you commit an error. I suggest it to discuss.

Certainly. I agree with told all above. We can communicate on this theme. Here or in PM.I know, that it is necessary to make)))

It is remarkable, it is the amusing information”

Well thank you, I sincerely hope it is the amusing information and though committing the error is my often habit reluctantly I am decline your suggest to discuss.

Get your parsing-gear around this extract from a mail today, a continuing theme of High and Lo-brow art. The opening proposition was ’It’s perfectly respectable to say both (a) I can see this is really accomplished but I don’t *get it*, it doesn’t touch me [me and opera] or (b) this is lo-brow but I really like it [me and movie musicals]. It helps if you can make an interesting case, but you don’t have to issue a court judgement. My friend Jilly is a doting fan of The Professionals, positively purrs over Bodie and Doyle, but will seamlessly slip into comparing their relationship being akin to Greek myth and Restoration drama. She sees this workmanlike TV series through 3D glasses I lack.’

Today’s addition:-

‘I go back to that resistance to opera and embrace of the conceits of musicals. Opera feels to me like one of those huge Renaissance paintings of mythical scenes – grand themes on a grand scale to highlight the grandeur of the patron – and also very often to conceal the porn element. I don’t know what the Italian for ‘phwoo-ar!’ is, but you can’t help thinking there was often an underbreath of the sentiment at the studio unveiling.

Anyway, they’re there to awe you with their scale and extravagance.

Show me Donald Connor doing ‘Make ’em Laugh!’ and in seconds I’m a happy guy thinking that us humans are funny and inventive and generous and if you needed an example of dance ‘to’ and ‘for’ and audience, there y’go. Dramatic art-dance can survive in silence which may pass for reverence; hoofing, like comedy, must achieve its proposition. A comedy-dance routine that leaves you cold is an embarrassment. It requires all the conviction and accomplishment of a more studiously nuanced empty-stage piece.

Whether the project is to express through the medium of kinetic physical artistry the ineffable condition of the human soul – breathtaking – or to convey the feeling of ‘Gotta Da-a-ance!’ – Donald Connor does all the work and leaves you breathless – I’d rather it reached out than presented its formal purity and technical complexity for coolly critical aesthetic admiration.’

Am I just a philistine apologist?